$64 million spent on Minnesota's federal races, but behind 2018 record

Minnesota's seventh congressional district race between Republican challenger Michelle Fischback (left) and Democrat Rep. Collin Peterson (right) is one of the tightest races in Minnesota.

Candidates and outside groups have spent $64 million on Minnesota's U.S. House and Senate races this year, yet that's behind 2018's record pace.

In 2018, the eight congressional races and U.S. Sen. Tina Smith's special election saw a combined $94 million in spending. That year, three of Minnesota's five most expensive U.S. House races played out.

This year, four congressional districts that flipped parties in 2018 have all seen significantly less spending this year, according to the tracking website Open Secrets.

Outside groups appear to be focusing more on which party will control the U.S. Senate instead of the House, said Kathryn Pearson, a University of Minnesota political science professor.

"I don’t think control of the House is really in question in this election -- not compared to the Senate, which is truly a toss-up," Pearson said in an interview.

Where spending has fallen

The 2020 election is far from over, meaning the spending levels will raise over the final two weeks. As of now, here are the races with the biggest declines in spending from 2018:

MN-03 (west Metro)
2018: $21.9 million
2020: $2.6 million

MN-02 (south Metro)
2018: $16.7 million
2020: $4.6 million

MN-08 (northeastern Minnesota)
2018: $13.9 million
2020: $2.6 million

MN-01 (southern Minnesota)
2018: $19.7 million
2020: $8.8 million

Where spending is up

Minnesota isn't shut out of the big money races, though.

Money has poured into the fifth congressional district for and against U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, one of the most recognizable -- and controversial -- Democrats in Congress. Omar holds one of the safest Democratic seats in the entire country.

Omar, Republican challenger Lacy Johnson and outside groups have spent a combined $15.9 million. The spending is higher when including Omar's primary challengers, making it the fourth-most expensive House race in the country, according to Open Secrets.

Minnesota's seventh congressional district in western Minnesota is a true toss-up. Longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson barely held his seat in 2018 in a district that President Donald Trump won by 31 points two years earlier.

This year, $11.4 million has been spent by Peterson, Republican challenger Michelle Fischbach and outside groups. Peterson's close 2018 race saw only $1.8 million spent.

U.S. Senate race spending

Minnesota's 2020 U.S. Senate race between the Democratic incumbent, Smith, and Republican challenger Jason Lewis has mostly played out off the national radar. 

So far, $16 million has been spent. That's not even close to the top ten most expensive Senate races. South Carolina, Arizona and Kentucky have all hit the $100 million mark.

Smith has consistently held a lead in polls, though some polls in recent weeks suggest a tightening of the race. Democrats need to keep her seat and flip four others to take control of the Senate.

"There are other Senate seats that both parties look at and consider to be more competitive," Pearson said. "So, when parties and outside groups think about spending in the most efficient way possible with the greatest chance of tipping an election one way or the other, Minnesota is not the election that comes to mind."