Thousands of dollars poured into the campaign coffers of the two candidates in the Kentucky 6th district special election over the final days, reports filed with the Federal Election Commission showed.
Voters heading to the polls today have been bombarded by nearly two months of television ads, direct mail and telephone appeals funded by more than $2 million in spending between the two candidates — state Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr (R) and former state Attorney General Ben Chandler (D) — and the national parties’ House campaign committees.
“There is only so much television you can buy, so many cable advertisements and radio spots you can put up,” said National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Carl Forti. “At this point it becomes a turnout game.”
Heading into the final weekend of campaigning, internal polling for Democrats and Republicans showed Chandler with a single-digit edge over Kerr.
An independent poll conducted Feb. 5-9 by the Louisville Courier-Journal showed Chandler with a 49 percent to 40 percent lead over Kerr.
Republicans argue that in a low turnout election — somewhere between 15 percent and 20 percent of the voting age population heading to the polls — Kerr would have the edge. If turnout rises higher than that, however, Chandler is seen as a solid favorite.
Kerr and Chandler are competing in a district that would have given President Bush 55 percent of the vote in 2000. The vacancy was created when then-Rep. Ernie Fletcher (R) defeated Chandler in the 2003 election for governor.
Neither side was wanting for money in the final days of the election.
Chandler brought in $154,500 from Feb. 6 to Feb. 13 after raising $456,000 from Oct. 1 to Jan. 28.
Kerr took in $91,500 from Feb. 6 to Feb. 13, adding to the $1 million she raised during the pre-general filing period.
Both candidates also received significant financial aid from House Members over the campaign’s final days.
Chandler’s 48-hour contribution reports through Friday included a $10,000 contribution from the Blue Dog Coalition’s political action committee and $1,000 donations from 17 House Members.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley (D) and Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson (D) also gave Chandler $1,000 contributions.
Six Republican Members gave $1,000 to Kerr in that same period; Rep. Buck McKeon’s (Calif.) leadership PAC chipped in $2,500.
Kerr has used her financial edge over Chandler to outspend him on the airwaves, according to data collected by the Campaign Media Analysis Group.
From Nov. 1 to Feb. 11, Kerr has spent $690,000 on television. She ran eleven different commercials during that time, all in the Lexington media market.
By contrast, Chandler spent $451,000 on ten different ads.
That disparity has forced the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to spend heavily in order to fight Republicans to a draw on the airwaves.
The DCCC dropped $354,000 on five ads from Nov. 1 to Feb. 11, while the NRCC spent $348,000, also on five spots.
“We knew all along this was going to be a race where we were going to be contributing heavily,” said DCCC Communications Director Kori Bernards. “We have matched [the NRCC] very evenly.”
The larger question is how the two party committees’ spending will impact their ability to fully fund the upcoming special election in South Dakota on June 1.
That race pits 2002 nominee Stephanie Herseth (D) against state Sen. Larry Diedrich (R).
The committees could be even further strapped if Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) vacates his 3rd district seat prior to the November election, which could trigger a third special election.
The NRCC ended 2003 with $11 million in the bank to the DCCC’s $8.5 million.
For a full report on the election results, check Roll Call’s Web site, www.rollcall.com, on Wednesday.