Wyatt B. Durrette, widely seen as leading the Republican race for governor of Virginia, trails badly in fund-raising against his opponent, Fairfax Rep. Stan Parris, a gap that some say has renewed questions about Durrette's strategy and electability.
Parris has amassed $522,612 compared to $256,363 for Durrette, according to campaign finance reports that also show Durrette with only $52,056 in cash compared to Parris' $381,728.
"I'm very disappointed . . . ," said E. Hatcher Crenshaw Jr. of Richmond, a strong Durrette supporter and chairman of the party's 3rd Congressional District. "I'd like to see him get some money."
Durrette, a Richmond lawyer and former Fairfax legislator, contended through a spokesman that he still expects to stave off Parris' mail, phone bank and travel blitz. Parris has said he hopes that campaign will undercut Durrette's strength among potential delegates to the party's nominating convention May 31 in Norfolk.
The party begins selecting those delegates next month.
Others, including some Durrette campaign workers, say the fund-raising gap between the two candidates can only revive doubts about Durrette's electability, questions that have nettled him since he lost a 1977 nomination bid for attorney general and a 1981 general election race for that same office. He has not held elective office since 1977.
Durrette moved from Fairfax to Richmond after his 1981 loss to build support among the state's traditional business establishment here, but members of both parties say many of the capital's so-called "Main Street" businessmen have yet to back him. The Main Street coalition, considered important to any Virginia political campaign because of its fundraising abilities, generally belongs to neither party but can be counted on usually to support the most conservative candidate.
Democratic Attorney General Gerald L. Baliles of Richmond, who also is running for governor, would likely pick up much of the Main Street support should he win in his nomination contest with Democratic Lt. Gov. Richard J. Davis of Portsmouth, some observers say.
Crenshaw said he believed Durrette has a strong volunteer organization that offsets some money needs, but conceded, "It's going to cost them money to get the nomination."
Crenshaw, whose district includes the Richmond suburbs, added "I hope Dick Davis gets [the Democratic nomination]. I know a lot of people in the Third District who would go with Wyatt [Durrette] over Dick Davis but if Baliles gets it [they] would go with him."
That kind of talk has unsettled the Durrette campaign, which has worked to get the support of nearly all the locally elected party officials in the state except for Parris' home area of Fairfax.
The Democratic finance reports showed Davis with $683,510 raised and $351,694 on hand and Baliles with $471,930 raised and $93,800 on hand. The Democratic convention is June 7 in Richmond.
Veteran campaign officials have indicated the nomination races for each candidate could each cost between $600,000 and $1 million.
One experienced Democratic fund-raiser suggested all the candidates but Durrette had demonstrated their ability to raise money. "He has a perception problem," the Democrat said.
Parris, who entered the race in November while Durrette has campaigned for more than a year, scoffed at contentions by Durrette's campaign officials that they are only now beginning to raise money.
"Imagine a politician saying to someone who wants to give him money, 'Don't give it to me. I don't need it now,' " said Parris. "Can you believe that? That's ludicrous."
Don Harrison, Durrette's press secretary, said Durrette has raised about $40,000 since the first of year that was not on last week's report and that Durrette expects to raise $200,000 in the next 60 days with about two dozen fund-raisers.
Harrison also was skeptical of Parris' report, saying it only indicated Parris' acknowledged ability to raise money, not support. "Stan is well known for raising money. We can't match it. We're not going to try."