A national group seeking to help Democrats win control of the Virginia General Assembly is trying a novel approach in key areas of the state: a money challenge that rewards candidates who visit as many voters as possible.
The Future Now Fund, which steers money to Democrats seeking state offices across the country, will split $400,000 among nine candidates seeking seats in the House of Delegates currently held by Republicans. Each will get a minimum of $5,000. The four who knock on the most doors each month will each receive an additional $20,000.
Daniel Squadron, a former Democratic state senator from New York and director of the two-year-old group, said the challenge is meant to help candidates establish deep roots with voters in GOP-held districts.
Virginia is the only state in the country where control over the legislature is at stake this fall, with all 140 General Assembly seats on the ballot and Republicans holding razor-thin majorities in both chambers.
A spokesman for the state Republican Party said there are no outside groups funding their candidates in the same way, and said Democrats need the help because of scandals affecting Gov. Ralph Northam, Attorney General Mark R. Herring and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax this year.
“It is no surprise that Democrats are turning to out-of-state money,” John March said in a statement. “Virginians aren’t donating to Democrats because they realize that Democratic leadership brings nothing but shame and embarrassment to the Commonwealth.”
Future Now Fund was co-founded by entrepreneur Adam Pritzker, a member of the billionaire family that owns the Hyatt hotel chain. It raises money through small online donations.
The Democrats it is funding include: Sheila Bynum-Coleman, running in the district represented by House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights); Clint Jenkins, in the district held by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Chris Jones (R-Suffolk) and Joshua Cole, seeking the seat held by Del. Robert M. Thomas Jr. (R-Stafford), who faces a primary challenge June 11.
The other candidates are: Larry Barnett in Del. Roxann L. Robinson’s Chesterfield district; Len Myers in the district held by Del. Barry D. Knight (Virginia Beach); Nancy Guy, who is challenging Del. Christopher P. Stolle (Virginia Beach); Karen Powers Mallard, who is running against Del. Glenn R. Davis Jr. (Virginia Beach); Phil Hernandez, challenging Del. Robert S. Bloxom Jr. (Accomack); and the winner of the Democratic primary election for the seat being vacated by Del. Riley E. Ingram (R-Hopewell).
Bonuses for knocking on the most voter doors will be awarded to the top four candidates every month from July through October, Squadron said. But only voter contacts made by the candidates themselves will count — not visits made by campaign staff or volunteers. “Whether you raise dollars or not, if you knock on this many doors, you’re going to increase your chances of winning,” he said.
Future Now said it will also contribute $5,000 each to eight House incumbents the group endorsed in 2017.