Gov. James S. Gilmore III continues to set the record pace in fund-raising for Virginia's legislative races, as fellow Republicans and Democrats alike collect vast sums to capture the General Assembly's 140 part-time jobs, according to their official filings today.
Gilmore reported more than $773,000 in contributions to two political action committees he controls with a view toward building a solid Republican majority in the assembly in the November elections.
In addition to the more than $340,000 in cash at his Commonwealth Council PAC, Gilmore showed more than $433,000 in his New Majority PAC, which held a major fund-raiser in June at a posh resort on the Northern Neck.
"There's going to be a surprising amount of money" raised by November, said Ray Allen, a top Gilmore strategist. "You're headed toward historically competitive elections."
Del. S. Vance Wilkins Jr. (Amherst), the GOP floor leader in the House, agreed, pausing as he strolled through Capitol Square here to say: "We've clawed our way. We've always been outspent 2-to-1 before, so if we break even, why, it'll be a small miracle."
The legislature is essentially evenly divided between the two major political parties, making the money chase all the more desperate this summer.
Although not all of the campaign finance filings had made it to the state Board of Elections by today's postmarking deadline, it was clear that some candidates for seats in the 40-member Senate will spend as much as $250,000, a figure that staggers some politicians who love their $18,000-a-year jobs at the Capitol.
Two Fairfax County Democrats who were here on business today said their own anticipated campaign tabs are simply the high cost of doing business with voters. Sen. Richard L. Saslaw said he had already raised $160,000, and Sen. Janet D. Howell said she had $120,000 in the bank.
"Here we are, two incumbents, spending a quarter of a million dollars against unknowns," Saslaw cracked. "What's wrong with this picture?" In his first Senate race 20 years ago, Saslaw spent $20,000.
Del. Linda T. "Toddy" Puller (D-Fairfax), who is trying to move on to the Senate, recalled spending about $110,000 in her 1995 reelection and is budgeting $250,000 for the fall. She is reporting about $100,000 raised and is telephoning constantly for contributions.
"If I'm not actually calling, I'm trying to think of who to call," she said today.
The reports revealed glimpses of competing political agendas and old friendships.
For instance, Sen. Jane H. Woods (R-Fairfax), who is locked in one of the hottest races in the state, got $10,000 from the campaign committee of Sen. John H. Chichester (R-Stafford) and $1,000 from the committee of Sen. Kevin G. Miller (R-Harrisonburg.)
Woods also had in-kind contributions of $600 from Gilmore's PAC and $3,174 from the Virginia Victory Fund, controlled by U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.). Woods is opposed by former congresswoman Leslie L. Byrne (D), whom Davis turned out of office. The Republican reported a balance of just more than $85,000, the Democrat a balance of just more than $80,000.
Davis, who is trying to influence a number of Northern Virginia races, also gave $5,000 to Del. James H. Dillard II (R-Fairfax). Another Dillard contributor, for $1,000, was Del. John H. "Jack" Rust Jr. (R-Fairfax), who has his eye on the House speakership should the GOP win total control of the House.
CAPTION: Gov. James S. Gilmore III reported more than $773,000 in contributions to his two political action committees.