The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Democrat has twice the cash of opponent in Va. governor’s race

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam, left, and GOP hopeful Ed Gillespie. (Bob Brown/AP)

Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial contender Ralph Northam raised more than twice as much money this summer as Republican opponent Ed Gillespie and had a war chest twice as large heading into the last two months of the campaign, according to finance reports.

In July and August, Northam raised $7.2 million, while Gillespie took in $3.7 million in the same period.

That left Northam, the sitting lieutenant governor, with $5.6 million in cash to Gillespie’s $2.6 million as of Aug. 31, according to data released Saturday by the nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project.

Northam's summer fundraising reverses a 2-to-1 cash advantage that Gillespie held immediately after the June 13 primary. Northam spent most of his early money on the primary contest to defeat former congressman Tom Perriello for the Democratic nomination while Gillespie had conserved funds in his primary match against Corey A. Stewart.

Gillespie, a longtime party operative and former head of the Republican National Committee, has been outspending Northam on campaign commercials airing on broadcast networks, according to VPAP data.

Gillespie so far has raised $8.5 million, lagging behind the past three GOP gubernatorial nominees by the same point in the campaign, according to a VPAP analysis. Northam has raised $12.6 million, short of Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s record-shattering $19.4 million haul heading into November. The historical numbers were adjusted for inflation.

Virginia is holding the only competitive gubernatorial contest this year and doesn’t limit campaign contributions, attracting national interest and dollars from donors who see it as a bellwether for next year’s midterm elections. The other race is in New Jersey, where the Democrat is considered the favorite.

Stoked by statues and Charlottesville, governor’s race enters new stretch

More than half of Northam’s latest haul came from 18 donors: The Democratic Governor’s Association and a collection of labor groups each gave $1 million, the Virginia League of Conservation Voters gave $700,000 and financier Michael Bills, who has been Northam’s largest individual donor, poured in an additional $312,000.

Republicans, who have been stoking Virginia Democrats' intraparty debate over fossil fuels, pointed out that Northam took $10,000 from Marcellus Gas Infrastructure.

Gillespie’s biggest single source of funds during the third quarter was the Republican Governors Association, which gave $2 million to Gillespie, more than half his haul, through its $8 million Virginia PAC.

Other notable Gillespie donors include Jay Faison, a conservative who promotes clean energy, with $133,000 and megadonors Steve Wynn, a casino magnate and confidant of the president, and Richard Uihlein, a shipping magnate, each pouring in $100,000.

Northam also had almost triple the number of small donors: 5,900 donations under $100 to Gillespie’s 2,100.

Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Cliff Hyra reported $1,063 cash on hand after raising nearly $15,000 in the July-August period.

The latest fundraising reports don’t reflect the full extent of outside groups planning their own expenditures to mobilize voters and air ads.

They include billionaire Tom Steyer’s NextGen America and the political arms of Planned Parenthood and the Virginia League of Conservation Voters on the Democratic side, and the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity on the Republican side.

Democratic groups plan $2 million coordinated digital effort for Northam

In addition to governor, Virginia voters are casting ballots on Nov. 7 for lieutenant governor, attorney general and 100 House of Delegates seats.

Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D), who is seeking a second term, ended the period with more than $2.9 million on hand and a commanding financial lead over his GOP opponent John Adams, who had $600,000.

Candidates for lieutenant governor were neck-and-neck. Democrat Justin Fairfax and state Sen. Jill Vogel (R-Fauquier) both raised more than $400,000 and ended the period with more than $300,000.

Several Democrats challenging Republican delegates in state legislative districts won by presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in November were among the top House fundraisers in the July-August period.

At the top of the list is Danica Roem, a former reporter whose candidacy has drawn national attention because she would be the first openly transgender person elected and seated in a state legislature. She raised $221,000, about half of which came from outside the district including from wealthy Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele.

Roem ended the period with a $67,000 advantage over Del. Robert Marshall (R-Prince William), a longtime target of Democrats for his socially conservative views, who had about $95,000 in cash on hand. Marshall also received out-of-district donations, including $5,000 from the antiabortion Family Research Council.

Marshall refuses to debate Roem, saying her supporters call him a bigot

Other top Democratic fundraisers included Elizabeth Guzman and Hala Ayala, who are competing in Prince William, and Chris Hurst, a former anchor running in southwest Virginia who recently became the first Democratic House candidate to air a television ad. All of them raised about $150,000.

Del. James LeMunyon (R-Fairfax) raised the most of any GOP lawmaker in the most recent period for his competitive race in Northern Virginia, taking in $145,000 to Democratic challenger Karrie Delaney’s $115,000. Delaney had slightly more cash on hand with $97,000.

Del. John Bell (Loudoun), one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents, raised $130,000 to his opponent Subba Kolla’s $94,000. Kolla, aided in part by the national Indian American donor community, had a more than $70,000 lead over Bell in cash on hand.

Regardless of their fundraising in the past quarter, Republican incumbents are sitting on an enormous cash advantage because of campaign accounts for House leaders and associated PACs. House Majority Leader Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), who is in a safe district and set to be speaker if Republicans maintain control of the chamber, had $591,000 on hand.

Gregory S. Schneider contributed to this report.