- Associated Press - Thursday, October 1, 2015

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Republican challenger Mike Hurst is spending more on TV advertising, so far, than Democratic incumbent Jim Hood in the Mississippi attorney general’s race, according to an independent group’s analysis of campaign finance data.

Hurst’s campaign has spent $273,520 for TV commercials through Monday, and Hood’s has spent $217,590.

The Center for Public Integrity analyzed data about political advertising on broadcast television from Kantar Media/CMAG, a media tracking firm that monitors 211 media markets around the country and offers a widely accepted estimate of the money spent to air each spot.

These figures cover ads aired between Jan. 1, 2014, and Sept. 28, 2015, yet represent only part of the money spent on political advertising. They do not include ads for radio, online, direct mail or TV ads that aired on local cable systems. The estimates also do not include the cost of making the ads.

Hurst, a former federal prosecutor, is trying to block Hood from winning a fourth term as attorney general in the Nov. 3 general election. Hurst is the only Democrat remaining in a statewide elected office in Mississippi. Republicans are angling to defeat him to complete their hold on power in a state that had been dominated by Democrats for generations. Mississippi in 1991 elected its first Republican governor since Reconstruction, and the GOP has gained strength since then.

The analysis shows a group called Public Integrity Alliance - not connected to the Center for Public Integrity - has spent $49,230 on TV ads that criticize Hood.

The nonprofit alliance was formed in Arizona in 2012 and has spent money to criticize other state attorneys general, including Buddy Caldwell in Louisiana. Its 30-second ad in Mississippi uses a football theme to praise a “team” of Republican elected officials and to say Hood “sat on the sideline” rather than challenge the health care overhaul President Barack Obama signed into law.

Hood and Hurst have bickered in the past week over the attorney general’s effort to investigate public corruption.

Hood’s campaign called on Hurst to withdraw a TV ad in which Simpson County Sheriff Ken Lewis says Hood’s office interfered with his investigation of a Mendenhall police chief.

During a Sept. 24 news conference at the Capitol, Lewis said he called the public integrity division of the attorney general’s office in 2010 to leave a tip about the chief, Donald “Bruce” Barlow, demanding money from people facing charges in Mendenhall. Lewis said that soon after that call, Barlow said he knew about the investigation but boasted about having friends in high places.

Hood has said his office investigated Barlow and turned information over to the FBI. Barlow is serving a five-year federal prison sentence for conspiring to demand money and property from people in exchange for dropping criminal charges. He pleaded guilty in early 2014.

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Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .

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