When Philadelphia’s next mayor delivers his victory speech Tuesday night, he should take a moment to praise a most important ally: his super PAC. Before long, it could become a regular part of any winning mayor’s speech. In this open-seat race in the nation’s fifth-largest city, the disparity in spending between super PACs and the official campaigns has been considerable. Heading into the weekend, the race’s three highest-spending groups on TV all were super PACs, according to a Democratic source tracking the buys. One outside group, funded by out-of-town charter-school advocates, had invested more on TV ads than the other campaigns combined.
And the candidate expected to win, former City Councilman Jim Kenney, has not one but two super PACs working on his behalf, each of which has spent close to a million dollars. In a race that serves as this liberal enclave’s de-facto general election, he might never have even been competitive without the aid of the outside groups. “Super PACs won this race,” said Dan Fee, a Democratic strategist based in the city.
It might not be long before most mayoral races—and other local contests—proceed the same way. Super PACs have made a name for themselves in federal races, where multimillion-dollar behemoths such as American Crossroads and Senate Majority PAC have become almost as important as the campaigns and party committees themselves. They’re expected to play an even larger role in next year’s Republican presidential primaries, when many of them will have far more money at their disposal than the campaigns themselves.