Non-stop ads and robocalls: welcome to America's costliest election

PALMDALE, Calif., Nov 4 (Reuters) - Wendy Burke has had enough. Campaign advertisements bombard her favorite TV shows. Dozens of election pamphlets fill her mailbox. Every day, she gets several political calls on her cell phone and more on her landline. Strangers knock at her door seeking her vote.

"It's ridiculous," Burke, 47, said outside a shopping center in Palmdale, California. "I've had to block my calls."

Welcome to the most expensive race in the hard-fought battle between Republicans and Democrats for control of the U.S. House of Representatives, which will be decided in Tuesday's elections.

The blizzard of spending in California's 25th district, a region stretching north and east of Los Angeles into the high desert of the Antelope Valley, stands out even during the most expensive congressional elections in U.S. history.

Most of the money is funneled into non-stop advertising - on TV, radio, social media, yard signs, automated robocalls to cell phones and land lines, bumper stickers and a deluge of pamphlets stuffed into mailboxes.

"The mailers go in the trash," she said. "I can’t wait until this whole thing is over."

The contest, a top Democratic target, has drawn more than $26 million in spending by candidates and outside groups since January 2017, according to a Reuters analysis of Federal Election Commission (FEC) data.

It leads the 10 priciest House races, where a total of $238 million has been spent. https://tmsnrt.rs/2qrstCG

Democrats - aiming to pick up the 23 House seats and two in the Senate needed to control Congress and block much of Republican President Donald Trump's agenda and increase oversight of his administration - have far outpaced their opponents in spending.

Democrats and their allies in the 10 costliest House races spent $142 million to Republicans' $96 million, Reuters' analysis found.

The fight for the Senate is even costlier.

In Florida, Republican Rick Scott's contest against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson is the most expensive Senate race. The candidates and their allies have spent nearly $160 million. Nelson's campaign spent about $25 million while outside groups splashed out $45 million supporting him or opposing Scott, who spent nearly $67 million. Outside groups spent $22 million supporting him and opposing Nelson.

Missouri's Senate race between Democrat Claire McCaskill and Republican Josh Hawley is second most expensive at roughly $108 million. Texas is third at about $100 million.

All up, it is a record for a congressional midterm cycle. Candidates, political parties and outside groups are set to spend more than $5.2 billion on House and Senate contests combined, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.

The Democratic share of spending for the House swelled to 60 percent this year, from 44 percent in 2014, the previous midterm elections, said Sheila Krumholz, the center's executive director.

One reason for the big spending: Trump.

"This is in no small part a referendum on the 2016 election, and it's been bolstered by the role of women, the #MeToo Movement, the Brett Kavanaugh nomination, and the fact that so many women are running," Krumholz said.

RELATED: Ilhan Omar, candidate for Congress

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Democratic congressional candidate the Midterm elections, Ilhan Omar, speaks to a group of volunteers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on October 13, 2018. - Somali-American state legislator Ilhan Omar claimed victory in her primary in Minnesota in August, putting her on track to become one of the first female Muslim members of the US House of Representatives. (Photo by Kerem YUCEL / AFP) (Photo credit should read KEREM YUCEL/AFP/Getty Images)
Ilhan Omar, Democratic congressional candidate, poses for a selfie with a supporter and her son while campaigning in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on October 13, 2018. - Somali-American state legislator Ilhan Omar claimed victory in her primary in Minnesota in August, putting her on track to become one of the first female Muslim members of the US House of Representatives. (Photo by Kerem YUCEL / AFP) (Photo credit should read KEREM YUCEL/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE - In this Jan. 5, 2017, file photo, new State Rep. Ilhan Omar is interviewed in her office two days after the 2017 Legislature convened in St. Paul, Minn. Omar, already the first Somali-American to be elected to a state legislature, is jumping into a crowded race for a Minnesota congressional seat. Omar filed Tuesday, June 5, 2018, for the Minneapolis-area seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison. (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)
FILE - In this Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017 file photo, State Rep. Ilhan Omar takes the oath of office as the 2017 legislature convened in St. Paul, Minn. Omar, a Muslim, is the nation's first Somali-American to be elected to a state legislature. Religion's role in politics and social policies is in the spotlight heading toward the midterm elections, yet relatively few Americans consider it crucial that a candidate be devoutly religious or share their religious beliefs, according to an AP-NORC national poll conducted Aug. 16-20, 2018. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar, left, laughs while speaking with an attendee during the Democratic Farmer Labor (DFL) Party endorsement convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., on Sunday, June 17, 2018. The DFL will endorse a primary candidate for the seat of Representative Keith Ellison, a democrat from Minnesota, as he runs for state attorney general. Photographer: Emilie Richardson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar speaks during the Democratic Farmer Labor (DFL) Party endorsement convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., on Sunday, June 17, 2018. The DFL will endorse a primary candidate for the seat of Representative Keith Ellison, a democrat from Minnesota, as he runs for state attorney general. Photographer: Emilie Richardson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 21: Ilhan Omar attends the premiere of 'Time For Ilhan' during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at Cinepolis Chelsea on April 21, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
In this Aug. 16, 2018 photo, Democrat Ilhan Omar, the nation's first Somali-American legislator who won her party's congressional primary in the race, talks during an interview at Peace Coffee in Minneapolis. Just two years ago, the Minnesota Democrat became the first Somali-American elected to a state legislature. Now she's likely to become one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. (AP Photo/Jeff Baenen)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 21: Amal Sabrie, Isra Hirsi, Ilhan Omar, Ilwad Hirsi, Ahmed Hirsi, Adnan Hirsi attend the premiere of 'Time For Ilhan' during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at Cinepolis Chelsea on April 21, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
Ilhan Omar, candidate for State Representative for District 60B in Minnesota, arrives for her victory party on election night, November 8, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Omar, a refugee from Somalia, is the first Somali-American Muslim woman to hold public office. / AFP / STEPHEN MATUREN (Photo credit should read STEPHEN MATUREN/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 07: Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., attends a rally on the East Front of the Capitol with groups including United We Dream, calling on Congress to defund Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on Thursday, February 7, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 13: Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., attends a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing in Rayburn Building titled 'Venezuela at a Crossroads,' on Wednesday, February 13, 2019. Elliott Abrams, U.S. special representative for Venezuela, testified. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JULY 15: Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., arrives for a news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center to respond to negative comments by President Trump that were directed at freshmen House Democrats on Monday, July 15, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JULY 15: Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., conducts a news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center responding to negative comments by President Trump that were directed at the freshmen House Democrats on Monday, July 15, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JULY 15: Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., conducts a news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center responding to negative comments by President Trump that were directed at the freshmen House Democrats on Monday, July 15, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 15: U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) speaks during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on July 15, 2019 in Washington, D.C. President Donald Trump stepped up his attacks on four progressive Democratic congresswomen, saying if they're not happy in the United States "they can leave." (Photo by Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images)
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) at Netroots Nation convention in Philadelphia, PA on July 13, 2019. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JULY 06: Congresswoman Ilhan Omar speaks on stage at 2019 ESSENCE Festival Presented By Coca-Cola at Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on July 06, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for ESSENCE)
WASHINGTON, USA - JUNE 26: U.S. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar speaks during a demonstration held by Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on one-year anniversary of Supreme Court's decision about US President Donald Trump's travel ban for Muslims in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, United States on June 26, 2019. (Photo by Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 19: U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) speaks at a press conference on the No Shame at School Act on June 19, 2019 in Washington, DC. The bill, which is sponsored by Omar, will ensure that no child is shamed or goes without eating a school lunch due to a lack of money. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 7: Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., arrives for a Congressional Black Caucus Emergency Taskforce on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health forum in Rayburn Building on Friday, June 7, 2019. Actress Taraji Henson, founder of the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, spoke about her struggle with depression. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 19: U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) speaks at a press conference on the No Shame at School Act on June 19, 2019 in Washington, DC. The bill, which is sponsored by Omar, will ensure that no child is shamed or goes without eating a school lunch due to a lack of money. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 20: U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) listens to remarks during a congressional Iftar event at the U.S. Capitol May 20, 2019 in Washington, DC. Muslims around the world are observing the holy month with prayers, fasting from dawn to sunset and nightly feasts. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 16: Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) speaks at the America Welcomes Event with a Statue Of Liberty Replica Shows Solidarity With Immigrants & Refugees at Union Station on May 16, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for MoveOn.org)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 16: Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) speaks at the America Welcomes Event with a Statue Of Liberty Replica Shows Solidarity With Immigrants & Refugees at Union Station on May 16, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for MoveOn.org)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 16: The House Foreign Affairs' Committee's Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations Subcommittee member Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) questions witnesses during a hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill May 16, 2019 in Washington, DC. Hatice Cengiz, fiancee of murdered Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, testified before the committee. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 08: Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Mika Brzezinski at the 2019 Town & Country Philanthropy Summit Sponsored By Northern Trust, Memorial Sloan Kettering, Pomellato, And 1 Hotels & Baccarat Hotels on May 08, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Town & Country)
UNITED STATES - MAY 16: Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., attends a news conference at the House Triangle, on legislation to create special immigrant visas for Iraqi and Afghan wartime translators on Thursday, May 16, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 08: Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Ava DuVernay at the 2019 Town & Country Philanthropy Summit Sponsored By Northern Trust, Memorial Sloan Kettering, Pomellato, And 1 Hotels & Baccarat Hotels on May 08, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Town & Country)
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REPUBLICANS ON DEFENSE

Republicans are seeking re-election in nine of the 10 most expensive House races. The tenth is an open Republican seat. Each recorded spending of more than $20 million.

Four of the costliest races are in California. Contests in Washington, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Florida, New York and Minnesota round out the list.

California's 25th district is one of the most competitive. Republicans have held the seat since 1992. But the past decade has seen an influx of newcomers priced out of the Los Angeles housing market, and now nearly 40 percent of the district's 720,000 residents are Hispanic.

Democrats set their sights on taking the district after 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won it by seven points and a Republican, Representative Steve Knight, clinched another term by six points.

This year, Knight, 51, has been outraised and outspent by Democratic challenger Katie Hill, who previously ran a non-profit for the homeless and is seeking office for the first time.

Hill, 31, raised $7.3 million by mid-October, compared to the $2.4 million raised by Knight, according to FEC data. Hill has out-spent Knight $5.9 million to $2 million, with nearly three quarters of her money going to advertising.

With money from outside groups factored in, more than $18 million has been spent on Hill's behalf, compared to about $8 million for Knight, Reuters found.

Independence USA PAC, almost entirely funded by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, has spent more than $4.5 million in ads supporting Hill.

The money helped the political newcomer blanket the district with her liberal message supporting a path to universal healthcare, an assault weapons ban and gay-and-lesbian rights.

That could prove a double-edged sword. District voter Burke said she had leaned toward Knight. Then the avalanche of Hill ads and mailers annoyed Burke so much it cemented her decision to cast her ballot for him.

For all Reuters election coverage, click: https://www.reuters.com/politics/election2018

(Reporting by Tim Reid in Palmdale, California, and Grant Smith in New York Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Grant McCool)

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