Virginia Governor's Race Awash in Cash

By Rosalind S. Helderman and Anita Kumar
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, September 16, 2009

R. Creigh Deeds, the Democratic candidate for Virginia governor, raised half a million dollars more than his Republican opponent in July and August, collecting more over the two-month period than any other gubernatorial candidate in state history.

But Republican Robert F. McDonnell, who did not have a primary opponent, has more money in the bank -- $5.8 million, compared with Deeds's nearly $4.4 million -- as the candidates enter the final 50 days before the Nov. 3 election. McDonnell also received money from more than 6,200 donors, nearly 2,800 more than Deeds.

Despite a recession that both sides have said has dampened political giving, this year's gubernatorial race is on track to be the most expensive race ever in Virginia, a sign of enormous interest nationally and in the state.

The fundraising hauls mean that voters across the state will be inundated with TV commercials and will find their mailboxes stuffed with glossy campaign fliers for the next seven weeks. Both campaigns will be free to hire staff members and open offices to broadcast their messages.

In a show of how important the governor's race is to Republicans, who are looking to launch a national comeback in Virginia this year, the Republican National Committee pledged Tuesday to give $7 million to McDonnell, eclipsing the $5 million the Democratic National Committee has promised to Deeds and other Virginia Democrats.

The DNC contributed the same amount four years ago to Timothy M. Kaine, who now serves as chairman of the organization as well as Virginia governor. But the RNC gave only a $15,000 cash donation and some in-kind help to GOP gubernatorial candidate Jerry W. Kilgore in 2005.

Only New Jersey and Virginia have statewide elections this November, and both parties have been investing heavily in the two states in an attempt to sway contests widely seen as referendums on President Obama's leadership.

Deeds and McDonnell were required by law to disclose their finances for July and August on Tuesday.

Deeds's haul included significant help from national groups. Over the two months, he raised $3.48 million, for a total so far of $9.7 million for his gubernatorial campaign. Of that amount, $725,000 came from the DNC.

Most of Deeds's other biggest donations were from labor unions, including $250,000 from the Mid-Atlantic Laborers' Political Education Fund, $100,000 from the SEIU and $100,000 from United Food and Commercial Workers. Obama and Vice President Biden have hosted fundraisers for Deeds.

McDonnell has taken in $13.6 million for his gubernatorial effort, including $2.9 million in the recent reporting period. He has also received help from prominent national Republicans. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who is chairman of the Republican Governors Association, and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty have hosted events for him.

The Deeds and McDonnell campaigns said they were pleased with their totals, particularly the numbers of new and small-dollar donors. The Deeds campaign reported that 90 percent of its donations came from Virginia residents and that it had added 2,284 donors to its rolls over the two months, for a total of 3,453.

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