The $20M Pennsylvania Senate slugfest: Candidates, super PACs, shell out big bucks to run ads

It's a similar story in Ohio's Senate race, where nearly $16 million has been dished out to date to run ads

Take a GOP held open Senate seat race in a crucial battleground state with a crowded Republican primary field full of wealthy candidates backed by well-financed super PACs, and the ad spending quickly multiples.

That's what's happening right now in Pennsylvania, where ad spending has already skyrocketed ahead of the Keystone State's May 17 primary.

Roughly $20 million has been shelled out by the campaigns and outside groups through Thursday to run ads in the race to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, with the vast majority being spent in the GOP primary, according to figures provided by the national ad tracking firm AdImpact.


The two biggest spenders are celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz, the cardiac surgeon and author who until the launch of his Senate campaign late last year was host of TV’s popular "Dr. Oz Show," and David McCormick, a West Point graduate, Gulf War combat veteran and former Treasury Department official who steered the hedge fund behemoth Bridgewater Associates from 2017 through the end of last year.

Both campaigns and allied super PACs have launched ads attacking each over the combustible issue of China relations, which is top of mind with many GOP voters.

"McCormick. China’s friend. Not ours," charges the announcer in an Oz campaign commercial earlier this month.

"When Mehmet Oz questions my patriotism, he’s crossed a line," McCormick fires back in an ad of his own.

The Oz campaign’s already dished out $5.5 million to run ads, with the McCormick campaign not far behind at $4.8 million, according to AdImpact.

The pro-McCormick Honor Pennsylvania PAC has spent $2.6 million to date, with the pro-Oz American Leadership Action spending $1.2 million.


McCormick and Oz are two among many GOP candidates who would gladly welcome an endorsement by former President Trump – who remains very popular with Republican voters as he continues to play a kingmaker’s role in party politics and flirts with a 2024 White House run. And they've spotlighted their support for the former president’s America First policies, which included a confrontational stance against China.

McCormick and Oz are two of the leading candidates in a crowded field of Republican contenders in Pennsylvania in a race that could decide whether the Republicans win back the Senate majority in November’s midterm elections.

Among the other leading GOP candidates are a real estate developer, philanthropist and 2018 Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, Jeff Bartos; real estate executive and major Republican donor Carla Sands, who served as ambassador to Denmark under Trump; and veteran and conservative political commentator Kathy Barnette.

Sands has shelled out over $2.2 million to date to run ads, with Bartos and a supportive super PAC combined spending nearly $450,000.

It’s a similar story in neighboring Ohio, where there’s also a crowded and combustible Republican Senate primary in which nearly all the major candidates are trying to land Trump’s endorsement. According to AdImpact, nearly $16 million has already been spent by the campaigns and outside groups to run spots on TV or online in the race to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman.

The biggest spender to date in Ohio is Mike Gibbons, a Cleveland entrepreneur, real estate developer, and investment banker and a 2018 Ohio Republican Senate candidate. He’s shelled out nearly $5.3 million of his own money to run commercials.


Club for Growth Action, which is supporting former Ohio treasurer and former two-time Senate candidate Josh Mandel, has dished out nearly $2.8 million to run ads. Former Ohio GOP chair Jane Timken’s spent $2 million; Protect Ohio Values, a super PAC backing best-selling author and venture capitalist J.D. Vance, has spent nearly $1.4 million; and Ohio state Sen. Matt Dolan, whose family owns Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Guardians, has spent nearly $1 million.

Mike Gibbons, a Republican Senate candidate for Ohio, speaks to supporters as Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., looks on during a campaign rally in Maineville, Ohio, Friday, Jan. 14, 2022.

Mike Gibbons, a Republican Senate candidate for Ohio, speaks to supporters as Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., looks on during a campaign rally in Maineville, Ohio, Friday, Jan. 14, 2022.  (AP Photo/Jeff Dean / AP Newsroom)

Bernie Moreno, a successful Cleveland-based businessman and luxury auto dealership giant who suspended his campaign a week ago, spent over $2.6 million before dropping out.

Ohio’s primary is May 3.

"With three months remaining until primary day, Ohio and Pennsylvania’s Senate races look to be two of the most expensive primaries of the year, and of all time," AdImpact’s Ben Taber told Fox News. "Large states with large, well-funded, fields have driven spending levels even higher than anticipated."

In both states, ad spending by the Republican Senate contenders is dwarfing the amount dished out in the Democratic primaries.

Of the $20 million in ad spending in Pennsylvania, less than $3 million comes from the Democratic race, where Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, Rep. Conor Lamb and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta are the major candidates.


In Ohio, a paltry $460,000 has been spent to date to run ads in the Democratic primary, where longtime Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan is the front-runner in a small field of contenders that also includes progressive Morgan Harper, a former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau senior adviser and 2020 congressional candidate.

AdImpact projected in September that $8.9 billion would be shelled out to run TV, digital and radio ads in the 2022 races across the country, which would be the highest ever for a midterm election cycle. With the surge in spending, AdImpact will likely up its estimate after the once-in-a-decade congressional redistricting process is finalized.