CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The general election battle for the West Virginia Legislature has cost $2.7 million, with non-candidate groups spending nearly $480,000 on ads meant to influence the state Senate and House of Delegates races, campaign finance reports show.
The candidates, meanwhile, still had another $2.1 million on hand Oct. 21 as their campaigns entered the home stretch.
This election is the first to decide who represents districts redrawn after the 2010 Census. Democrats hold majorities in both chambers. While that party dominates the Senate, Republicans need just 16 seats to take over the 100-member House. Even coming close to that goal would affect the balance of power in that chamber, said political science professor Robert Rupp of West Virginia Wesleyan College.
The number of seats the GOP has on each committee, for instance, reflects their overall share of the chamber.
"There's a tipping point, and Republicans don't need a majority to get there," Rupp said.
The spending shows the GOP and its allies have focused on House seats in such places as Jefferson, Kanawha, Boone and Preston counties. All told, candidates for delegate have spent nearly $1.4 million on their general election campaigns, including $739,000 during the latest Sept. 24 to Oct. 21 reporting period.
But as they try to retain control of the House, Democratic candidates have both outraised Republicans, $1 million to $618,000, and outspent them, $833,000 to $555,000. House Democrats also had larger campaign balances, $1.1 million to $560,000, as of Oct. 21.
"I keep looking for this iceberg that's out there. It's just not there," Rupp said of evidence that the chamber will flip. "We're in a transition, but it's very slow and measured."
While the House races may offer the chance for gains by Republicans there, the Senate contests are a different matter. The GOP enters the election with just six of 34 seats in that chamber. With half the Senate on the ballot, seven of the Democratic incumbents running have spent little or no money because they're unopposed. The same is true for just one Republican.
But Mercer County auto dealer Bill Cole has made his race with Sen. Mark Wills the most expensive general election matchup for the Legislature. The Republican has spent more than $237,000 to unseat the freshman Democrat, after loaning his campaign $190,000. Wills has received nearly as much as Cole from contributors, in the $40,000 range, but had spent less than $39,000. Cole had nearly twice the campaign balance of Wills as of Oct. 21, $20,000 to $12,500.