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Gillespie Floods Airwaves, Outspends Northam in Television Time

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AP Photo / Steve Helber
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If you’ve been watching TV, you’ve probably noticed it’s election season. This fall, candidates for governor have been flooding the airwaves with commercials. But as Michael Pope reports, one candidate is spending more than the other.

Republican Ed Gillespie is hard to escape, especially if you’re watching football or the local news. Or just about anything, really. A Virginia Public Access Project compilation of spending reports in the four largest media markets shows Gillespie spending almost twice as much as Democrat Ralph Northam. Quentin Kidd at Christopher Newport University says Northam probably would be spending more if he didn’t get bogged down in that expensive primary fight with Tom Perriello.

“The disparity between the two campaigns right now as we look at these numbers is really driven by the cost of the primary that Northam ran versus the cost of the primary Gillespie ran. I suspect by the end of this we’re going to see both of them spend an equal amount of money on TV.”

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Credit Virginia Public Access Project
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And that’s not going to be cheap. The Washington, D.C. media market, which includes Northern Virginia, is one of the most expensive in the country. And as Bob Denton at Virginia Tech points out, it’s also where Gillespie is spending the most money.

“He’s really hitting Northern Virginia, where he needs to do well in the suburbs. And if he can take just another one or two percent, as we’re looking right now at a three to five percent race, it may very well pay off, especially in terms of independents.”

These TV ads the campaigns buy are only part of the story. Outside groups are also buying television time, and campaigns are increasingly spending a lot of money buying ads on social media — an attempt to reach out to millennial voters who don’t watch much television.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association. 

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.