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Missouri Senate race highlights the limited power of money

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill and Attorney General Josh Hawley spoke in the St. Louis area on Aug. 30, 2018.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Money wasn’t everything when it came to Missouri’s nationally watched U.S. Senate contest.

Republican Josh Hawley is the state’s first Senate winner in decades to be dramatically outspent by the rival he defeated.

And the Democrat who lost, two-term incumbent Claire McCaskill, set a huge fundraising and spending record in the state.

The candidates’ latest and last filings with the Federal Election Commission show that Hawley raised $11.8 million and spent just over $11 million. He spent more than a third of it – $3.9 million – in just the final few weeks before the Nov. 6 election.

McCaskill reported raising $39.9 million, and spending $39.6 million. She spent $5.65 million during the final few weeks.

Overall, she outspent Hawley more than 3-1.

Hawley’s tally represents the lowest amount spent by a Republican U.S. Senate nominee in Missouri since 2012. And it’s the lowest spent by a Senate victor in 14 years. (Then-Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond, R-Mo., spent just under $10 million in 2004.)

McCaskill’s spending was more than the combined spending of Missouri’s 2016 Republican and Democratic Senate nominees, according to FEC records.

That year’s winner, incumbent Republican Roy Blunt, spent just over $16 million.

This year’s Senate spending highlights the power of outside groups, which poured almost $77 million into the race. More than half of that outside money paid for attack ads against McCaskill.

Final state auditor numbers

State Auditor Nicole Galloway, left, and her Republican challenger Saundra McDowell participated in a debate in 2018.
Credit Carolina Hidalgo I St. Louis Public Radio
State Auditor Nicole Galloway, left, and her Republican challenger Saundra McDowell participated in a debate in September.

State Auditor Nicole Galloway, the sole Democrat holding statewide office in Missouri, reported spending just under $2.2 million in her successful bid for a full four-year term.

She narrowly defeated Republican Saundra McDowell, who reported spending $61,274.

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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