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How much does it cost to win a Senate seat?
Do you think Senate elections are getting too costly?
By Eric Revell
What’s the story?
- According to Federal Elections Commission data, from 1996 to 2018 the least expensive federal elections were for seats in the House of Representatives, with a median, inflation-adjusted fundraising haul of $1.3 million for winning candidates. Successful Senate campaigns raised a median of $7.6 million, while the number was significantly higher for presidential campaigns at $505 million.
- Fundraising during the 2020 election cycle, particularly for high profile Senate seats, far surpassed those figures. This chart from USAFacts shows the highest-raising Senate campaigns from 1996 through 2020, with the six highest-raising campaigns all occurring in 2020:
- Of the top 20 highest-raising campaigns since 1996, 13 occurred in the 2020 election cycle, while another two were in the 2018 midterm election cycle. The two 2020 Senate elections in Georgia were particularly notable for the amounts raised by the campaigns involved.
- Senator-elect Jon Ossoff (D-GA) topped the list by raising $139.6 million, over $50 million more than his rival, Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), whose fundraising haul of $85.98 million ranked 10th. Senator-elect Raphael Warnock (D-GA) raised $125.4 million to rank third, surpassing the $92.2 million raised by Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), whose fundraising total ranked eighth. (Note that these totals are only through December 16, 2020, and don’t include the final weeks of their campaigns leading up to the January 5, 2020 runoffs.)
- The second highest-raising campaign was Jaime Harrison (D-SC), who raised $132.7 million in an unsuccessful bid to unseat Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who ranked fourth on the list after raising $103 million. The candidates raised $119 and $75 per vote received, respectively.
- Fundraising totals in elections for seats in the Senate have been on an upward trend for years. The median raised by winning campaigns has grown from $5 million in 1996 to $11 million in 2018, as this USAFacts chart shows:
- Prior to the massive fundraising reported by the 2020 Senate campaigns, there was more state-to-state variation in the cost of campaigns, with winning campaigns in higher population states tending to feature larger fundraising totals. This USAFacts chart shows the median fundraising total for a winning Senate campaign in each state from 1996 to 2018:
- The states with the largest fundraising total for a winning Senate campaign during this period were New York ($18.8 million), Pennsylvania ($18.4 million), and Florida ($17.5 million). The nationwide median fundraising was nearly $13 million, while the state with the smallest median fundraising total was Wyoming at just under $2 million. From 1996 to 2018, winning Senate campaigns in Georgia raised about $9.3 million, or 7% of Ossoff’s fundraising haul.
(Photo Credit: iStock.com / NoDerog)
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