Democrat Terry McAuliffe raised more than twice as much money as Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II during the latest fundraising period, as the Republican nominee for Virginia governor found himself hamstrung by rules banning him from courting donors during this year’s legislative session.
Cuccinelli reported raising nearly $2.4 million during the first quarter of 2013 — including $1 million from the Republican Governors Association and $25,000 each from Koch Industries, which supports many GOP candidates, and Foster Friess, a wealthy investor from Texas who supports conservative Christian causes.
McAuliffe raised $5.1 million during the same period, including $100,000 from his longtime friend, former president Bill Clinton.
Both candidates are expected to be a big draw for donors in the coming months, with the high-profile gubernatorial contest — one of only two this year — already drawing national attention. Virginia has moved from being reliably Republican in national elections to a battleground state that has twice voted for President Obama. This year’s governor’s race, political experts say, could portend what could happen in the 2014 congressional elections.
With little political action elsewhere in the country, donations to outside groups are also likely to be hefty.
The contest is a showdown of two heavyweights, featuring McAuliffe, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee during the Clinton administration, and Cuccinelli, the conservative firebrand who made headlines as attorney general for his stances on climate change, Obama’s health-care law and abortion.
Campaign finance reports for the three-month period ending March 31 were due Monday for candidates running for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and the House of Delegates, and for non-candidate political action committees.
Through Dec. 31, it was Cuccinelli who won the fundraising war, raising $2 million compared with McAuliffe’s $1.6 million in the final quarter of 2012. But as a statewide elected officeholder, Cuccinelli was not allowed to raise money during the 46-day General Assembly that ended Feb. 23.
The latest filings bring Cuccinelli’s total to more than $3.5 million, with nearly $3 million remaining in cash on hand. McAuliffe’s total is nearly $6.2 million, with almost $5.2 million in cash on hand.
McAuliffe’s first-quarter showing is nearly $1 million better than the amount raised when he ran four years ago.
But excited donors don’t always translate into an excited electorate.
In 2009, McAuliffe raised the most among his primary competitors, $8.3 million overall. But he lost in the Democratic primary to former state senator Creigh Deeds, who raised the least during the primary at $3.5 million. Brian Moran raised $4 million during the 2009 Democratic primary.
After starting with less than $300, White House crasher Tareq Salahi reported raising nearly $15,000 this quarter in his quest to become an independent candidate for governor this fall. Salahi must collect 10,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot.
In the Republican contest for attorney general, Sen. Mark D. Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) raised more than $102,000, compared with Del. Robert B. Bell (R-Albermarle), who raised more than $85,000.
Between the Democratic attorney general candidates, Sen. Mark R. Herring (D-Loudoun) raised $151,000, compared with $140,000 raised by Justin Fairfax.
In the lieutenant governor’s contest, Democrat Aneesh Chopra raised more than $449,000, and Sen. Ralph S. Northam (D-Norfolk) raised $269,000.
Among the crowded field of GOP candidates seeking to become lieutenant governor, Pete Snyder raised the most, hauling in more than $276,000 this quarter. On his heels was former delegate Jeannemarie Devolites Davis, wife of former congressman Tom Davis, with $256,000.