Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel have split over pretty much every big policy divide in Georgia's 6th District race. And they had very different views over the spiraling costs of the race for the suburban Atlanta seat - now the most expensive House election in U.S. history.
"It's a shame that this is how we conduct democracy in America," Ossoff said in an interview, "that the battle on the airwaves is so unrelenting it deprives the community of a clear sense of the debate."
Handel's campaign used the distinction to take a shot at the Democrat, who raised a record $8.3 million in his first reporting period, mostly from out-of-state donors.
"Of course it's the most expensive race ever," said Handel spokesman Charlie Harper. "It's taken a lot of money raised from liberal friends of Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren, Act Blue and the DailyKos to try to sell Georgia families on the idea that a career congressional staffer is a pragmatic moderate that cares about wasting taxpayer dollars. Georgia can't afford for the liberals backing Jon Ossoff to get a return on their investment."
An Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis shows that about $30 million has been spent over the last five months, including $15 million in the first leg of the 18-candidate race, $4 million spent since the April 18 vote and another $11 million in ad buys through the June 20 runoff.
That's an unprecedented expenditure: According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a transparency advocacy group, the most expensive House race was a 2012 Florida contest between Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West and Democrat Patrick Murphy that cost nearly $29.6 million.
Ossoff has laid out more than $10.7 million for airtime since he got in the race in January, including at least $5.2 million since finishing first in the April 18 vote. Handel has spent just a fraction of that sum - she has yet to launch her first TV ad since the first-round vote - but she's been backed by a trio of conservative groups pouring millions into the race.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Congressional Leadership Fund have combined to account for more than $7.2 million in TV, cable and radio spending since April 18.
Ossoff said there will be no let-up, arguing that his campaign must "communicate with the same volume and effectiveness as the array of outside groups" aligned behind Handel.
"The commitment that I will make is to draw a contrast pointing out why I think I'm a better candidate, why I think she's a worse candidate, in a civil, substantive and accurate way - which I think stands in stark contrast to some of what we saw in the last few months coming from the other side."
More recent AJC coverage of the 6th District race: