Outside spending in hotly contested legislative races has for years often dominated the spending by the candidates themselves. But this year is seeing spending like no other, with more than $12 million in outside spending being reported as this week began.
By a nearly 2-to-1 margin, that spending has been from outside liberal groups — many of them national organizations — seeking to flip control of Arizona’s legislature to Democrats, who have been in the minority since the mid-1960s.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Democratic groups had reported $8 million in spending to boost Democratic candidates and attack Republicans. More than $5 million of that had been spent in just five races:
- $1.2 million to defeat Sen. J.D. Mesnard in Chandler-based District 17 and replace him with AJ Kurdoglu
- More than $1 million to win a House of Representatives seat in District 6, a rural district that runs from Flagstaff to Payson, much of it spent to help Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans defeat Rep. Walt Blackman
- Another $1 million in the District 6 Senate race, where Democrat Felicia French — who narrowly lost in 2018 — is facing off against Republican Wendy Rogers
- More than $850,000 in the House race for District 20, which includes north Phoenix and part of Glendale, where Judy Schwiebert is hoping to unseat Rep. Anthony Kern
- About $850,000 to back Kathy Knecht in District 21, which is centered in Peoria but includes parts of Glendale and Sun City, against Rep. Kevin Payne
By comparison, outside groups trying to maintain the GOP legislative majorities have spent only $4 million. Three-quarters of that money has been aimed at five races:
- $760,000 to support Mesnard in District 17
- More than $730,000 boosting veteran Sen. Kate Brophy McGee in the perennial battleground District 28, which includes north-central Phoenix, Sunnyslope and Paradise Valley (compared to $572,000 Democratic groups have spent to help Christine Marsh)
- $536,000 to support Rogers’s bid for the Senate in District 6
- Almost $490,000 in the District 20 House race to re-elect Kern and Rep. Shawnna Bolick
- Nearly $430,000 in support of Sen. Paul Boyer in the District 20 Senate race (Democratic groups backing challenger Doug Ervin have spent $620,000)
In six races, Democratic spending outpaces GOP spending by at least $350,000. The differences range from $369,000 in the District 20 House contest to more than $765,000 in the District 6 House race. In all, Democratic candidates in those six races are being supported by $3 million more than their Republican counterparts.
There are only three contests in which Republican groups are outspending Democrats. In the District 28 Senate race, Brophy McGee has received $159,000 more outside support than Marsh has. And in a longshot GOP bid to win a House seat in District 4, which stretches from the southwest Valley to Yuma, Republican groups have spent $85,000 more than Democratic groups. Finally, Republican spending in the Senate race in District 8 — former Democratic lawmaker Barb McGuire is trying to defeat GOP lawmaker T.J. Shope — is about $16,000 more.