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The most expensive congressional races of the last decade

The most expensive congressional races of the last decade
© Greg Nash

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 NelsonThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Divided House on full display Florida Democrats mired in division, debt ahead of 2022 Centrist Democrats pose major problem for progressives 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 CruzFive takeaways from CPAC 2021 Trump wins CPAC straw poll with 55 percent 'SNL' envisions Fauci as game show host, giving winners vaccines 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 ClintonMedia circles wagons for conspiracy theorist Neera Tanden The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Senate ref axes minimum wage, House votes today on relief bill Democratic strategists start women-run media consulting firm MORE or Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaCPAC, all-in for Trump, is not what it used to be Americans have decided to give professionals a chance Artist behind golden Trump statue at CPAC says he made it in Mexico MORE won in their presidential races.

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Missouri Senate, 2018: $128 million

Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillThe Memo: Punish Trump or risk a repeat, warn Democrats GOP senators criticized for appearing to pay half-hearted attention to trial Hawley watches trial from visitor's gallery 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 HawleyFive takeaways from CPAC 2021 CPAC, all-in for Trump, is not what it used to be Sunday shows preview: 2024 hopefuls gather at CPAC; House passes coronavirus relief; vaccine effort continues 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

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 RubioCPAC, all-in for Trump, is not what it used to be Watch live: Day 2 at CPAC DeSantis derides 'failed Republican establishment' at CPAC MORE (R) and that governor is Charlie CristCharles (Charlie) Joseph CristCrist calls on DOJ to investigate DeSantis over coronavirus vaccine distribution Florida Democrats mired in division, debt ahead of 2022 Lawmakers wager barbecue, sweets and crab claws ahead of Super Bowl 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 WarrenSenate mulls changes to .9 trillion coronavirus bill Exclusive: How Obama went to bat for Warren Minimum wage setback revives progressive calls to nix Senate filibuster 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 RomneyEx-Trump aide Pierson planning run for Congress Five takeaways from CPAC 2021 Trump shows he holds stranglehold on GOP, media in CPAC barnburner MORE by a 23-point margin.

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

When President TrumpDonald TrumpSacha Baron Cohen calls out 'danger of lies, hate and conspiracies' in Golden Globes speech Sorkin uses Abbie Hoffman quote to condemn Capitol violence: Democracy is 'something you do' Ex-Trump aide Pierson planning run for Congress MORE tapped Rep. Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceBiden health nominee faces first Senate test Focus on cabinet nominees' effectiveness and expertise, not just ideology Conspicuous by their absence from the Republican Convention 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 HandelOssoff defeats Perdue in Georgia Senate runoff McBath wins rematch against Handel in Georgia House race House Democrats' campaign arm reserves .6M in ads in competitive districts 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 McBathSix ways to visualize a divided America Lawmakers commemorate one-year anniversary of Arbery's killing House Judiciary Democrats ask Pence to invoke 25th Amendment to remove Trump 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 RoyceCalifornia was key factor in House GOP's 2020 success Top donor allegedly sold access to key politicians for millions in foreign cash: report Here are the 17 GOP women newly elected to the House this year 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 RohrabacherOn The Trail: The political losers of 2020 California was key factor in House GOP's 2020 success GOP's Steel wins California House race after Democrat Rouda concedes 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 RoudaCalifornia was key factor in House GOP's 2020 success Here are the 17 GOP women newly elected to the House this year Rundown of the House seats Democrats, GOP flipped on Election Day 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 ReichertRep. Kim Schrier defends Washington House seat from GOP challenger Washington Rep. Kim Schrier wins primary Mail ballot surge places Postal Service under spotlight 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 SchrierDemocrats point fingers on whether Capitol rioters had inside help Rep. Kim Schrier defends Washington House seat from GOP challenger House approves .2T COVID-19 relief bill as White House talks stall 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 DelgadoCuomo job approval drops 6 points amid nursing home controversy: poll Cuomo takes heat from all sides on nursing home scandal We lost in November — we're proud we didn't take corporate PAC money 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 FasoDemocrats go big on diversity with new House recruits Kyle Van De Water wins New York GOP primary to challenge Rep. Antonio Delgado The most expensive congressional races of the last decade 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.