The two major-party candidates in Virginia’s governor’s race have raised a record amount of money as they battle for the Executive Mansion, reaching a combined total of more than $115 million in contributions, according to the latest round of campaign finance filings.
Fundraising between Youngkin, a multimillionaire former private-equity executive, and McAuliffe, who served as governor from 2014 to 2018, has vastly surpassed that in the governor’s race four years ago. At the same point in 2017, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and Republican competitor Ed Gillespie collectively raised $64.7 million, according to the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP).
Mark J. Rozell, dean of the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, said it makes sense that the fundraising has been so high because of the stakes in the race. He noted that, given the tight polling and polarized state of politics, there is a really small margin of undecided voters at this point in the race.
Fundraising can help win that small margin, and drive their respective bases to the polls.
“So much money is chasing so few voters,” Rozell said. “They’re spending a hundred million dollars for a few percentage points.”
The latest filing, which details contributions and expenditures from Oct. 1 to 21, showed Youngkin surpassing McAuliffe in fundraising during the first weeks of the month, bringing in $15.4 million while the Democrat raised $12.9 million.
But, according to an analysis by VPAP, $3.5 million of Youngkin’s October totals came from his own pocket as a personal loan.
Youngkin, who has never held elective office, has been in a heated and close race with McAuliffe and has used his ability to personally front millions of dollars to run his campaign. According to VPAP, Youngkin has lent about $20 million this year to his campaign and his Virginia Wins PAC.
Younkin’s top donor — other than his own personal donation in October — continued to be the political action committee arm of the Republican Governors Association, which gave $4.6 million.
Other notable top donors to the Republican this reporting period include $125,000 from Linda McMahon, who headed the Small Business Administration under President Donald Trump; and $100,000 from Mark J. Kington, who sits on the Dominion Energy board of directors.
McAuliffe’s top donation for the period came from People for the American Way, with a $500,000 contribution. McAuliffe continued to receive large donations from labor unions and political groups, such as another $400,000 from Everytown for Gun Safety and $250,000 from the Working for Working Americans PAC.
According to VPAP, McAuliffe also received donations from a handful of casino companies, including $50,000 from Accel Entertainment Gaming LLC, $50,000 from Caesars Entertainment and $50,000 from J&J Ventures Gaming. In 2020, the General Assembly passed a measure legalizing casinos in a handful of cities in the state. McAuliffe also got $50,000 from DoorDash, the mobile food delivery service.
Both candidates have also established their own PACs to receive donations over the course of the race. Youngkin’s Virginia Wins PAC has earned just over $1 million in contributions, about $1 million of which came from Youngkin himself. The committee McAuliffe set up in 2014, Common Good VA, has raised about $400,000 in 2021.
This month, McAuliffe pulled out big-ticket connections, making campaign stops with former president Barack Obama and first lady Jill Biden earlier this month, and a campaign appearance in Arlington with President Biden Tuesday night. And Youngkin focused his campaign on education issues, ramping up advertising on the topic.
During October, McAuliffe spent more than Youngkin, with $18.8 million compared to Youngkin’s $11 million. McAuliffe also ended the period with significantly less cash on hand, which includes money carried over from previous reporting periods. On Oct. 21, McAuliffe had $1.9 million in the bank and Youngkin had $7.9 million, according to VPAP.
Third-party candidate Princess Blanding reported raising $4,550 for the period and ended with $7,281 cash on hand.
The ballot also includes lieutenant governor and attorney general, along with all 100 seats in the House of Delegates, where Democrats are defending a 55-to-45 majority.
In the lieutenant governor’s race, Del. Hala S. Ayala (D-Prince William) raised $2.4 million during the three-week period, up from the just over $1.4 million she collected in September. She ended the reporting period with just over $300,000 cash on hand.
Ayala’s top donors included the Democratic Party of Virginia, PACs and unions. The American Federation of Teachers donated $50,000, and the Democratic Party of Virginia donated $350,000.
Republican Winsome E. Sears, a former state delegate who represented Norfolk, brought in about $600,000 during the first few weeks of October and ended the period with just over $80,000.
The national Republican State Leadership Committee PAC kicked in $200,000 to Sears, and the Virginia Wins PAC, Youngkin’s committee, donated $75,000.
Incumbent Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) reported raising about $1.5 million during the period and ended with just over $200,000. Herring’s top donor was the Democratic Attorneys General Association, which contributed $500,000 during the period.
Republican challenger Jason S. Miyares, a Virginia Beach delegate, reported raising about $3.5 million during the period, up from the just over $1.4 million he raised in September. Miyares ended the month with just over $2 million. Miyares’s top donation came from the Republican Attorneys General Association at $2.1 million.
The next filing deadline is set for Dec. 2 and will detail money raised and spent between Oct. 22 and Nov. 25.