BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The 2023-2024 election cycle may be the most expensive one yet, according to new projections by AdImpact.
That’s an advertisement tracking software company based in Virginia.
The company says there will be over $10 billion in political expenditures across media, including broadcast, cable and digital. This would mean a 13% increase from the previous record of $9.02 billion spent nationwide in the 2020 election season.
Locally in Kern County, both the Democratic and Republican parties are gearing up for what they expect to be another season of competitive — and expensive — congressional races.
“It’s a good thing for voters to have access to information from both sides of the race,” said Cathy Abernathy, 17’s GOP analyst.
Abernathy added, “Promoting their candidate, and opposing the opposition. Both parties will do that because their goal is to elect someone of their political philosophy.”
Political candidates have long relied on political advertisements, whether to educate voters, downplay the promises of an opponent or to boost name ID. The new projections show that reliance isn’t going anywhere, come the 2024 federal, state and local races.
“In 2022, we saw very, very hectic ads where it was back and forth, no one knew what the truth was, no one really believed the facts of the ads, and so I think we’re getting ready to see another very crazy, chaotic campaign season, especially with these ads on TV, radio, text messaging, your phones will be blowing up 24/7,” said Christian Romo, chair of the Kern Democratic Party.
It’s a deja vu for Kern.
Last election season, California’s 22nd congressional district, which includes Kern, was one of the most highly contested and pricey races, as results of the David Valadao and Rudy Salas match could’ve determined the House’s party dominance.
Valadao won this majority Latino, majority Democratic district.
Of his near $4 million dollars in campaign spending, over two-thirds went towards communicating with voters.
Some of his ads were on the offensive side.
“Those are the ones that resonate with the voters,” Romo said. “People are gonna most likely remember a negative ad as opposed to a positive ad… You’ll see a lot more negative ads. You’ll get tired of them.”
Romo said to turn the district into one that’s Democrat-led, the Latino and the Democratic votes will play the determining factors.
“We have [those] numbers there, it’s just getting people out there to vote,” Romo explained. “So, millions are gonna be spent in getting the messaging out there and making sure that the voters actually show up to cast their ballots.”
17 News spoke with Marisa Wood, who lost to Speaker Kevin McCarthy for California’s 20th congressional district and is running again in 2024.
Wood said her ad spending focused on direct mail and digital ads, like on social media. Per her campaign manager, Wood spent around $147,000 on direct mail campaigning and around $290,000 on those digital ads. She both raised and spent a little over $1 million.
D-20 was another center-of-attention race in 2022 and will likely be so again in 2024.
And because of the earlier March — not June — primary, what you know as the Spooky Season time of year may become a political ad time of year.
“They’re gonna wanna start earlier,” said Romo. “So, I would not be surprised if we start seeing campaign ads, campaign text messages, people at your doors, campaign mailers as early as October.”
Kern’s GOP said campaigning will likely start January, and they’re predicting the presidential race will prove most expensive here.
“Because of the way the law is written right now, a presidential candidate that runs as a Republican can get delegates by congressional districts,” explained Abernathy. “So if candidate x wins Kevin McCarthy’s congressional district, they will get all those delegates… versus winner take all statewide. So, it’s good because those candidates have to come to smaller areas like Bakersfield and campaign for president. That’ll be fun to see.”
The county’s Democratic and GOP leaders say they share the outlook that voters have responsibilities of doing their own research on candidates too.
Abernathy said communication is the only way to educate a voter, just as “If you’re gonna go to college, you research the college background of the schools, if you get a job, you look at the industry before you go there.”
“Everything is based on where are the voters that you know are more likely to support your candidate,” Abernathy said. “Kern County is rich with conservatives, it’s not necessarily majority Republican but conservatives, and that tends to vote Republican. So there’ll be a lot of effort here, campaign-wise.”
Abernathy noted increasingly high ad spending also results from increasingly high industry costs, like the price of a mail stamp. She said there are always costs to bear when communicating with voters.