ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Dianne Dozios tried to ignore all the political ads, tried to escape in the next room doing puzzles, but the Twin Cities-area woman and her husband finally decided the constant barrage was too much. They decided to ditch local TV stations and their beloved nightly newscasts until Nov. 9.
“Oh my God I could puke,” the 72-year-old Eagan resident said Thursday. “I can’t wait until it’s over.”
Politically and geographically, Minnesota is flyover country — a reliably blue state that seldom sees competitive congressional districts, allowing political groups to save their money for swing states such as Nevada, Florida and North Carolina. But this year, a tossup race for an open swing seat in the southeastern Minneapolis suburbs, a rematch of the costly Iron Range fight from 2014 and a race in the western suburbs where Donald Trump has become an issue have combined to unleash a deluge of political ads on Minnesota voters.
A week out from Election Day, outside political groups had spent more on attack ads in those three districts alone than was spent throughout the entire state in 2014 — even with Sen. Al Franken on the ballot statewide for re-election that year. Add in the occasional presidential ad, and it was too much for Dozios to bear.
“It’s the worst one I can remember, it really is,” she said. “And I’m old.”
It’s most severe around the Twin Cities, as its massive media market extends far enough to cover pieces of the three top races in the 2nd District that covers southeastern suburbs, the 3rd District of western suburbs and the enormous 8th Congressional District of northeastern Minnesota.
Dozios and her neighbors can vote in the race to replace retiring GOP Rep. John Kline between Democrat Angie Craig and Republican Jason Lewis, an election generally regarded as a tossup as the 2nd Congressional District leans slightly Democrat in presidential elections. Before escaping to criminal justice shows free of politics, she was sick of the ads from outside groups that pull Lewis’ old quotes from his conservative talk show or that criticized Craig’s positions as too liberal.
But commercial breaks are also filled with ads from the 3rd District, where Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen is being linked to Trump in millions of dollars in outside advertisements. There’s also no shortage of negative commercials from the 8th District — the rematch between Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan and Republican Stewart Mills is the most expensive congressional race in the country.
All told, outside groups had spent nearly $30 million on those three elections, according to public filings, while the candidates themselves have spent millions more on their own campaigns.
“There are 25, maybe 30 competitive congressional races across the country. And three of them are in Minnesota,” said Kurt Zellers, a Republican and former Speaker of the Minnesota House.
Still, Zellers said he thought the newfound attention to Minnesota had only resulted in a modest uptick in mailers and ads on the airwaves. The lack of a gubernatorial election, race for the U.S. Senate or any statewide office means the impact isn’t felt evenly across the state.
State Sen. Terri Bonoff knows voters are frustrated with the deluge. She said she hears about it all the time. Just a few days away from testing Paulsen at the polls, the Democratic candidate said it’s worth the risk to contribute to the overload with her own, more upbeat ads rather than the “doom and gloom” of negative attacks that brand her an out-of-step liberal or her opponent as supporting Trump. But the candidates’ own ads have been drowned out.
“I wish I had more money so I could control more of the airwaves,” Bonoff said.
In Eagan, the commercial breaks with back-to-back (to back-to-back) political negativity are a constant topic, Dozios said, both in her home and at the local senior center. And everyone is fed up.
“Nobody can wait until this election is over,” she said.
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