MILWAUKEE — Wisconsin was already poised to have a red hot 2022 campaign season, and it just got busier. There was already a closely watched U.S. Senate and Gubernatorial race underway, and now there is likely to be a Milwaukee mayoral race as well. That means people will be seeing a flood of campaign ads and money coming into the state.
That is on top of 2020 being the most expensive campaign year in history. According to AdImpact, a company that tracks ad spending, candidates and special interest groups - an estimated $8.5 billion was spent in TV, radio and digital media during the 2019-2020 election cycle. Nationally, people saw nearly 10 million TV ads.
“From where I sit looking at the money, I think we are going to break more records,” said Matt Rothschild, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.
It is a non-profit and non-partisan group that tracks money spent in Wisconsin politics. Rothschild says a lot of cash is out there.
The 2018 governor’s race between Scott Walker and Tony Evers broke spending records. The two camps along with outside money meant $93 million was spent in that campaign. That is compared to $82 million in 2014.
In the legislative races, candidates and special interest groups spent $15 million in 2018. By 2020, that amount had more than doubled to $32.2 million in spending. And public affairs adviser Evan Zeppos expects 2022 to be even bigger.
“Every race today in America is big,” said Zeppos. “It’s very close in the Senate and in the House of Representatives, and there is a lot of pent up anger and angst out there.”
A potential mayoral race in Milwaukee could be added to the list. Zeppos says with it being a non-partisan race, that could mean less money coming in from outside Wisconsin. But candidates should still expect to spend a good amount to get their message out.
“I think you are going to need an excess of a half a million dollars to run. I think when you get into the general election, you are talking a million dollars if not more,” said Zeppos.
Rothschild warns no matter how flashy the ads are on TV, or how often you see them, do you own research to determine who should get your vote.
"Go to the website to the candidates, figure out where they stand on the issues, and make up your own mind. Don't get swayed by whoever got the most money or the most clever commercial. That's not how we should decide our elections,” said Rothschild.
What is unclear is when a Milwaukee mayoral race could happen. Mayor Tom Barrett has been nominated to be the U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg. He is expected to resign if he gets the appointment. If that happens, that would trigger a timeline for a special election to occur.