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Funds raised, spent for state races soar

Two state Senate races this fall — one in Northern Kentucky, the other along Interstate 65 in southwest Kentucky — already have cost about $350,000 each.

Meanwhile, candidates in Lexington's marquee race have raised a combined $114,228. Democrat Kathy Stein, who has served the last 12 years in the state House, and Republican Chuck Ellinger II, an at-large councilman in Lexington, are vying for the 13th District seat vacated by Democrat Ernesto Scorsone.

The most expensive state legislative race of the fall is a rematch from 2004 between Republican Sen. Jack Westwood of Crescent Springs and Democrat Kathy Groob in the 23rd District.

So far, Groob is the only challenger to outraise the incumbent in a state Senate race this year.

She built up a $193,843 war chest, but had spent all but $7,214 by Oct. 3, according to campaign finance reports filed this week with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance. The money spent includes $143,000 paid between Sept. 14 and Oct. 3 to buy ad time in the expensive Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky media market.

Westwood, who is seeking his fourth term in the state Senate, has amassed $162,087 for the Nov. 4 election and has $100,197 left for the stretch.

In 2004, Westwood outspent Groob $185,000 to $125,000 on the way to a 6.6 percentage point win.

Nearly as expensive this year is the race for the open seat vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Richie Sanders in southern Kentucky's 9th District, which stretches from the Tennessee border at Allen and Simpson counties up I-65 past Glasgow.

That race's price tag so far is more than $338,000.

Democrat Steve Newberry, a Glasgow broadcaster whose brother is Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry, has raised $177,270 for the Nov. 4 election, on top of the $185,000 he spent to win a three-candidate Democratic primary in May. He is the most prolific fund-raiser for the 2008 General Assembly campaigns.

David Givens, the Republican candidate and a Green County agriculture supply business owner, has collected $159,376 over the summer and early fall. He raised and spent about $20,000 to win his three-way GOP primary.

Givens, however, has nearly a 2-1 advantage in cash left for the last month of the campaign.

Independent candidate Gary Gene Elliott of Scottsville has collected $2,311 in that race.

Though expensive, the campaigns for the 9th and 23rd Senate districts are still off the record-setting pace of past General Assembly races.

While the amounts in candidates' campaign coffers aren't necessarily an accurate predictor of votes, fund-raising figures are one measure of support for a candidate.

Candidates who can raise tens of thousands of dollars for a race have been able to convince key people — donors and party officials — that their campaign is worth an investment.

Most important, money enables candidates to pay for advertising on radio and TV, yard signs, mailed brochures and bumper stickers.

In state House races, both Democrats in the two contested seats in Lexington have fund-raising advantages. And the Democrats have outraised their Republican counterparts in six of nine key races around the state.

That includes three incumbent Republicans in tough races — state Reps. Steven Rudy of Paducah, Myron Dossett of Pembroke and Mike Harmon of Junction City.