Roy Cooper widened his fundraising lead over Pat McCrory in the third quarter, according to campaign finance disclosures.
During the quarter, Cooper, the Democratic challenger, raised more than $9 million compared with $5.3 million raised by McCrory, the Republican incumbent governor. That widened the fundraising margin this election cycle to $21.8 million for Cooper and $13.9 million for McCrory, as of Sept. 30.
In addition to the direct fundraising, outside groups are also pouring money into advertisements for the gubernatorial race. The Republican Governors Association has aired television commercials including one in which it criticizes Cooper for refusing to fight the Affordable Care Act.
Liberal groups have lined up behind Cooper and are outspending their conservative rivals in the gubernatorial race. A Better NC, North Carolina Environmental Partnership, and Natural Resources Defense Council have spent a combined $4.8 million to air nearly 7,400 ads, according to data compiled by the Center for Public Integrity.
All told, there have been 36,041 ads supporting Cooper and 21,372 supporting McCrory. That translates to $17.8 million spent on advertising for Cooper and $9.7 million spent on McCrory, according to the center.
The nearly $28 million spent on advertising for the North Carolina gubernatorial race ranks second among all governor races behind only Missouri, where the race has raked in $33.7 million.
Even with the additional advertising, the race is a virtual tie, according to various polls. Analyzing early voting statistics doesn't help much, either. Early voter turnout this year is ahead of four years ago, but the biggest increase has come from unaffiliated voters, according to an analysis by Michael Bitzer, a Catawba College professor of Political Science who closely tracks election data. More than 2.4 million voters have already cast a ballot in North Carolina this year.
Although the race for governor has received significant play on the airwaves, other statewide races, by comparison, have not. In fact, the gubernatorial race accounts for three-quarters of all the political advertisements for state government seats, while races for treasurer, auditor and commissioners of insurance, labor and agriculture have garnered less than 1,200 advertisements combined.
Of course, these races all pale in comparison to the presidential race. Since early summer, North Carolina has had more than 60,000 ads supporting either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, according to the center.
The race for Attorney General has seen the second most financial attention. Democrat Josh Stein raised $4.1 million through Sept. 30, while Republican Buck Newton had raised $1.1 million. In this race, outside groups favored Newton, with the Carolinians For Freedom political action committee buying more than 1,200 ads to support Newton.
The nearly 10,000 ads in the Attorney General's race represents 13 percent of total advertising for state government seats.