Spending in Wisconsin governor’s race shatters record

By SCOTT BAUER Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Spending in Wisconsin’s governor’s race shattered the previous record by more than 75%, with more than $164 million spent on the contest won in the battleground state by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, a group that tracks campaign spending in state elections reported Tuesday.

The total amount spent on the race, which was a national priority for both Republicans and Democrats, topped the previous high of $93 million set in Evers’ first win in 2018, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign said. It was double the amount spent in the 2014 race.

Evers defeated Republican Tim Michels, who owns the state’s largest construction company, ensuring that Democrats will have a check on the Republican-controlled Legislature. The race drew national attention because of Wisconsin’s role as a presidential swing state. Evers has vetoed more bills than any governor in state history, blocking Republicans on numerous fronts, including efforts to make absentee voting more difficult.

Evers and the special interest groups that supported him spent nearly $88 million, compared with nearly $76 million spent by Michels, other Republican candidates in the primary and groups that supported them. As for the candidates themselves, Evers spent nearly $42 million compared with about $28.5 million by Michels.

The biggest spender in the race was the Democratic Governors Association through its issue ad group called the Alliance for Common Sense. It spent nearly $27 million on the race, according to the Democracy Campaign’s report. The group’s ads primarily attacked Michels on a variety of issues, including his positions on abortion and education.

The second-highest spender was the Republican Governors Association, which used three different entities to put more than $15 million into the race. Its ads primarily attacked Evers as being weak on crime.

Fourteen groups each spent more than $1.7 million on the race.

Spending is also expected to be high in the race for Wisconsin Supreme Court, an April 4 election that will determine whether control of the court flips from conservatives to liberals. The court is the final word in Wisconsin, where Evers and the Legislature are often at odds. Everything from abortion rights to election laws heading into the 2024 presidential election could be in play, fueling expectations that spending will be at or above previous records for court races.