Virginia Republicans enjoy advantage in cash for campaigns

July 18, 2011

Virginia Republicans enjoy a nearly 2-1 advantage over Democrats in the all-important race for cash as they look to take control of the state Senate and add to their majority in the House of Delegates in November’s elections.

Republicans have $13.7 million in the bank, compared with $7.4 million for the Democrats, taking into account committees controlled by candidates, parties and leaders as of June 30, according to the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP), a nonpartisan tracker of money in politics.

Several accounts are controlled by key Republicans, including all three statewide officeholders — Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II — and Speaker William J. Howell (Stafford) and other leaders in the GOP-controlled House.

“Clearly, we’re going to have more money — and that’s to be expected, given that Republicans have all three statewide offices,’’ Bolling said. “It’s important to have the resources to frame the campaigns — on TV, radio and direct mail.”

But Democrats still have an advantage in the Democratic-led Senate, where they had nearly $2 million in the bank in a pair of accounts controlled by their caucus and Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (Fairfax).

Saslaw said he was not concerned about having enough funds because Democrats continue to raise money all over the country. They expect an infusion from an event later this month headlined by U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, the popular former governor. Saslaw said he expects to spend $500,000 to $1 million each on 10 of the Senate’s closest races.

Republicans are in a fierce battle to take control of the Senate, where Democrats hold a fragile 22-18 majority, and pick up three to four additional seats in the House, where the GOP has a substantial majority.

Republicans have far outpaced Democrats in recruiting, though candidates have until next month to file to run in the general election.

If Republicans got a majority in the Senate, it would be the second time since Reconstruction that the party held the governor’s mansion, House and Senate at the same time in Virginia.

Some of the money will be spent before Aug. 23, when voters go to the polls to elect nominees in 19 legislative districts in Virginia.Six of Senate primaries and three of the House ones will take place in Northern Virginia.

The General Assembly redrew legislative maps this spring during the once-a-decade redistricting to bring the 140 districts of the Senate and House into alignment with population shifts in the 2010 Census.

Northern Virginia will gain a Senate seat and three delegates under the plan.

Saslaw said people should keep in mind that Democrats controlled the redistricting process in the Senate. “Our districts have been improved dramatically,’’ he said. “We’ll be all right.”

McDonnell, who has said he plans to spend money on Senate races, has more than twice as much money as his Democratic predecessor, Timothy M. Kaine, had at a similar point in his term.

McDonnell had $2.9 million as of June 30, while Kaine had $1.3 million on the same date in 2007, the year Democrats took over the Senate.

Figures from the fundraising period were due Friday. VPAP released its analysis Monday.

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