Unprecedented money flowing in Virginia legislative races; latest reports show Democrats with edge

Virginia legislative candidates raised $46 million over about four weeks in the month of October, according to newly filed finance disclosures, with Democrats collectively reporting a fundraising edge as this campaign season nears its end.

Democratic candidates for the state Senate raised about $12.7 million between Oct. 1 and Oct. 26 and ended the period with a nearly $1 million cash-on-hand advantage over their GOP counterparts, according to an analysis of disclosures this week by the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project. Republican candidates reported raising $10.6 million over the same period.

In the House of Delegates, Democratic candidates outraised Republicans — $14.2 million to $8.4 million — but Republicans ended the period with a cash advantage of about $730,000.

All 140 General Assembly seats are on the ballot this year, and the fundraising, which has exceeded the pace of previous similar election years, is a sign of the competitive nature of this cycle.

Control of the House of Delegates and Senate is likely to come down to about a dozen seats across the two chambers, and the outcome will be closely watched around the country. Virginia is one of just four states with legislative races this year and with its closely divided politics is often looked to as a bellwether ahead of the 2024 presidential cycle.

Republicans are aiming to hold their current, narrow majority in the House and flip the Senate, hoping to deliver a trifecta for GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin. If Democrats are able to hold or take at least one chamber, it would mean at least two more years of divided government, allowing the party to continue blocking elements of Youngkin’s legislative agenda during the second half of his term.

Virginia governors are prohibited from seeking a second consecutive four years in office.

Democrats said their fundraising showed momentum was with their candidates.

“The Caucus has given $9 million directly to candidates — a record amount — because we know that we can, and will, win this election,” House Democratic Caucus Leader Don Scott said in a statement. “Our goal has been getting our message out to voters and we’ve been up on all mediums early to ensure people know our candidates’ stories and where they stand on the issues that matter most.”

Of the top 10 House fundraisers, seven were Democrats.

Dean Goodson, chief of staff for House Speaker Todd Gilbert, said the last-minute “deluge” of money for Democratic candidates was notable. But he said Republicans had until this final week generally kept pace on spending, a far cry from the 2021 House cycle.

“We always knew that we were going to be outspent, and we are pleased with how we have been able to stay competitive on the spending front,” he said.

While the fundraising and spending totals this cycle will continue to grow, it’s clear from another VPAP analysis that the total amount of money raised by candidates this year is eclipsing previous comparable cycles.

Pre-election fundraising by Senate candidates across the entire election cycle at a similar point in 2019 totaled $53.6 million, for example. This year, that figure stands at $80.8 million.

In the House, the 2019 cycle fundraising total at the comparable point was $67.5 million among candidates of both parties, according to VPAP. This year, it’s $77.5 million, the group’s analysis shows.

Virginia has some of the nation’s loosest campaign finance laws, with no limits on contributions from individuals, corporations or political action committees.

The sums being raised and spent this year have staggered longtime political observers. Campaign finance reform advocates have equated this year’s robust raising and spending to a money arms war that weakens the voice of working-class voters who can’t give on the scale of major donors or corporate players.

Early voting has been underway since September, and Election Day is Tuesday.


Republished with permission from The Associated Press.

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