A national Democratic Party committee reported Monday that it put $375,000 into a late advertising buy in an attempt to boost North Carolina challenger Deborah Ross’ chances of ousting two-term Republican Sen. Richard Burr in Tuesday’s election.
Political handicappers rate the Burr-Ross race a tossup.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee made a last-ditch investment of $1.5 million in four races – also devoting identical $375,000 sums to candidates in Pennsylvania, Missouri and Indiana – in its bid to outflank Republicans and recapture control of the Senate. The spending plunge in the final days of the North Carolina campaign suggest that party officials believe the heated race is still with reach for Ross, a former state legislator from Raleigh.
In 2014, the Republican speaker of the North Carolina House, Thom Tillis, edged Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan by fewer than 50,000 of nearly 3 million votes cast to capture the state’s other Senate seat. The larger voter turnout expected in a presidential election year is one reason pundits give Ross a chance against the veteran Burr, who has been in Congress for 22 years.
Republicans currently hold 54 Senate seats, to Democrats’ 46. If Hillary Clinton wins the White House, Democrats need to win a net of four seats to control the Senate, because the vice president can break tie votes. If Clinton loses to Donald Trump, Democrats would need to take away five GOP seats.
The Democratic committee’s counterpart, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, reported putting another $25,000 behind Burr. But its role has largely been usurped this year by the Senate Leadership Fund, a so-called “super” political action committee loosely affiliated with Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
As a super PAC, the fund can collect unlimited amounts from wealthy Americans and corporations. The Leadership Fund made late North Carolina advertising buys totaling $550,000 to raise to increase to more than $13.6 million the amount it has injected to back Burr’s prospects.
Also aiding Burr was an infusion, mostly over the past month, of $1.55 million from Americans for Prosperity, a group backed by libertarian brothers Charles and David Koch, the billionaire owners of Koch Industries, a giant oil conglomerate. The Koch-backed committee spent money on advertising, mailers, canvassing voters and phone banks.
Ross got another boost from Women Vote! – a super PAC formed by EMILY’s List – an abortion rights network that has poured cash into helping elect women to Congress. The PAC reported over the weekend that it invested more than $260,000 in late advertisements criticizing Burr.
The latest investments helped push the total outside spending in the race past $61 million, far outstripping the more than $23 million raised by the two candidates.