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The most expensive congressional races of the last decade

Political campaigns are becoming more expensive, as more Americans contribute to candidates and outside groups blanket the airwaves and fund armies of canvassers. Since 2010, Republicans, Democrats and their outside supporters have spent more than $25 billion on federal elections alone.

Here are the 10 races — five Senate contests, five House elections — that cost the most money over the last decade:

Florida Senate, 2018: $214 million

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Rick Scott (R) made millions during a career as a health care executive, and he spent a huge chunk of it to win Florida’s governor’s office twice. Then he wrote himself another $63 million check when he decided to challenge Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonNASA, SpaceX and the private-public partnership that caused the flight of the Crew Dragon Lobbying world The most expensive congressional races of the last decade MORE (D).

Scott’s campaign spent a total of $85 million, more than double Nelson’s $33 million. Outside groups dropped an incredible $97 million of their own. For all of Scott’s spending advantage, he only narrowly ousted Nelson, by about 10,000 votes out of more than 8 million cast.

Texas Senate, 2018: $137 million

In a rapidly changing Texas, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) caught lightening in a bottle — and he almost caught Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump’s public standing sags after Floyd protests GOP senators introduce resolution opposing calls to defund the police MORE (R).

O’Rourke’s loose style and infectious videos snapped in Whataburger parking lots attracted an incredible $79 million in donations, while Cruz raised and spent a not-unimpressive $45 million of his own. Outside groups added an extra $13 million, with more than half of that money funding attack ads against O’Rourke.

Cruz eked out a narrow win, taking 50.9 percent of the vote, but O’Rourke may have demonstrated just how close Texas is to becoming a competitive state. O’Rourke won more than 4 million votes, more than Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House accuses Biden of pushing ‘conspiracy theories’ with Trump election claim Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton qualifies to run for county commissioner in Florida MORE or Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaHarris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk Five ways America would take a hard left under Joe Biden Valerie Jarrett: ‘Democracy depends upon having law enforcement’ MORE won in their presidential races.

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Missouri Senate, 2018: $128 million

Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillMissouri county issues travel advisory for Lake of the Ozarks after Memorial Day parties Senate faces protracted floor fight over judges amid pandemic safety concerns Amash on eyeing presidential bid: ‘Millions of Americans’ want someone other than Trump, Biden MORE (D) played her politics well in 2012, when her campaign virtually picked its own deeply flawed opponent. No such luck in 2018, when she faced Attorney General Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyGOP senator to try to reverse requirement that Pentagon remove Confederate names from bases Trump on collision course with Congress over bases with Confederate names Coronavirus Report: The Hill’s Steve Clemons interviews Mayor Quinton Lucas MORE (R). McCaskill raised a whopping $39 million, while Hawley pulled in $11 million of his own. 

Outside groups spent millions more than both candidates combined: The Senate Leadership Fund, which backs Republicans, and the Senate Majority PAC, which backs Democrats, dropped about $20 million each on the race. Republicans spent about $8 million more beating up on McCaskill than Democrats did on Hawley; Hawley unseated McCaskill by a 6-point margin.

Florida Senate, 2010: $79 million

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When a state legislator takes on a sitting governor of his own party, it rarely works out well. But when that legislator is Florida House Speaker Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioHillicon Valley: Georgia officials launch investigation after election day chaos | Senate report finds Chinese telecom groups operated in US without proper oversight Republican Senators ask FCC to ‘clearly define’ when social media platforms should receive liability protections Trump’s tweet on protester sparks GOP backlash  MORE (R) and that governor is Charlie CristCharles (Charlie) Joseph CristGOP sees groundswell of women running in House races The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden’s Tampa rally hits digital snags Biden rise calms Democratic jitters MORE, things get a little hectic. Challenging Crist from his right, Rubio caught the Tea Party wave and looked like he was cruising to a stunning primary upset.

But then Crist left the GOP to run as an independent, virtually boxing out the Democratic nominee, then-Rep. Kendrick Meek. Rubio raised and spent about $21 million, Crist chipped in $13 million of his own, and Meek dropped $9 million on the race. Outside groups filled in the rest as Rubio took 49 percent of the vote, 20 points ahead of Crist.

Massachusetts Senate, 2012: $77 million

From the moment Sen. Scott Brown (R) won a special election to fill the late Ted Kennedy’s seat in deep blue Massachusetts, he was a marked man. And Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Joint Chiefs chairman says he regrets participating in Trump photo-op | GOP senators back Joint Chiefs chairman who voiced regret over Trump photo-op | Senate panel approves 0B defense policy bill Trump on collision course with Congress over bases with Confederate names MORE was the one marking him. Warren, in her first run for public office, raised $42 million, while Brown shelled out $35 million defending himself.

Outside groups spent only about $8 million on the seat, a relative pittance compared to a battleground like Missouri. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, perhaps reading the writing on the wall, spent almost nothing on a seat they didn’t think they could defend. Warren beat Brown, but by a 7-point margin — at the same time President Barack Obama beat former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyMilley discussed resigning from post after Trump photo-op: report Trump on collision course with Congress over bases with Confederate names Attorney says 75-year-old man shoved by Buffalo police suffered brain injury MORE by a 23-point margin.

Georgia’s 6th District, 2017: $48 million

When President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE tapped Rep. Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceRep. Banks launches bid for RSC chairman Doctors push Trump to quickly reopen country in letter organized by conservatives DNC chair says app used in Iowa won’t be used in other primary states MORE (R) as his first Secretary of Health and Human Services, he triggered the most expensive fight over a U.S. House district in American history. The Democratic nominee, Jon Ossoff, pulled in $30 million — more than many Senate nominees are able to raise — while Republican nominee Karen HandelKaren Christine HandelJon Ossoff to challenge David Perdue after winning Georgia Democratic primary The Hill’s Campaign Report: Bad polling data is piling up for Trump Ossoff within reach of Democratic Senate nomination in Georgia, but counting continues MORE pulled in more than $8 million.

Republican groups dropped $14 million defining Ossoff, while Democrats spent millions more against Handel. Handel held on to carry the suburban Atlanta district by a slim 3-point margin — but she lost her seat the next year to Rep. Lucy McBathLucia (Lucy) Kay McBathFloyd’s brother urges Congress to take action The Hill’s Campaign Report: Bad polling data is piling up for Trump Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton qualifies to run for county commissioner in Florida MORE (D). 

California’s 39th District, 2018: $36 million

Gil CisnerosGilbert (Gil) Ray CisnerosMORE won the Mega Millions lottery — and he used the money to win a House seat as well. Cisneros, making his first run for public office, wrote his campaign a $9 million check in his bid to replace retiring Rep. Ed RoyceEdward (Ed) Randall RoyceGil Cisneros to face Young Kim in rematch of 2018 House race in California The most expensive congressional races of the last decade Mystery surrounds elusive sanctions on Russia MORE (R), while opponent Young Kim (R), a former state assemblywoman, raised $2 million on her own.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, which backs Republicans, made Cisneros their top target of the 2018 cycle, dumping $9 million on television spots. The Democratic-backed House Majority PAC spent $3 million of their own on pricey Los Angeles airtime, making the race the most expensive House contest in California history.

California’s 48th District, 2018: $35 million

Rep. Dana RohrabacherDana Tyrone RohrabacherDemocrat Harley Rouda advances in California House primary Lawyers to seek asylum for Assange in France: report Rohrabacher tells Yahoo he discussed pardon with Assange for proof Russia didn’t hack DNC email MORE (R) was another victim of the Democratic wave that swept over California, thanks in no small part to the $11 million that Democratic outside groups dumped on his head. Businessman Harley RoudaHarley Edwin RoudaGloves come off as Democrats fight for House seat in California Gun control group rolls out House endorsements Human Rights Campaign rolls out congressional endorsements on Equality Act anniversary MORE (D) benefitted from all that spending, and he pulled in an impressive $7 million of his own.

Rouda, who had never before sought public office, barely escaped the all-party primary, finishing in second place by just over 100 votes. In November, he helped complete the Democratic sweep in Orange County, taking 53.6 percent of the vote against Rohrabacher.

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Washington’s 8th District, 2018: $33 million

Democrats spent years trying to beat Rep. Dave ReichertDavid (Dave) George ReichertMail ballot surge places Postal Service under spotlight Bottom Line The most expensive congressional races of the last decade MORE (R) in a suburban and exurban Seattle district. So when he retired, the race to replace him was guaranteed to be costly. Seven outside groups spent more than $1 million each on the race, and first-time candidate Kim SchrierKimberly (Kim) Merle SchrierUS ill-prepared for coronavirus-fueled mental health crisis Gun control group rolls out House endorsements Human Rights Campaign rolls out congressional endorsements on Equality Act anniversary MORE (D) pulled in $8 million for her campaign.

The odds were against former state Sen. Dino Rossi (R), who narrowly lost two gubernatorial campaigns in Washington over the years. This time, he raised $4.8 million — but it wasn’t enough. Schrier won the district with 52 percent of the vote.

New York’s 19th District, 2018: $32 million

Antonio DelgadoAntonio Ramon DelgadoThe Hill’s Campaign Report: Buzz builds around Warren for VP Gun control group rolls out House endorsements Human Rights Campaign rolls out congressional endorsements on Equality Act anniversary MORE didn’t make it as a rapper, so he decided to try his hand at politics. And in his first run for public office, Delgado raised a whopping $9 million — more than twice as much as Rep. John FasoJohn James FasoThe most expensive congressional races of the last decade The 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority GOP House super PAC targets two freshman Dems with new ads MORE (R), who pulled in almost $4 million.

The Congressional Leadership Fund and the House Majority PAC each made the Hudson Valley district a top priority, spending millions on a seat both Barack Obama and President Trump won. Delgado outlasted Faso by a five-point margin.

 

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