Local expenditures are the “invisible force” for political ad spenders, according to Corey Elliott, Borrell’s research director. The most high-profile campaigns – for president, senator or governor – represent a combined 0.5% of all electoral contests to be held in November 2016. About 29,000 races will be for school boards, county commissions and city councils, and while the amount needed for a local or city campaign is only $62,000 (compared to a US Senate candidate, who must raise almost $4 million to remain competitive), “those add up fast,” said Elliott.
Local campaigns will account for 40% of all political ad dollars, but the fractured nature of that spending undercuts its value for digital tech companies. “Historically, very little money has been spent on digital in these types of races,” said Eli Kaplan, co-founder of the liberal digital agency Rising Tide Interactive. Kaplan said this practice is “bizarre,” since the “weirdly drawn” districts and city lines that characterize local races are ideal for digital’s geofencing and targeting capabilities.