Nebraska voters are choosing nominees today for a U.S. Senate seat in a state that’s already seen more than $5 million in television ads.
That’s a lot of attack ads for the 1.8 million residents of the nation’s 14th-least populous state. And it’s not over — the candidates vying to succeed retiring Democrat Ben Nelson will spend millions more.
The biggest-spending candidate has been state Attorney General Jon Bruning, who paid for more than $1 million in ads to run 4,475 times on network television through yesterday, according to New York-based Kantar Media’s CMAG, which tracks advertising.
Bruning is trying to fend off a late surge from state Senator Deb Fischer in a race that also includes state Treasurer Don Stenberg. Stenberg spent just $67,250 on television and Fischer just $22,400, though outside groups critical of Bruning and supportive of other candidates have whittled his advantage on the airwaves.
The Club for Growth, an anti-tax group that opposes most increases in the federal borrowing limit, spent $445,400 on ads attacking Bruning’s record on health care, tax and spending issues.
Ending Spending Action Fund, which is funded by former TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. chairman Joe Ricketts, paid for $70,120 in ads promoting Fischer and attacking Bruning.
Stenberg has help from the Senate Conservatives Fund, a group linked to Senator Jim DeMint that’s paid $572,480 to air pro-Stenberg ads 1,657 times.
The likely Democratic nominee is Bob Kerrey, a former Senator seeking to reclaim the seat he held from 1989 to 2001. Kerrey spent $738,660 on ads designed to reintroduce him to Nebraska voters after more than a decade away from daily life in the state.
Other outside groups involved in the race include Americans for Prosperity, a group funded by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. It spent $611,710 on ads attacking Nelson and Kerrey. Crossroads GPS, another Republican group that doesn’t have to disclose its donors, spent $402,270 on ads attacking Nelson.
Majority PAC, which has ties to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, paid for $271,010 in ads last winter praising Nelson, who announced his retirement last December. The Nebraska Democratic Party paid for $752,550 in ads last year promoting Nelson and attacking Bruning, Fischer and Stenberg.