Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Perriello has raised more than $1.1 million in the month since he entered the race, his campaign announced Monday.
Analysts say it is an early sign that the former congressman is capable of mounting a serious primary challenge to Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, who declared his candidacy two years ago and had won backing from nearly every top elected Democrat before Perriello made his surprise entry into the race on Jan. 5.
Perriello campaign officials declined to detail the sources of contributions, beyond saying they included 2,500 online donations. Virginia does not cap campaign giving, meaning fundraising totals can be skewed by six-figure checks.
The state requires candidates for governor to file their first campaign finance reports for this year on April 17.
Both Democrats and Republicans will hold a primary election in June; the general election is in November. Virginia and New Jersey are the only states with gubernatorial elections this year.
Perriello’s first-month haul is “not a super-huge amount, but it’s an amount that makes people take notice,” said Bob Holsworth, a longtime Virginia political analyst. “His first hurdle is to overcome the sense that he got in too late and this is already a done deal. A combination of the early polls and the fact he was able to raise a little money is very close to getting him over that hurdle.”
Jennifer Duffy, who analyzes gubernatorial races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, said the $1.1 million haul is a sign “that Perriello is competitive, that this is a real race.”
A poll released last week by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University showed Northam with an edge over Perriello among Democratic-leaning voters, but also found that voters were largely unfamiliar with both Democratic candidates and most were undecided.
Northam reported raising $2.7 million last year and had about $2.5 million available in campaign accounts heading into 2017.
His spokesman, David Turner, said Northam raised an additional $300,000 from 7,000 donors in the first week of January, before the state legislative session began, suspending his ability to accept contributions. He can resume fundraising after the session ends Feb. 25.
Perriello’s surprise campaign started as a group of his former aides and loyalists working out of his Alexandria home. He now has office space in the city and has hired press aides from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign to manage his communications.
Perriello, who served one term in the U.S. House of Representatives that ended in 2011, has pitched himself as a fierce opponent of President Trump and has made several fundraising appeals asking donors to repudiate Trump by giving to his campaign.
The Democratic candidates have steered clear of directly criticizing one another, instead attacking Trump and Republican Ed Gillespie, who has led polls in his party’s four-way race. Gillespie is competing for the nomination against Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey A. Stewart, state Sen. Frank W. Wagner (R-Virginia Beach) and distillery owner Denver Riggleman.
Northam’s campaign started running digital advertisements on Monday that said, “Gillespie Backs Trump Muslim Ban.”