- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Maine candidates and outside groups have spent just one-third the amount to run television advertisements in state races this election cycle than four years ago, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity.

More than $1 million was spent to run political ads in the gubernatorial and state legislative races through Sept. 8 in Maine, down from about $3 million at a comparable point in 2010, the Washington, D.C.-based organization’s analysis of data from Kantar Media/CMAG showed.

Meanwhile, political ads ran have run 4,200 times in the Portland, Bangor and Presque Isle media markets this campaign season compared to 12,000 times over the same period four years ago, the group said.

The significant drop this year is likely largely driven by the fact that Republican Gov. Paul LePage and Democrat Mike Michaud were both unopposed in their primaries this year while both major parties had crowded and competitive contests for the open governor’s seat in 2010.

“When you’ve got an open seat race like that, a ton of money flows into that race,” said Jim Melcher, political science professor at the University of Maine Farmington. Furthermore, LePage, Michaud - a six-term congressman - and independent Eliot Cutler were all well-known across the state and didn’t have to run as many ads introducing themselves to voters, he said.

The Center for Public Integrity examined only the cost for the airtime, not how much was spent to make the ads. The analysis doesn’t include those that ran on local cable, radio or online or several that have launched since Sept. 8, like the LePage campaign’s first ad or two new ones from the Republican Governors Association.

Nearly all of the $1.1 million spent in Maine so far has been used to influence the hotly contested race for the Blaine House between LePage, Michaud and Cutler, except for $12,500 that Democrat Steve Woods shelled out during his unsuccessful bid for the state Senate.

In total, more than $1.09 per eligible voter has been spent on ads in the state.

Candidates and their political parties spent a combined $227.6 million to run ads nationally, while outside groups have spent $55 million.

Nationally, the total amount is down about a third from four years ago, but spending by outside groups has soared, according to the center. Spending has dropped in more than half of the 44 states that have seen ads for the midterm elections, primarily because there are more incumbents on the ballot and fewer competitive races this year, the group said.

In Maine, outside groups have shelled out slightly more than the candidates themselves to blanket the airwaves.

Organizations like the Republican Governor’s Association, the Campaign for Maine and the Maine Conservation Voters Action Fund spent about $670,700, while the candidates doled out about $475,700.

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Follow Alanna Durkin at http://www.twitter.com/aedurkin

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