By M. Quesada, Capital News Service
RICHMOND, Va. — Into the homestretch of the General Assembly election, candidates received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations.
Candidates for Senate Districts 10, 12 and 13 claimed more than $1.5 million in fundraising in just 11 days, from Oct. 25 to Nov. 4, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. The six candidates in these races continued to receive cash and in-kind — non-monetary — contributions of $1,000 or more each after Oct. 24, when the last fundraising report was filed. By law, General Assembly candidates must report last-minute donations over $1,000 by close of business each day up to the election.
Early donations allow campaigns to plan their strategy ahead, but donations closer to Election Day are also helpful, according to Stephen Farnsworth, director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies at the University of Mary Washington.
“There are a lot of campaigns that are very well funded this cycle; there has been a lot of money put into these campaigns from both parties, typically when you compare to four years ago,” he said. “Probably, campaigns may have spent more money than they had raised already, hoping that they would get last minute donations.”
Del. John Bell, D-Loudoun, vying for the open seat in Senate District 13, raised the most among the six candidates after the October filing period. From Oct. 25 through Monday he received $465,978. His biggest benefactor was the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus, which donated three times, for a sum of $410,000.
Republican candidate Geary Higgins raised $436,499 in the final push. His biggest contribution came from incumbent Sen. Thomas Norment, R-Williamsburg. Norment donated four times to help Higgins raise $195,000 in cash.
The last push for District 13 elevated Bell’s fundraising to $2.5 million total, from July to Sunday. In the same time frame, Higgins raised more than $1.5 million. He didn’t break the $2 million mark for 2019 fundraising, although he came close in the homestretch.
In the race for District 12, Democratic challenger Debra Rodman received $285,684 since Oct. 25. The Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus donated $100,000 to her campaign on Oct. 28 and $10,000 four days later. She received over $50,000 from Planned Parenthood Virginia, once in cash and twice through in-kind contributions.
Incumbent Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, received $116,521, less than half of what her challenger raised in the same time frame. The Republican State Leadership Committee donated $25,000 to her campaign, her largest influx in the final period, followed by a $20,000 donation from Dominion on Monday. Her only in-kind contribution came from The Cannabis Business Association of Virginia Board for over $1,500 on Oct. 29.
After the last push, Rodman totalled $2.6 million since July. Dunnavant collected $1.8 million in the same period, though she raised over $2 million total for all of 2019.
Incumbent Sen. Glen Sturtevant, R-Richmond, raised $105,000 from Oct. 25 through Sunday. Sturtevant received cash contributions only. Some of his biggest contributors included Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, and Dominion Energy. Both donated $20,000 on Oct. 28 and Nov. 2, respectively.
In the same time frame, opponent Ghazala Hashmi received $186,419. NextGen Climate Action and Everytown for Gun Safety made multiple in-kind contributions, but her biggest influx came in cash from the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus, which donated $100,000 on Oct. 28 and $10,000 more four days later.
These contributions helped her collect $2.2 million in collections since July. In the same period, Sturtevant managed to raise $1.7 million, though he raised over $2 million total in 2019.
Del. Cheryl Turpin, D-Virginia Beach raised over $2 million from Jan. 1 to Oct. 24 in her bid for Senate District 7. Turpin accumulated $308,148 since Oct. 25, for a total of $2.3 million raised in 2019. Her Republican opponent, Jennifer Kiggans raised over $1.3 million from Jan. 1 to Oct. 24 and received $110,500 in her final push, for a total of almost $1.5 million.
With all 140 General Assembly seats up for re-election Tuesday, and Republicans holding both chambers by a slim majority, Democrats have dug in to win. The Democratic Party has made Districts 10, 12 and 13 priority pick-ups, Farnsworth said.
“Democratic and Republican donors are putting a lot of money in those two races [Districts 10 and 12] because of how competitive they are,” he said. “With the narrow Republican majority, Republicans can’t afford to lose anything they currently hold.”
Farnsworth said the most competitive elections are in the suburbs and with so much on the line, donors for both parties are weighing in this cycle. “It could be a pivotal year for the future of Virginia politics,” he said.