RICHMOND, April 13 -- Virginia's candidates for governor reported Wednesday that their campaigns raised almost $5 million during the first three months of the year.
That brings their fundraising totals to more than $15 million with about seven months to go before the Nov. 8 general election. The money is likely to fuel an advertising barrage in one of the nation's most closely watched races.
"Open seats attract money," said Steve Jarding, who managed the 2001 campaign of Gov. Mark R. Warner (D). "If this pace were to continue, you're going to see a lot of the mediums be blitzed with advertising, probably earlier, staying up longer with bigger buys."
Records show that the leading candidates have raised far more than Warner and his Republican opponent, former attorney general Mark L. Earley, did in the 2001 campaign. During the same three-month period, Warner raised $1.4 million and Earley, $412,000, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. It took the four candidates in that race until after June 30 to raise $15 million, the figures show.
Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) raised more than the other candidates, reporting $2.6 million in contributions from January through March despite a state law that barred him and other elected officials from accepting money during the six-week General Assembly session.
Kaine said he has raised a total of $8 million and has about $5 million on hand. The total includes a $1.5 million contribution from the Democratic National Committee, reported in this period.
"We're very pleased with the results of our fundraising efforts, given that the moratorium left us with so little time to raise money," said Mike Henry, Kaine's campaign manager. "We are also excited about the growing number of Virginians who are investing in the campaign."
Former attorney general Jerry W. Kilgore (R) said his campaign raised $1.7 million during the same period and has collected a total of $7.4 million. His campaign has almost $3.4 million on hand, aides said.
Kilgore resigned as attorney general Feb. 1 to devote more time to campaigning. By doing so, he was freed from the restriction on fundraising. Kilgore's campaign held its largest fundraiser this week, collecting $750,000 in checks and pledges that will be reported for the period that ends in June, aides said.
Kilgore spokesman J. Tucker Martin said Kaine's fundraising was inflated by the contribution from the DNC, chaired by Howard Dean.
"Fifty-seven percent of Kaine's money came from Howard Dean," Martin said. "Between Howard Dean's money and Tim Kaine's liberal record, Kaine is well on his way to becoming governor of Vermont."
Kilgore's filing said his top donors included Phil Wendel, Amy M. Griffin, Thomas A. Saunders and Walter M. Curt, each of whom gave $50,000. Kaine said Mark Fried, Sandy Lerner and Roger Sant each gave him $50,000.
Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr. (R-Winchester), who is running for governor as an independent, did not officially release his fundraising information.
The State Board of Elections deadline is Friday.
In an interview, he said he will report having raised about $360,000 since he declared his candidacy at the end of February.
Potts said $300,000 came from longtime friend Lloyd Ross, a former discount store magnate who wrote Potts a $250,000 check March 17. That donation was posted on state Web sites because of a law that requires large contributions to be made public within three days.
"He's one of my best friends in the world," Potts said. "I'm very appreciative of his support."
Ross, who retired to an estate in Middleburg after selling the Tuesday Morning retail chain, said in an interview that he does not believe his investment will be wasted.
"I really do believe he can win, sure," Ross said. "You'd be a fool to risk that kind of money for the hell of it."
Warrenton Mayor George B. Fitch, who is challenging Kilgore for the GOP nomination in a June 14 primary, did not announce his fundraising totals.