Candidates In Hampton Roads, Richmond, Raked In More Than $1 Million In Final Primary Sprint
BY JIMMY CLOUTIER
VIRGINIA CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM AT WHRO
Virginia legislative candidates across Greater Richmond and Hampton Roads raised nearly $3.8 million in the last three weeks of June — mostly from big donors giving more than $10,000 to their campaigns, according to an OpenSecrets analysis of campaign finance reports filed on July 17.
The reports, which cover fundraising activity from June 9-30, also show that candidates in contested primaries raised at least $1 million in the final days of the June 20 elections.
As of June 30, total fundraising for the 2023 election cycle in the two regions has topped $33.5 million, with about four months to go until Election Day.
All 140 seats in the General Assembly are on the ballot in November, and races across central and southeastern Virginia could decide control of the state legislature. Republicans currently hold a slim 52-48 majority in the House and Democrats maintain control of the senate with 22 out of 40 seats.
Overall, Democratic candidates raised nearly $1.4 million more than Republicans during the last reporting period, but several top fundraisers competed against one another in costly primary races. Many GOP nominees went unchallenged in Republican primaries.
The top fundraiser was former Democratic Del. Lashrecse Aird (D-Petersburg), who defeated incumbent Sen. Joseph Morrissey (D-Petersburg) in the June 20 primary and raised more than $536,000 during the latest reporting period. Nearly 89% of Aird’s total contributions came from big donors giving more than $10,000 each, including labor unions, abortion rights groups and Democratic-aligned PACs. Aird’s victory over Morrissey, a supporter of limits on abortion, was seen as a key win for women’s health advocates.
The next highest fundraiser was House Minority Leader Don Scott Jr. (D-Portsmouth), who ran unchallenged in the Democratic primary and raised nearly $247,000 during the latest period. Scott also benefited from big donors, who accounted for 71% of his total fundraising.
Large donors account for a substantial portion of political fundraising in Virginia, which, unlike the federal government and most other states, places no limits on the amount of money candidates can accept from wealthy donors, including corporations.
During the last three weeks of June, candidates across Greater Richmond and Hampton Roads reported receiving more than 47% of total contributions from donors giving more than $10,000. Those giving $100 or less accounted for about 5% of total funding.
The utility giant has given money to 18 candidates in the regions who will be on the ballot in November, including state Sen. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), who could become the first Black woman to chair the powerful finance and appropriations committee if Democrats maintain control of the senate.
The second biggest donor was the union-funded PAC, Workers Vote — which gave more than $294,000 to Aird last period — followed by climate activist and investor Michael Bills and his wife, Sonjia Smith.
Following the primary elections, party leaders increased their support for allies in Greater Richmond and Hampton Roads, with Republican Reps. Todd Gilbert, Terry Kilgore, Barry Knight, Thomas Norment and Israel O’Quinn collectively giving more than $202,000 to their colleagues in the final weeks of June. Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) gave an additional $28,000 through his gubernatorial PAC, Spirit of Virginia.
Across the aisle, the Democratic House Caucus, the Virginia Democratic Party and other party committees funneled more than $80,000 to candidates in the region during the latest reporting period.