The Washington Post

The most expensive Senate races ever — and where Kentucky might fit in

In today's Washington Post newspaper -- yes, they occasionally let the Fix write for that -- we penned a piece on how the 2014 Kentucky race will likely be the most expensive Senate contest in history and could top $100 million in spending.


Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell.

So, what's Kentucky's competition for the "most expensive Senate race ever" you ask?  We've got that for you.  Here are the five most expensive races, according to the indispensable Center for Responsive Politics:

1. Massachusetts Senate 2012 ($82 million spent):  We called it way back in January 2012.  Then Sen. Scott Brown and former Obama Administration official Elizabeth Warren combined to break the $80 million mark as money flooded into both campaigns from across the country. Interestingly for such an expensive race, it wasn't all that close; Warren won by more than seven points.

2. New York Senate 2000 ($70 million): More than a decade ago, Hillary Clinton and then Rep. Rick Lazio smashed all of the records in a race that, like Massachusetts, wound up not being all that close. One can only imagine what the final pricetag would have been if former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani had stayed in the race against Clinton. (Giuliani dropped out to deal with cancer.)

3. New Jersey Senate 2000 ($69.85 million): Former Goldman Sachs executive Jon Corzine (D) made his electoral debut in this race, dumping $60 million of his own money into the open seat race.  His opponent, then Rep. Bob Franks (R), spent $6.6 million. Corzine won and went on to spend oodles of his own cash on getting elected governor of New Jersey in 2005 and losing that job in 2009.

4. Connecticut Senate 2012 ($59.93 million): This race was so expensive almost exclusively because of the massive personal spending by former wrestling executive Linda McMahon. She gave herself almost $49 million to get just 43 percent of the vote against then Rep. Chris Murphy.  Whoops.

5. Connecticut Senate 2010 ($59.2 million): McMahon actually spent even MORE of her own money -- $50.1 million -- on her first bid for the Senate in 2010.  But, her opponent, then state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal spent a mere $8.7 million. McMahon did slightly better in this race than she did two years later, winning 44 percent.

Honorable mention goes to the amazing 1984 North Carolina Senate race between Sen. Jesse Helms (R) and Gov. Jim Hunt (D). Hunt started the race ahead by 20 points but Helms clawed his way back to win narrowly. The two combined to spend $26 million, which is more than $58 million in today's dollars.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.

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