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New report shows 2022 campaign for governor smashed spending records

Spending by candidates and outside groups topped $164M, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign

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Tony Evers applauds while standing on a stage in front of a Wisconsin flag background.
Gov. Tony Evers applauds as he gives his victory speech Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, at the Orpheum Theater in Madison, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Wisconsin’s last race for governor shattered spending records, according to a new analysis by a campaign finance watchdog group.

Spending by candidates and outside groups topped $164 million, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. That smashed the previous record of $93 million set in 2018.

Democrats had the advantage in the race as Gov. Tony Evers’ campaign spent about $42 million compared to the $28 million spent by Republican challenger Tim Michels.

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Outside groups that support Democrats also spent more than groups that support Republicans in the governor’s race. According to the analysis, Democratic groups spent nearly $46 million to support Evers compared to around $39 million to support Michels or other Republicans who ran in the GOP primary.

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Executive Director Matt Rothschild called the totals “shocking,” and said part of the reason the governor’s race pulled in so much cash is that campaigns here have become nationalized.

Wisconsin is one of the few purple states left, so the hyper-partisan, super rich people from everywhere in the country want to have a say about who gets elected here in Wisconsin,” Rothschild said.

Rothschild said Democrats also proved more adept than Republicans in the last election at raising unlimited amounts through their state party and transferring it to help Evers. The law allowing for unlimited state party fundraising was passed and signed by Republicans in 2015, when they controlled state government.

“The Democrats beat the Republicans in the Republicans’ own game,” Rothschild said.

The leading spender among Democratic outside groups was the Democratic Governors Association, which spent nearly $27 million, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. The top GOP group was the Republican Governors Association, which spent roughly $15 million.

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