Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Campaign Cash

Superintendent Race Cost Record $3 Million

Underly and liberal groups spent combined $2.34 million, five times more than opponents.

By - Jul 19th, 2021 01:57 pm
Deborah Kerr and Jill Underly.

Deborah Kerr and Jill Underly.

Candidates and outside special interest groups spent a record $3 million in the state school superintendent’s race last spring, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review found.

Pecatonica Area School Superintendent Jill Underly, who was backed by Democratic-leaning groups and contributors in the nonpartisan April 6 race, defeated Deborah Kerr, a retired Brown Deer School District superintendent, who was backed by GOP-leaning groups and contributors.

Fundraising and spending reports filed this week showed the seven candidates spent a combined $1.96 million and eight outside groups spent $1.02 million. Underly and Kerr faced off in the general election because they were the top two vote-getters in the Feb. 16 primary.

Underly led candidate spending with $1.53 million – a record for a school superintendent candidate. Underly’s largest contributor was the Democratic Party of Wisconsin which gave her $949,844, or 62 percent, of her total fundraising.

Underly and the six outside groups that backed her spent a combined $2.34 million, which was five times more than the $458,584 spent by Kerr and the two outside groups that supported her.

The spending in this year’s DPI race smashed the previous record, set in 2009, when groups and candidates spent just over $1.1 million. Outside group spending in this year’s contest surpassed the previous record of $693,722 also set in the 2009 race.

The groups that backed Underly or opposed Kerr were:

A Better Wisconsin Together, which spent $780,210 on digital, cable, and broadcast television ads,

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin, which spent $16,606 on online ads, text messages and robocalls,

Blue Sky Waukesha, which spent $10,976 on mailings,

Wisconsin Muslim Civic Alliance, which spent $1,600 on digital ads to support Underly,

Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), which spent $955 on robocalls,

WEAC Region 7 PAC, which spent $111 on mailings.

The groups that supported Kerr or opposed Underly in the race were:

American Federation for Children, founded by Betsy DeVos, spent $209,000 on online ads and videos,

Rebecca PAC, a new political action committee created by former GOP Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, spent $5,000 on digital ads.

For more details about the groups and their spending, check out their profiles in the Democracy Campaign’s  Hijacking Campaign 2021 feature by clicking on their names.

To see some of the large contributors to Underly and Kerr, go herehere, and here.

To view the contributors who gave Underly and Kerr $100 or more go here and here.

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