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Independent campaign groups ramp up spending

Outside campaign groups have ramped up their electioneering activity this month, spending roughly $246,000 to help elect or defeat state Senate candidates.

The spending was aimed at capturing the first wave of early ballots. Early voting began Oct. 11 in Arizona.

The Republican Victory Fund, which seeks to extend the GOP’s dominance in the Legislature, spent more than $103,000 within the past few days in an effort to defeat Rep. Tom Chabin, D-Flagstaff, and Janie Hydrick, an educator from Chandler.

Meanwhile, a campaign group that is chaired by a politically active Democrat spent about $143,000 on three Senate races, whose outcome would decide the partisan split in the 30-person chamber. The group, Revitalize Arizona, is headed by Israel Torres, a lawyer who was the Democratic nominee for secretary of state in 2006.

Chabin is running against Rep. Chester Crandell, a Republican from Heber, in Legislative District 6, an expansive area that includes parts of northern and eastern Arizona.

Hydrick, a Democrat, is challenging Sen. John McComish, R-Phoenix, in Legislative District 18, which straddles Chandler, Tempe and Mesa.

Camilla Strongin, a Republican strategist who is chairing the independent expenditure group, confirmed that her campaign is focusing on the two contested districts.

The group, whose funds were raised by Senate President Steve Pierce, began launching attacks against Democrats early this month.

The bulk of the recent spending was used to produce mailers that advocated for the defeat of Hydrick and Chabin.

The Republican group also previously spent money on mailers against Rep. Ed Ableser, a Tempe Democrat who is squaring off against Sen. Jerry Lewis in a tossup district that includes Tempe and Mesa.

Interestingly, the group has so far not spent a dime to help Senate Majority Whip Frank Antenori, a Republican from Tucson who is competing against former House member David Bradley,a Democrat from the same city.

The two are vying to represent Legislative District 10, which includes the central, southeast and northeast parts of Tucson.

Democrats hold a slight voter-registration edge in the district.

When asked why her group isn’t helping Antenori yet, Strongin replied, “We’re focused on the races that we’re spending money in. As I’d just stated, I’m not going to telegraph what our plans are.”

Meanwhile, Revitalize Arizona, the Democratic group, targeted Antenori, McComish, and Crandell in mailers.

The group also sent out materials advocating for Chabin’s election.

Democratic and Republican campaign committees are well-positioned to help their parties’ candidates in the general election.

The (Senate) Republican Victory Fund, and the House Republican Victory have raised more than $720,000 combined, their reports showed.

By Sept. 17, they had more than half a million dollars left to spend.

In addition to Torres’ campaign committee, Building Arizona’s Future, a Democratic independent expenditure group, raised $180,000 in a month, boosting its total in this election cycle to roughly $376,000.

The committee had $151,000 in cash balance by the end of the last reporting period.

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