MADISON, Wis. — Outside groups spent nearly $10 million trying to influence Wisconsin's legislative races, according to a report a government watchdog group released Thursday.
The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign study found groups backing Democratic candidates spent $5.5 million. Groups backing Republicans spent $4.4 million. The total spending fell short of the record $12.2 million outside groups spent trying to influence legislative races in 2018.
Outside groups influence races with television ads, mailings and other advertising advocating for or attacking candidates.
The biggest spender was A Better Wisconsin Together Political Fund, which shelled out $2 million to support Democrats. No other group spent more than $975,000.
Groups spent nearly $1 million or more in three races.
They spent more than $1.2 million in western Wisconsin's 32nd Senate District, where Democrat Brad Pfaff and Republican Dan Kapanke are vying for an open seat. The race remains too close to call.
Groups spent more than $1 million in the 8th Senate District in suburban Milwaukee, where GOP incumbent Alberta Darling fended off challenger Neil Plotkin. And they spent $998,450 in the 30th Senate District in Green Bay, where Republican Eric Wimberger defeated Democrat Jonathon Hansen.
Republicans emerged from the elections with their majorities in both the Senate and Assembly intact but they failed to gain the two-thirds supermajority they needed in both houses that would have enabled them to override Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' vetoes.