WASHINGTON — Candidates and outside groups have spent $20.2 million to run an estimated 54,700 television spots on Arkansas television stations this election cycle with more to come as polls show tight contests for governor and U.S. Senate.

WASHINGTON — Candidates and outside groups have spent $20.2 million to run an estimated 54,700 television spots on Arkansas television stations this election cycle with more to come as polls show tight contests for governor and U.S. Senate.


A study the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity released Wednesday found that $6.1 million has been spent on television advertising for Arkansas state elections. The bulk of that — some $4.1 million — is focused on the top of the governor’s race. An estimated 9,900 television spots have already run in the contest between Democrat Mike Ross and Republican Asa Hutchinson.


Those totals, however, pale in comparison to the U.S. Senate race between Democrat Mark Pryor and Republican Tom Cotton. The Center estimates that the candidates and outside groups have plunked down $14.1 million for an estimated 38,000 television spots. The Center’s study focused solely on television ads and does not include other campaign spending.


The flood of spending won’t likely subside in the six weeks remaining before the Nov. 4 election given the tightness of the contests and what is at stake. Republicans are hoping that a Cotton victory could help shift the balance of power in the U.S. Senate to the GOP.


Cotton has held a slight edge over Pryor in recent polls, although a Suffolk University poll released Wednesday found Pryor ahead, 45 to 43 percent, but well within the survey’s margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points. The survey of 500 likely voters also found Hutchinson leading Ross, 43 to 41 percent.


"At this point Arkansas appears to be shaping up as a ‘purple’ state, with voters see-sawing between Democratic and Republican candidates for top offices," said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. "Interestingly, 57 percent of voters said that one factor in their vote this year is which party will control Congress, but they were evenly split at 42 percent each on which party they would choose in their congressional districts."


The Suffolk poll, which was conducted Sept. 20-23, also asked voters their preference for president in 2016. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was favored by 39 percent of Republicans with Texas Gov. Rick Perry favored by just 8 percent. Hillary Clinton was favored by 71 percent of Democrats.


On Tuesday, Public Policy Polling released a survey of 1,453 likely voters that showed Cotton and Hutchinson leading their respective contests. Cotton led Pryor, 41-39, and Hutchinson led Ross, 44-38, according to the PPP poll that had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.