- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Republican candidates in some of Kentucky’s most contested races are pooling their money to run joint TV ads as they seek to win control of the state House of Representatives for the first time since 1920.

Eight GOP candidates in western Kentucky have reserved more than $92,000 worth of ads in September and October to encourage voters to vote not just for them personally, but for all Republican House candidates. Democrats have a five-seat majority in the state House while Republicans control the state Senate.

Yet the ad buys are small compared to the nearly $16 million dollars Kentucky’s U.S. Senate candidates and their allies are spending.

In fact, a new survey from the Center for Public Integrity found Kentucky ranks next to last in the amount of TV ad spending for state races. The nonpartisan group estimated Kentucky state House and Senate candidates have spent just $4,600 so far on ads this year, slightly more than what has been spent in North Dakota.

Pennsylvania, with a contested governor’s race, tops the list at $37.8 million.

Kentucky’s statewide constitutional officers, including the governor and attorney general, won’t be on the ballot until 2015. And most of the attention this cycle has gone to the state’s U.S. Senate race between Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes.

“I think we’ll probably rely more on mailers going to the mailboxes and newspaper and radio (ads),” said Republican state Rep. Richard Heath, who has partnered with Republican state Rep. Lynn Bechler and candidates Keith Travis and Randy Bridges to run TV ads in western Kentucky.

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.

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

State Republican and Democratic leaders say they expect TV spending on state races to increase over the next few weeks. A review of public political files in Kentucky’s media markets show candidates for the state House and Senate have nearly $300,000 worth of ads reserved in the coming weeks.

Democratic state Rep. Gerald Watkins, one of the Democrats targeted in the western Kentucky TV ads, has already reserved more than $40,000 worth of TV ads over the next few weeks. Watkins said he does not know of any Democrats pooling their money to run joint ads.

Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo said the House caucus and the state Democratic Party will make some targeted TV ad buys in specific House races.

“I believe that campaigns are won or lost just like wars are won or lost. You have to coordinate ground attacks, air attacks with all the intelligence that you have to make them the most effective,” Stumbo said.

Regardless of how much the U.S. Senate candidates are spending, Republican Party of Kentucky chairman Steve Robertson said candidates should not ignore TV but use it along with radio and print advertising.

“When you’re trying to get a message through, it always sounds better in stereo,” he said. “People watch TV.”

Reporter Philip Elliott contributed reporting from Washington, D.C.

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