Sean T. Connaughton has raised more than a half-million dollars in his quest for the 2005 Republican nomination for lieutenant governor, according to campaign finance filings.
Connaughton, the chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, raised $501,000 since the beginning of the year, including $25,000 that he transferred from his successful reelection bid last year.
"We've obviously been able to garner a great deal of financial support quickly," Connaughton said. "A lot of people and businesses, in Northern Virginia in particular, want to see leaders who want to make a difference and have a vision."
Connaughton received nearly half of his funds, or $234,685, from real estate, construction and home-building interests, according to campaign finance reports compiled by the Virginia Public Access Project and Virginia Commonwealth University, with financing provided by The Washington Post and eight Virginia newspapers.
Connaughton has nearly caught up with state Sen. Bill Bolling (R-Hanover), who has raised $612,000 over the past two years, including $195,000 transferred from his Senate war chest.
Bolling raised $214,000 from Jan. 1 through June 30. He said the lengthy legislative session hampered his fundraising efforts. State law prohibits senators and delegates from raising money during the session.
A significant chunk of Bolling's money comes from agriculture, insurance, health care interests and lawyers, according to the filings. Bolling is a member of the Senate's Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources, and Education and Health committees, among others.
Connaughton said his fundraising shows that he is becoming the choice of Republicans statewide.
"He's only really raised $400,000 in two years of being at this," Connaughton said of Bolling. "We raised $475,000 in four months.''
Bolling said that he never questioned Connaughton's ability to raise money. "It may be true that he's raised a lot of money, but he has also raised a lot of taxes and it's going to take a lot of money to convince voters otherwise," Bolling said.
Other candidates vying for the GOP lieutenant governor nomination, including state Del. Joe T. May (R-Loudoun) and attorney Gilbert K. Davis, have raised far less since throwing their hats in the ring. May has raised $95,987 in contributions of more than $100; Davis has raised $143,397, including $79,765 of his own money.
Although the election is not until November 2005, Bolling and Connaughton have been traveling the state trying to get their names and messages out, as well as pick up as many checks as possible.
Both men have focused on raising money from donors who are familiar to them through their current jobs.
Connaughton's coffers have benefited from Prince William County's fast growth rate and the desire by developers and others to make a lot of money by building things in the county. It helps to know the chairman of the county board, which has the final say on development and zoning.
Among Connaughton's most generous donors are Clemente Development Co. of Vienna and Randolph Ridges LLC of Fauquier, a developer, which each gave $25,000. Donating $10,000 each were Equity Homes of Fairfax; B. Mark Fried, a Springfield developer; SK&R Group LLC, Woodbridge developers; and Van Metre Homes Inc. of Burke.
"I suspect there is a connection between those contributions and his service on the Board of Supervisors, and we plan to look at that," Bolling said.
Connaughton said that there are a limited number of Republican campaign donors, and some of them happen to be developers.
Bolling also said he is picking up support among Northern Virginia conservatives, including those from Prince William, Fairfax and Loudoun. The Bolling campaign recently crowed about an endorsement from Prince William Supervisor Corey A. Stewart (R-Occoquan), who has gone from Connaughton ally to adversary over tax and budget issues.
Connaughton voiced frustration with Stewart.
"I gave him $12,000 directly and paid for mailing and get-out-the-vote calls. He's never even said thank you. And when he did [the Bolling endorsement] he never even talked to me," Connaughton said. "I can't figure out the guy."