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If you want to see the impact of big money in American politics, look at North Carolina’s Senate race.

Drew Angerer/GettyImages

This evening, Richard Burr, the Republican incumbent, prevailed in a race that had become far tighter than insiders in either party predicted. He was facing Deborah Ross, a liberal firebrand who led the state’s ACLU before entering politics.

In the last several weeks, as polls tightened, Republicans began pouring outside money into the state to shore Burr up. Over the course of the election, over $58 million in outside money was spent in North Carolina—much of it on attack ads pummeling Ross for her ACLU work. Burr and his allies accused Ross of putting “the rights of sex offenders over our families,” supporting flag burning, and choosing “to defend” a North Carolina boy who, at age 13, was convicted of raping and beating a neighbor (she was trying to prevent him from being tried as an adult).

Ross has hit back at Burr, too, for being a Republican insider. But in the end, the Republican attacks appear to have been too much. This wasn’t the most expensive Senate race in recent memory, but it may have been one of the most vitriolic.