Topeka — Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius spent almost $3.8 million on television and radio ads in the past three months, nearly nine times as much as Republican challenger Jim Barnett.
The spending allowed Sebelius to air 10 television spots portraying herself as a strong leader. She entered the final week of her re-election campaign with a commanding TV and radio presence.
Her campaign began airing two new commercials statewide Tuesday, bringing the total to 10 for the campaign.
A 60-second spot - her longest of the campaign - has soothing music and images of Kansans with text saying, among other things, "Living up to her promise to help move Kansas forward."
The other, 30-second spot, features many of the same images, with a narrator saying, "You can see it, all around you. Kansas is moving forward."
"It demonstrates the power of television in modern American politics, especially in statewide races," said Bob Beatty, a Washburn University political scientist. "You have to reach those people who are not connected to public affairs but who are still going to vote. Despite the Internet and everything else, that's still television."
Sebelius was able to outstrip Barnett in broadcast advertising because she raised a record $5.18 million for her campaign, starting in 2005, compared with less than $1.19 million for Barnett. Her first TV ads began airing before the Aug. 1 primary.
Barnett spent $434,000 on radio and TV advertising from July 21 through Oct. 26, the period covered by the last campaign finance report filed with the secretary of state's office.
Barnett, a senator from Emporia, has chided Sebelius repeatedly for using "slick" TV commercials to get her message across, suggesting she's exaggerating the strength of the state's economic recovery since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Using federal statistics, he contends the state is lagging too far behind its neighbors and the rest of the nation.
Barnett spokesman Rodger Woods said Sebelius must "convince Kansans that the reality is different from what they're seeing in their checkbooks and pay stubs."
"The fundraising and the television commercials don't come as a surprise," Woods said. "Her lack of leadership - she has to make that up with television."
Sebelius' last campaign finance report says she paid a production company about $74,000 and the remaining $3.7 million buying air time.
"It takes a lot of money to reach out with the governor's message," said Sebelius spokeswoman Nicole Corcoran. "The themes in our ads have been pretty consistent, talking about economy, job growth, leadership on schools, respect for our military and the governor's efforts to move Kansas forward."
Independent polling showed Sebelius with a comfortable lead and she has picked up most newspapers' endorsements. The Garden City Telegram joined the list Monday, saying she offered "reasonable strategies" for dealing with issues.
"Kansas needs a leader who will put the interest of all the state's residents above partisan politics," its editorial said. "Sebelius is such a leader."
Besides enjoying a huge advantage in fundraising, Sebelius also received help from the state Democratic Party and committees associated with it.
The party donated nearly $60,000 worth of staffing services, and two committees contributed nearly $36,000 worth of research.