SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) – Republican Gov. Susana Martinez has spent four times as much as Democratic challenger Gary King on television advertising in New Mexico’s race for governor, according to a national group tracking political ads.
Martinez has aired about 3,700 ads through Sept. 8 at a cost of about $1.7 million while King has spent a little over $400,000 to broadcast about 800 ads in his primary and general election campaigns, according to the non-partisan Center for Public Integrity, which is based in Washington, D.C.
In addition to the ads by candidates, the Republican Governors Association has pumped more than $400,000 into the New Mexico governor’s race to run about 700 ads that targeted King.
The national GOP group launched its ad blitz in June just a few days after King won a five-way Democratic primary contest.
The lopsided ad war partly reflects King’s struggle to raise money for his campaign. Martinez had a 24-to-1 campaign cash advantage at the start of the month.
Albuquerque pollster Brian Sanderoff said Tuesday that the ad spending also helps explain why Martinez widened her lead over the Democrat in a poll this month that Sanderoff’s firm conducted for the Albuquerque Journal.
Martinez continues to flood the airwaves with ads while King’s campaign has been silent with no TV advertising for about a month, according to ad records kept by the main Albuquerque TV stations viewed across most of the state.
“Gary King’s favorability can drop significantly if he is the subject of many hard-hitting ads and he doesn’t refute those ads or counter with similar ads against his opponent, the governor,” Sanderoff said. “It ultimately affects the base of the candidate who is the target of the ads.”
The Journal poll showed King losing ground among likely Democratic voters while Martinez’s support among Democrats had grown since last month.
Of King’s TV expenditures, about one-fourth came in the closing stretch of the Democratic primary race.
Martinez ran unopposed in the GOP primary and in April aired her first TV ad, which focused on her administration’s accomplishments.
The ad figures only represent part of the expenditures for political advertising and don’t reflect the cost of producing the messages. They also do not include spending for ads on local cable TV, radio, online and mailings sent to voters. That means the total spending on political ads can be significantly higher.
The Center for Public Integrity reviewed data about political advertising on national cable and broadcast television in all of the country’s 210 media markets. The organization used research from Kantar Media/CMAG, which tracks political advertising and offers a widely accepted estimate of the money spent to air each spot.
The governor’s race has accounted for most of the political ads through early September for those seeking state offices. Two of King’s Democratic primary election opponents spent about $550,000 to run 1,400 ads, and Democratic state treasurer candidates had about 600 ads costing nearly $220,000.
Overall, candidates and political groups have broadcast about 7,300 ads in state office races at a cost of $3.4 million. That’s roughly $2.40 for each citizen resident who’s 18 and older.
Ad spending is down about 20 percent from the same time in the 2010 elections, and the number of ads has dropped by almost half, according to the center’s data.
Since the 2010 elections, New Mexico has imposed limits on campaign contributions. The cost of the governor’s race also was higher four years ago.
Martinez and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Diane Denish spent a combined $14 million from the fall of 2009 through 2010, according to state records.
The governor has reported campaign expenditures of about $3.6 million since last year, while King has spent about $1.4 million.