PHOENIX — Democrat Richard Carmona bought $139,200 worth of ads on Spanish-language television stations against $89,200 by Republican Jeff Flake during their tightly contested U.S. Senate race, according to documents kept by the outlets.
That spending with Phoenix affiliates Univision, Telemundo and Telefutura compares with the $1.31 million and $2.87 million the Carmona and Flake campaigns spent, respectively, with the ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox stations in Phoenix, as reported by ProPublica.
Ad buys in the Yuma and Tucson markets aren’t listed by ProPublica, which analyzed information from documents filed by television stations around the country.
Carmona benefited from $111,000 of ad buys with the three Spanish-language affiliates by national committees. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee purchased $19,400 in commercials, while its independent expenditure group bought $91,300 worth.
Flake’s campaign also had an outside group spend money on ads aimed at the Spanish-speaking community. American Commitment, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, bought $7,050 worth of commercials on Telemundo.
Joseph Garcia, director of the Latino Public Policy Center at Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy, said that it wasn’t surprising that the candidates invested more in English-language advertising.
“He (Carmona) had to match him ad for ad, and that’s what we saw,” Garcia said. “Are you going to give up that tit-for-tat over the English-speaking channels in order to have more of a presence on the Spanish-speaking channels?
“I think it was just such a battle that neither one of them felt like, ‘We can invest more into the Spanish-language.'”
Bruce Merrill, a senior research fellow at the Morrison Institute, said that without a spike in the number of Latinos voting they haven’t had a large impact on elections. That appeared to be the case again this year, he said.
“I’ve been here 40 years and it’s never happened,” Merrill said.
Merrill said he suspected that the Flake campaign’s Spanish-language ad buys were more to establish a presence than to gain votes.
“The Flake people knew what we all know – that they weren’t going to vote for Flake anyway,” he said. “The Hispanics that did vote for Flake would’ve voted for him whether they saw a Spanish-language ad or not.”
Andrew Wilder, the Flake campaign’s communication director, said that the campaign spent as much as it could advertising across all kinds of media.
“From the start of his campaign for Senate, Jeff Flake’s always sought the vote of every Arizonan,” Wilder said. “That’s included reaching voters through Spanish-language media.”
A message left with Carmona’s campaign wasn’t returned by Tuesday afternoon.
According to unofficial returns, Flake won the race with 50 percent of the vote, while Carmona received 46 percent.
Dulce Matuz, president of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, said that while she wished campaigns would do more to reach the Latino community she wonders whether they might deem Spanish-language ads superfluous.
“I think a lot of us are bilingual,” she said. “I personally get my news from both sources, English and Spanish.”
With the increasing power of the Latino vote, however, Garcia expects campaign strategy to change in coming elections.
“I think that in the future, you’re going to get more money spent on Spanish-language media for campaigns — only because of the huge amount of Latino electorate that you’re going to have,” he said.
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