With RGA helping Stefanowski, the TV air war is roughly even

mark pazniokas / ctmirror.org

Ned Lamont and Bob Stefanowski during a break at a debate.

For $5,500, a 30-second spot promoting Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont will air on 60 Minutes this Sunday, part of a weekly television buy of more than $500,000 that dwarfs the $150,000 in time purchased by his Republican opponent, Bob Stefanowski.

But Stefanowski has help: Change PAC, a super PAC funded by the Republican Governors Association, is spending more than $300,000 to air ads attacking Lamont over the next seven days, keeping the air wars a roughly even match.

Change PAC reported Tuesday the receipt of another $1 million in the past two weeks from the RGA, whose spending on the Connecticut race now has topped $2 million. Based on ad time reserved by Change PAC, the RGA intends to spend about $3 million by Election Day.

The independent expenditures are a significant boost to Stefanowski, though far smaller than the $5.5 million investment the RGA made four years ago in an unsuccessful effort to unseat Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat not seeking re-election this year.

Lamont, a wealthy self-funder, is running with little support from the Democratic Governors Association this year. The DGA opened a super PAC in Connecticut called Our Connecticut PAC, but it has only contributed $125,000, some of which has been used for research.

In 2014, the DGA contributed about $4 million to a state affiliate, Connecticut Forward, which also was the recipient of about $2 million in union contributions.

The RGA and DGA can make unlimited expenditures to influence a gubernatorial race, so long as they do not coordinate their activities with the campaigns of Stefanowski and Lamont.

Overall, the 2018 race for governor of Connecticut is on pace to attract far less outside spending than Malloy’s rematch with Republican Tom Foley in 2014. Independent expenditures that year topped $18 million, with the spending roughly even — $9.3 million to help Malloy and $8.9 million to assist Foley.

In 2014, both major-party nominees were participants in the state’s voluntary program of public financing, which provided each candidate $6.5 million for the general-election campaign.

Neither Lamont nor Stefanowski are participating in public financing this year. Their latest campaign finance reports, which will show their spending and contributions through Sept. 30, must be filed by midnight Wednesday.

Stefanowski says his report will show he’s raised $2 million since winning the GOP primary on Aug. 14. The number includes a $250,000 check he wrote to his own campaign.

About Mark Pazniokas

Mark, a winner of numerous journalist awards, is the former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and a former contributing writer for The New York Times. In more than 30 years as a reporter, he has covered some of the most compelling stories in the state, including the impeachment inquiry and resignation of Gov. John G. Rowland in 2004 and the nationally watched Senate race won by Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman as an independent in 2006. Mark is a graduate of Boston University. E-mail him at mpazniokas@ctmirror.org.