Virginia's candidates for governor are rushing toward a record-breaking fund-raising year that may easily top a total of $6 million before the Nov. 5 general election, according to new campaign finance reports.
The latest reports for Republican Wyatt B. Durrette and Democrat Gerald L. Baliles show both candidates in a summertime scramble for dollars, with each raising and spending about $300,000 in July.
"I think two things show us just about even, the polls and money," said Durrette's press secretary, Don Harrison.
Harrison said Durrette, a Richmond lawyer, has raised about $1.6 million. He said Durrette is pleased with his fund raising and recent published polls that showed the candidates running almost dead even in a state where the Republican candidate usually trails the Democrat in early matchups.
"It's not wrong to say we're about even," said Curry Roberts, fund-raising director for Baliles, "but what we've done is important."
Roberts said Baliles, who resigned last month as attorney general to pursue his campaign, has raised $1.9 million, about double what Democratic Gov. Charles S. Robb had raised at this point in his 1981 campaign.
"We are the first Democratic campaign to outraise a Republican at this point," Curry said.
With each campaign nearing $2 million, political fund-raising specialists said both could be expected to reach $3 million with three months left before the election. In 1981, Robb spent a total of about $2.2 million while his opponent, former Republican attorney general J. Marshall Coleman of McLean, spent $2.7 million.
Durrette's latest report does not include proceeds from a Wednesday fund-raiser in Richmond at which Vice President Bush was the guest speaker. The event grossed about $250,000, but large expenses for Bush's travel on Air Force Two and other luncheon costs have not been totaled. Campaign aides said they expected to net close to $200,000, but some of those funds already have been reported in Durrette's filings.
Both campaigns have cautioned that figures in the state reports are potentially misleading because of the state's reporting laws, which allow unusual leeway in how and when expenses and contributions are reported.
For example, the Durrette campaign, citing an accounting change to reflect a switch from seeking the GOP nomination to the general election, officially reported $400,000 cash on hand last week before the Bush fund-raiser and July expenses of only about $25,000.
In fact, the $25,000 was for Durrette's nominating convention costs. An additional $200,000 was spent on the general election but will not be reported officially until October, the next reporting date, officials said.
"It's accurate and it's legal, but it's not real," one exasperated campaign official said of the finance reporting requirements.
In the lieutenant governor's race, Democratic State Sen. L. Douglas Wilder of Richmond and Republican State Sen. John H. Chichester of Fredericksburg also were nearly even in raising funds, but Wilder showed a big lead in cash on hand.
Wilder reported total contributions of $301,410, expenditures of $128,015 and cash on hand of $175,395. Chichester reported raising a total of $306,240, expenditures of $246,890 and cash on hand of $84,360. Chichester reported $96,100 in debts.
"My campaign isn't just preaching about fiscal responsibility," Wilder said in a prepared statement about his lack of debts, "we're practicing it.