RICHMOND — Republican strategist Ed Gillespie raised $749,000 within five months for his 2017 bid for Virginia governor, bringing in money at a clip comparable to that set by the last two GOP contenders for the job.
Gillespie, who confirmed that he was running for governor in early October and formed a political action committee in November, concluded the first quarter of 2016 with $616,000 on hand, according to financial information that his campaign released to The Washington Post on Friday.
Although on par with that of recent Republican hopefuls, Gillespie’s early fundraising is well behind the $1.2 million that Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) brought in during the opening six-month stretch of his 2013 bid.
But McAuliffe got his fundraising operation rolling much closer to the start of that election, in the latter half of 2012, with most of the money coming in at the end of the year.
Gillespie’s sum represents money he started collecting in November, a full two years ahead of the 2017 election.
Less clear is how Gillespie’s recent haul stacks up against that of Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D), currently the only Democrat running to succeed the term-limited McAuliffe. Northam is primarily raising money through a campaign account, which only has to report finances every six months in a non-election year. His next campaign finance report, covering the first six months of this year, is due in July.
Gillespie is raising money through a political action committee, which must report quarterly. His next report is due next week.
Over 2015, Northam raised about $1 million, $661,000 of it through his campaign account and $344,000 through his Stronger Together PAC. Between the two accounts, he ended the year with $720,000 in the bank.
Northam, a pediatric neurologist and former state senator, has been unable to add to the bottom line for most of this year. As an elected official who presides over the state Senate, Northam was prohibited from raising funds during the 60-day legislative session that concluded in March.
Northam’s campaign manager, Brad Komar, provided a summary of the Democrat’s most recent campaign finance reports but declined to comment.
Gillespie brought in $266,000 over the first quarter of this year, putting him on pace to reach the $1 million mark by July, said Chris Leavitt, executive director of Gillespie’s Let’s Grow, Virginia! PAC.
Gillespie, who nearly unseated U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) in 2014, is considered the leading contender for the GOP nomination. But he has competition. U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) joined the race in December, but he has not filed any fundraising reports.
Former Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli II (R), who narrowly lost the 2013 governor’s race to McAuliffe, has said he is considering another run. Traveling the country to stump for Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz, Cuccinelli has said he will not make a decision until after the November election.
Gillespie raised an amount on par with what the last two Republican candidates pulled in over their first six months of fundraising. In the opening stretch of his successful 2009 campaign, former attorney general Robert F. McDonnell (R) raised $818,000. Cuccinelli raised $923,000 in his first six months, $477,000 of that through a transfer from his attorney general account.
Unlike the past two Republican contenders, Gillespie has never held elective office. But he can tap a national network of donors built over a long career in Washington politics, as was the case for McAuliffe, a former Democratic National Committee chairman and close friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Gillespie is a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and White House counselor to President George W. Bush.