Fundraising dries up for Virginia’s three tainted leaders, but not for their fellow Democrats

Fundraising dries up for Virginia’s three tainted leaders, but not for their fellow Democrats

By Laura Vozzella

April 16

RICHMOND — Fundraising took a dive for Virginia’s top three Democrats after they were mired in separate scandals early this year, but Democrats running in legislative races still raised substantially more than Republicans, according to first-quarter fundraising reports released Tuesday.

Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark R. Herring have raised $2,500 and $17,250 respectively since admitting in the first week of February that they had worn blackface as young men. Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax has raised no money since two women stepped forward that week to say he had sexually assaulted them in the early 2000s — accusations he has strongly denied.

[In Virginia, a strange state of stasis]

The reports show a stark drop-off in donations to the trio of statewide officeholders during the first three months of the year, compared with what their predecessors took in over the same period four years ago, according to the nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project.

[Virginia Republicans see chance to bounce back amid Democratic scandals]

But at least so far, fundraising on the part of individual Democratic candidates for the House of Delegates and Senate does not appear to have suffered.

In the House, where all 100 seats are on the ballot in November, Democratic candidates raised $2.4 million in the first quarter, compared with $1.7 million raised by Republican contenders. In the Senate, where all 40 seats are up, Democratic candidates raised $1.9 million while Republicans raised $1.1 million.

House Democrats touted the fundraising advantage in an email sent late Tuesday afternoon — with the aim of raising more money. “We’re winning,” the subject line said.

“These reports are hard, on-
paper evidence that the will to win among Democrats is at an all-time high,” the email said. “We have the momentum and we have the competitive edge.”

Some Democrats had been concerned that they would not be able to count on fundraising help from Northam, Fairfax and Herring in this year’s legislative elections, which could prove pivotal. Virginia is one of just four states with such elections in 2019 and the only one with a competitive race for control of both houses of the legislature.

Republicans have been playing up the scandals as they try to defend their two-seat margins in both chambers.

The GOP noted that more Democrats face primaries, which could burn up campaign cash before the general-election fight. House Republicans also touted their hefty advantage in cash on hand — $6 million for the GOP, compared with $4.2 million for Democrats — because Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) raised a record $2.4 million last year, his first as speaker. Republicans had a smaller cash-on-hand advantage over Democrats in the Senate, about $4.9 million vs. $4.4 million.

“House Democrats are playing catch up after the Speaker’s strong year gave us a big head start, but we know that out of state donors and wealthy progressives will spend almost anything to buy a majority in the House,” Cox spokesman Parker Slaybaugh said in an email.

The reports cover the first three months of the year, a period that included the 46-day General Assembly session, when state office­holders are prohibited from raising money. Northam, Herring and Fairfax had just about a week to raise money at the start of the year before they had to pause for the session, and they had about a month after the session before the quarter ended March 31. The scandals unfolded in the middle of that.

Northam’s first-quarter total was $207,500, while in 2015, then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) raised $822,586 over the same period. Herring, serving his second term, raised a total of $18,000 in the first three months, compared with $137,879 in 2015. Fairfax raised $1,950 for the quarter, while then-Lt. Gov. Northam brought in $30,930 four years ago.