Third-party spending on legislative races tops $2.5 million

The level of third-party spending on state legislative races has crossed the $2.5 million threshold, exceeding the previous record for outside spending in state elections by more than $1 million with 11 days still to go before Election Day.

The latest tally from the Maine Ethics Commission shows third-party groups had spent $2.559 million on state legislative contests as of Friday morning. And the outside spending is likely to persist before Nov. 6. On Monday, the statewide tally was $1.92 million, meaning outside groups pumped in $639,000 over the course of this week.

For comparison, outside groups spent a total of $1.5 million in 2010, and that amount was more than double the $635,000 spent in 2008.

The race attracting the most attention from third-party spenders is still the Senate District 32 race in Bangor and Hermon, where first-term Republican Sen. Nichi Farnham is facing a challenge from Democrat Geoffrey Gratwick.

As of mid-day Wednesday, outside groups had poured $326,000 into the race. A day later, the total had grown to nearly $347,000.

Ethics Commission data from earlier this week showed the state’s Republican and Democratic parties were the biggest spenders. The Maine Senate Republican Majority PAC — the political action committee in charge of state Senate campaigns — and Citizens Who Support Maine’s Public Schools — a group backed by the state’s teachers’ union, the Maine Education Association — were next on the list.