- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Lieutenant governor candidate Mark Hutchison’s successful attempt to fend off Republican primary challenger Sue Lowden accounts for the lion’s share of money spent on political TV ads this year in Nevada’s state-level races, according to data released Wednesday by nonpartisan investigative journalism organization.

The Center for Public Integrity found that of the $1.6 million that Nevada candidates and their supporters have spent buying TV time as of mid-September, $1.3 million has gone into the race for the governor’s backup. An estimated $824,300 was spent on nearly 2,000 ads for Hutchison, who ended up winning with 54 percent of the vote.

“TV ads were but one piece of our primary campaign. But yes, we do believe it was an essential element to winning,” said Ryan Cherry, spokesman for Hutchison’s campaign.

To compile the report, the center 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 figures only represent part of the money spent on political advertising. They do not include the money spent on ads on radio, online and direct mail, as well as television ads on local cable systems or the cost of producing the messages. That means the total cost of spending on political ads can be significantly higher.

About twice as much money was spent on pro-Hutchison ads compared with ads for Lowden, who ended the contest with 36 percent of the vote. About $432,000 was spent on nearly 900 Lowden spots before the June primary.

“By spending so much, he was able to overcome her name-recognition advantage and ensure that she did not eke a win while he was left with a ton of money in the bank,” said David Damore, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Hutchison will face off in November with Democrat Lucy Flores, whose campaign has spent about $9,400 on three commercials. Lieutenant governor is the most-watched statewide race this cycle because the winner would take over the governorship should Gov. Brian Sandoval leave halfway through his term to challenge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Among the Center for Public Integrity’s other findings is that about $61,000 has been spent on TV ads in the Nevada attorney general race. The Republican Attorneys General Association spent about $21,000 in positive ads supporting GOP candidate Adam Laxalt, while a subsidiary group of the Republican State Leadership Committee spent about $27,000 on negative ads targeting Democrat Ross Miller.

Miller’s campaign has spent about $14,000 so far on positive commercials supporting his bid.

Among state legislative contests, the most money by far went toward ads defending Republican incumbent state Sen. Michael Roberson from his primary challenger Carl Bunce. The $129,000 investment apparently worked - Roberson won 59 percent of the vote compared with Bunce’s 41 percent.

The center found a sharp drop in the amount of money spent on Nevada political TV ads and the sheer number of ads compared with 2010, the last comparable midterm election. Nevada had a more competitive race for governor that year.

Spending is down 19 percent this year from the $1.9 million spent on TV ads in 2010. The number of spots has dropped 38 percent, from 6,851 in 2010 to 4,278 this year.

Nevada is in the middle of the pack on the amount of ad money being spent per voter, according to the data. The $1.6 million spent so far on television ads works out to about 84 cents per eligible voter.

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