Democrat Roy Cooper has continued to outraise and outspend Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in what has become the most expensive gubernatorial race in North Carolina history.
Through Oct. 20, Cooper had raised $21.8 million to McCrory’s $13.9 million.
Cooper had spent $21.3 million and McCrory $13.6 million in the nation’s second costliest gubernatorial race after Missouri.
Despite those numbers, many analysts consider the race a toss-up. Real Clear Politics has Cooper up by 2.3 points in an average of recent polls.
Both candidates have been helped by a stable of allies including some funded with so-called “dark money,” the source of which is not disclosed.
Cooper and his allies have had a big advantage on the airwaves.
Together they spent $16.4 million on TV ads through Oct. 24, about twice as much as McCrory and his supporters, according to the Center for Public Integrity’s analysis of data from ad tracking firm Kantar Media/CMAG. Cooper’s side had run over 32,000 TV spots to McCrory’s 19,400.
“It’s really a function of how competitive North Carolina has become statewide,” said Eric Heberlig, a political scientist at UNC Charlotte. “Multiple races – the president’s, the governor’s and the U.S. Senate race – are all close. So donors and interest groups know that their support can affect the outcome.”
Both campaigns got infusions of money from their parties during the quarter.
The N.C. Democratic Party gave Cooper $3.5 million. And the state GOP has given McCrory nearly $1.5 million. This week the state Democratic Party filed a complaint with the state elections board arguing that the state GOP may indirectly have given illegal money to McCrory.
They say the state GOP took more than $1 million from RGA Right Direction PAC, which is funded by the Republican Governors Association. The association accepts corporate funds and individual money higher than the $5,100 limit. State candidates can not. The association and the PAC say they’ve followed the law.
According to an Observer analysis, Cooper has gotten twice as many contributions as McCrory, nearly 60,000 to 30,000. Cooper has received at least $1.6 million from out-of-state donors while McCrory has raised about $1 million from outside North Carolina.
This year, Cooper received more donations from Charlotte: about 2,900 to McCrory’s 1,800. But McCrory raised at least $940,000 from Charlotte donors while Cooper raised $847,000.
“Ahead in the polls and with strong financial support, Cooper has the momentum in the final days of the election,” spokesman Jamal Little said in a statement. “Throughout the campaign, Roy Cooper has heard from countless North Carolinians who are ready for a strong leader that will set aside the partisan social agenda and work to build a better North Carolina.”
McCrory spokesman Ricky Diaz said his candidate has the momentum.
“Despite being outraised and outspent by Roy Cooper and his out-of-state liberal allies, the momentum has shifted decidedly towards Gov. McCrory as voters realize Roy Cooper hasn’t been doing his job as attorney general,” Diaz said.
“We’re confident the enthusiasm for Gov. McCrory and our get-out-the-vote operation will overcome the millions of dollars of false advertising paid for by Cooper and his special interest allies.”
Both sides are accepting help from groups that don’t disclose many of their donors.
The Republican Governors Association accepts so-called “dark money” as well as money from identified sources.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, its top reported contributions come from the wealthy Koch brothers, who gave $2 million; Blue Cross/Blue Shield, which gave $1.5 million; and Las Vegas casino owner Sheldon Adelson, whose Las Vegas Sands resort gave $1 million.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina did not make that $1.5 million contribution and is not aware of which Blue Cross plan did, according to its communications director, David Kochman.
Cooper’s allies include “A Better NC.” The nonprofit recently reported getting $930,000 from the Democratic Governors Association and $350,000 from a group called Make NC First, described by its attorney, Raleigh lawyer Michael Weisel, as a North Carolina nonprofit. Nonprofits generally do not have to disclose their donors.