It was the most expensive political primary in Ohio’s history and the second most expensive to date so far this election cycle.
More than $74.5 million was spent by the candidates and outside political groups in Ohio’s Senate primaries to run ads, with nearly all the spending occurring on the Republican side, in the race to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman. That’s according to figures from AdImpact, a leading national ad tracking firm.
"This is over 40 times the amount of spending we recorded leading up to the 2018 OH Senate Primary ($1.68M) and over four times the amount we recorded leading up to the 2018 OH Senate General Election ($16.6M)," AdImpact noted.
The GOP Senate primary included five major candidates – two of whom were very wealthy and able to drop millions into their campaigns – and a bunch of well-financed outside super PACs that backed many of the top contenders. The race – from the very start 15 months ago – quickly turned into a contest by all but one of the major candidates to showcase their support for former President Donald Trump in hopes of landing his endorsement.
And as AdImpact noted, 40% of all ads aired during the primary mentioned Trump’s name.
JD Vance, a former hedge fund executive and best-selling author, landed the former president’s backing on April 15, which was a major factor in his edging out his rivals in last Tuesday’s primary. But also boosting Vance was the more than $10 million spent on ads by Protect Ohio Values, a super PAC backing the candidate. Fueling the group was more than $13 million in contributions from Vance’s old boss, billionaire venture capitalist and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.
Another major outside spender was Club for Growth Action, which backed former Ohio state treasurer and three-time Sente candidate Josh Mandel, who came in second to Vance. The organization shelled out nearly $9 million to run ads, most of which targeted Vance for anti-Trump comments he made during the 2016 presidential election.
The biggest spender among the candidates was Cleveland entrepreneur, real estate developer and investment banker Mike Gibbons, who was making his second bid for the Senate. Gibbons came in fourth, with roughly 12% of the GOP primary vote.
State Sen. Matt Dolan, a former county chief assistant prosecutor and state assistant attorney general, and a co-owner of Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Guardians, came in third. He spent nearly $10 million of his own money to run ads.