If you’ve grown tired of hearing the names Biden and Trump tossed around like they’re on the repeat wash cycle (extra soiled), there’s good news: The presidential race isn’t the only one happening.
In fact, it may not even be the most important race.
The United States government is based on a system of checks and balances, designed so no single individual can have total power over the country. Sometimes, these “checks and balances” render a president almost completely ineffectual; other times, they bolster them. One of the clearest examples of this has been the conservative-majority Senate. In 2016, the Senate blockaded President Barack Obama from appointing a new Supreme Court justice before he left office. In 2020, they helped President Donald Trump appoint one instead.
No matter who wins the presidency, the Senate holds tremendous influence over the next four years of American policy and legislation. And 7 of the 10 most expensive Senate races of all time occurred in this election.
Last updated: Nov. 4, 2020
Georgia: Jon Ossoff (D) vs. Sen. David Perdue (R)
In the swing state of Georgia, Democrat Jon Ossoff challenged Republican Sen. David Perdue. This tight Senate race was the ninth-most expensive of all time, with total spending close to $130 million.
In terms of ad spending, Ossoff spent more than double his Republican counterpart; putting $25 million into campaign ads as opposed to Perdue’s $12 million. However, it should be noted that challengers are expected to spend more on ads than incumbents, seeing as the incumbent is already well known.
RealClearPolitics labeled this race a toss-up before Election Day — and it remains that way. Perdue has a good lead over Ossoff, but the winner can’t be called until crucial Atlanta votes are all accounted for.
Pictured: Challenger Jon Ossoff
Maine: Sara Gideon (D) vs. Sen. Susan Collins (R)
In Maine, total campaign spending reached $140 million between Democrat Sara Gideon and incumbent Republican Sen. Susan Collins — making it the seventh-most expensive Senate race ever. Gideon also outspent Collins on ads, putting up $25 million to Collins’ $15 million.
According to RealClearPolitics, Gideon consistently trended ahead of Collins before Election Day. However, on Wednesday, The Associated Press reported that Collins won the race.
Pictured: Challenger Sara Gideon
South Carolina: Jaime Harrison (D) vs. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R)
South Carolina’s Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham had his hands full with Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison. Harrison shattered the Senate fundraising record in October, raising $57 million in the final quarter of the campaign alone.
In total, the two South Carolinians spent $140 million on their campaigns; with Harrison shelling out $73 million in advertising to Graham’s $34 million.
Despite Harrison’s fundraising ability, Graham took the race by a wide margin and keeps his seat on the Senate.
Pictured: Challenger Jaime Harrison
Montana: Steve Bullock (D) vs. Sen. Steve Daines (R)
Coming in at the fifth-most expensive Senate race is Montana’s Gov. Steve Bullock versus Republican Sen. Steve Daines. Overall, $143 million was spent, with Bullock infusing more cash into ads than Daines ($29 million versus $19 million).
Pre-election polls were very mixed on this one. However, Daines was able to comfortably beat out Bullock come Election Day.
Pictured: Gov. Steve Bullock
Arizona: Mark Kelly (D) vs. Sen. Martha McSally (R)
In Arizona, Democrat Mark Kelly took on Republican Sen. Martha McSally — another close swing-state race. The candidates spent a total of $165 million, with Kelly directing $54 million to ad spending and McSally chipping in $24 million for ads.
RealClearPolitics had Kelly ahead by 5.7 points on Nov. 2 — and Kelly followed through. Just as Arizona swung blue for Biden, so did the state’s Senate race, with Kelly upsetting incumbent McSally in an important win for Dems.
Pictured: Challenger Mark Kelly
Iowa: Theresa Greenfield (D) vs. Sen. Joni Ernst (R)
In the second-most expensive Senate race ever, Iowan Democrat Theresa Greenfield tried to upset Republican Sen. Joni Ernst. Total campaign spending equaled a shocking $195 million, with Greenfield contributing $37 million to ads and Ernst contributing just $11 million.
Despite the spending deficit, Ernst trended slightly ahead in pre-election polls by an average of 1.4 points, and on Election Day she successfully defended her Senate seat.
Pictured: Sen. Joni Ernst
North Carolina: Cal Cunningham (D) vs. Sen. Thom Tillis (R)
The most expensive Senate race of all time was the faceoff between North Carolina Democrat Cal Cunningham and Republican Sen. Thom Tillis. North Carolina is considered one of the key swing states in the presidential election, so Americans watched this race closely.
Total campaign spending between the two candidates reached a staggering $242 million — $47 million more than the next-most expensive race. As far as ad spending goes, Cunningham coughed up $28 million to Tillis’ $12 million.
According to RealClearPolitics, Cunningham was up by an average of 2.6 points before the election. But after Election Day, the race remains fairly close; with The Associated Press refusing to call a winner just yet. Tillis is currently in the lead, although key metro counties are still tallying their ballots.
Pictured: Cal Cunningham (left) and Sen. Thom Tillis (right)
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