The TV ad war is heating up in Louisiana as voters prepare to enter the jungle.
In advance of the state’s open, or “jungle,” primary this Saturday, Louisiana saw more state-level political advertising than any other state last week.
The system allows voters to select a preferred candidate in each race, regardless of party affiliation. Candidates who win a simple majority of votes are declared the general election winner. In races with no majority winner, the top two candidates advance to a runoff election Nov. 21.
No race has seen more TV ads than the fight to replace outgoing Gov. Bobby Jindal. Republican U.S. Sen David Vitter, the early favorite in the race, has aired more ads than any other candidate as he tries to combat attacks on his Washington record and his links to a notorious prostitution scandal.
Here’s what to know about the TV ads shaping Louisiana’s election:
- Candidates and political groups have spent an estimated $15.8 million on TV airtime, the equivalent of about $4.70 per every potential voter in the state.
- If run consecutively, political ads shown this year in Louisiana would take up more than two weeks of airtime.
- The TV ad wars in the state heated up ahead of Saturday’s primary, with an estimated $3.1 million spent last week on political ads, more than any other state in the country. More than half of that was for attack ads that were at least partially negative.
- The battle to replace outgoing Gov. Bobby Jindal has been the hottest race in Louisiana this year, accounting for more than 60 percent of all TV ad spending in the state.
- U.S. Sen. David Vitter, a Republican running to replace Jindal, has spent an estimated $2.3 million on TV airtime, more than any other candidate or political group in Louisiana this year.
- Vitter has aired nearly twice as many ads as the next biggest advertiser, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, another Republican candidate vying for governor.
- The gubernatorial race has attracted ads from seven outside groups, more than any other race in the country this year. Those groups include a Washington-based super PAC created to support Vitter; the Humane Society, which also supports him; and the Louisiana Water Coalition PAC and the Gumbo PAC, which have both run ads attacking Vitter.
- Two outside groups have accounted for more than 95 percent of the ads in elections for Louisiana’s unpaid Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which picks the state’s superintendent of education and will likely determine whether the state sticks with the Common Core education standards.
- The Virginia-based Center for Individual Freedom has spent an estimated $61,000 airing ads attacking Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell. The group, which was originally created more than 15 years ago by tobacco executives looking to fight regulations, aired ads in attorney general and supreme court races in Arkansas and Michigan in 2014.
- The Louisiana Lawsuit Fairness PAC spent roughly $22,000 in the past week on ads backing Republican state senate candidate Sharon Hewitt, a former engineer for Shell Oil. Like Hewitt, the PAC’s leaders and major donors have ties to the oil industry.
Reporter Rachel Baye contributed.
Sources: Center for Public Integrity analysis of Kantar Media/CMAG data current through Oct. 19; U.S. Census/Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Population Survey.