From Jaime Harrison to Beto O'Rourke—Democrats Dominate Most Expensive Losers in Election History

Democrats top the list of U.S. Senate candidates who spent the most money per year from 2010 to date, and many went on to lose their corresponding election, according to figures from the U.S. Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jaime Harrison from South Carolina spent the most for his campaign, reporting a total disbursement amount of $105,502,730.37 from 2019 to 2020.

Harrison was defeated in this year's election by incumbent Republican South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who spent $59,742,955.21 from 2019 to 2020 on his campaign.

Former U.S. Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke from Texas was the second-most expensive Democratic loser since 2010, with $80,458,720.11 spent from 2017 to 2018.

O'Rourke spent nearly double that of incumbent Republican Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who spent $45,582,260 in the same time frame.

O'Rourke was followed by Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kelly in Arizona whose total disbursements from 2019 to 2020 amounted to $78,790,737.03.

Kelly, a former astronaut, defeated the incumbent Republican Senator Martha McSally in the crucial battleground state in this year's election. McSally spent $48,672,919.90 from 2019 to 2020 on her campaign, according to the FEC.

Kentucky's Amy McGrath was the third most expensive losing Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, reporting an expenditure of $75,280,930.25 from 2019 to 2020.

McGrath was defeated by incumbent Kentucky Senator and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who won his 7th term in office with this year's election. McConnell spent $42,975,425.36 from 2019 to 2020, according to the FEC.

Linda McMahon, the former Republican U.S. senate candidate for Connecticut, had the highest yearly expenditure among Republicans, with $50,735,195.00 spent from 2011 to 2012, according to the FEC.

The graphic below, produced by Statista, illustrates total spending on U.S. elections from 2000 to 2020.

2020 election spending record

The total cost of this year's election was projected to reach $14 billion, making it the most expensive election in history, doubling the cost of the 2016 election, the Center for Responsive Politics reported last week.

Democratic presidential candiate Joe Biden's campaign received $952,239,369.70 and cost $790,193,382.80 from 2017 to 2020 so far, according to the FEC.

Biden was projected to become the first candidate in history to raise $1 billion from supporters, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

President Donald Trump has received $601,392,178.39 and spent $565,389,516.57 on his campaign from 2017 to 2020, according to the FEC.

US senate campaign rally Georgia 2020
Democratic supporters wave flags as the campaign bus for democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Georgia Rev. Raphael Warnock arrives on October 31. Three of the top five senate candidates who spent the most money in election history are Democrats who lost the election. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Top 7 U.S. senate candidates who spent most in election history

(from 2010 to date, according to U.S. Federal Election Commission)

  1. Jaime Harrison (Democrat; South Carolina): $105,502,730.37
  2. Rick Scott (Republican; Florida): $83,771,112.48
  3. Beto O'Rourke (Democrat; Texas): $80,458,720.11 spent from 2017 to 2018
  4. Mark Kelly (Democrat; Arizona): $78,790,737.03 spent from 2019 to 2020
  5. Amy McGrath (Democrat; Kentucky): $75,280,930.25 spent from 2019 to 2020
  6. Lindsey Graham (Republican; South Carolina): $59,742,955.21 spent from 2019 to 2020
  7. Linda McMahon (Republican; Connecticut): $50,735,195.00 spent from 2011 to 2012

The graphic below, produced by Statista, illustrates how close presidential races have been historically.

U.S. presidential races since 1896

The graphic below, also provided by Statista, illustrates winning margins of U.S. presidential elections since 1980.

Winning margins in US elections