Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam maintained his commanding financial lead over Republican Ed Gillespie through September, new campaign finance filings show.
Northam, the current lieutenant governor, ended the month with $5.7 million on hand after raising $7.2 million in September, according to data compiled Tuesday by the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project.
Republican contender Ed Gillespie had $2.5 million as of Sept. 30 after raising $4.4 million.
The combined fundraising hauls include millions in “in-kind support” — spending to support the campaigns on voter outreach and other matters — that is not direct cash contributions.
With three weeks to go, the finances of the gubernatorial contest are still fluid. Virginia does not cap how much individuals and organizations can donate, and millions typically pour into the contest in the final weeks.
Libertarian candidate Cliff Hyra is continuing to run a low-budget campaign, records show, with $4,000 heading into October after raising $9,000.
Despite Northam’s enormous financial advantage, polls show the race is still tight.
A weekly tracking poll released Tuesday by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University found Northam with a four-point lead — within the survey’s margin of error. That compares with a slightly statistically significant seven-point lead from last week.
Monmouth University released a poll Tuesday that found Northam and Gillespie virtually tied while consolidating their support in favorable regions. Northam led in vote-rich Northern Virginia by 32 points, while Gillespie led in rural western Virginia by 33 points.
Quinnipiac University and Washington Post/Schar School polls that showed Northam with a double-digit lead in the last month were outliers.
In September, Northam collected donations of under $100 from nearly 7,000 people while Gillespie pulled equivalent donations from 2,700 people.
Northam’s top donor in September was the Democratic Governors' Association, which gave $1 million. Reports also show a previously announced $450,000 donation from Everytown, a gun-control group bankrolled by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Unions were also big givers: A group allied with Laborers’ International Union of North America donated $300,000, the United Food and Commercial Workers poured in $225,000, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers gave $100,000. Novelist John Grisham, who lives in Charlottesville, also pitched in $100,000.
Northam also drew six-figure in-kind support from NextGen America, billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer’s group, and the political arms of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters and Planned Parenthood Virginia. All three have previously announced they would spend millions on field and digital operations supporting Northam.
Gillespie raked in $2 million from the Republican Governors Association, which previously gave $3 million. He also picked up $100,000 checks from the former head of Advance Auto Parts, Roanoke’s Nicholas Taubman; Houston Texans owner Robert McNair; tobacco giant Altria; and home builder Dwight Schar.
Through August, Gillespie’s election-year fundraising haul was the lowest of any major-party gubernatorial nominee since 2001. That surprised many observers, who expected his deep connections to the Republican donor class as the former head of the Republican National Committee and as a corporate consultant to result in a flood of donations.
Republicans attributed the fundraising lag to a variety of reasons, including donors who were tuned out after the presidential contest and an unfavorable political climate for the GOP in Virginia.
Gillespie picked up the pace in September, bringing his total election-year haul to $13 million. That’s more than the Democratic winners in 2001 and 2005 raised by the same point in the campaign, according to an inflation-adjusted analysis by the Virginia Public Access Project.
But Northam raised about $20 million this year, although that is well short of Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D)’s record-shattering $26 million haul at the same point. McAuliffe cannot seek consecutive terms under the state constitution.
Gillespie downplayed Northam’s financial advantage on Tuesday, telling reporters that he had enough money to get his message out to voters
Both gubernatorial candidates also brought in party all-stars to help raise money in October. Hillary Clinton headlined a Northam fundraiser in New York on Oct. 4, and former president George W. Bush headlined two Virginia fundraisers Monday for Gillespie.
In the down-ballot races, Attorney General Mark Herring (D) went head to head with his Republican challenger John Adams in September: Each raised about $1.6 million and spent more than $1.9 million. But Herring had $2.5 million in campaign accounts as of Sept. 30, 10 times the size of Adams’s remaining war chest.
The Republican Attorneys General Association has since helped refill Adams’s coffers, pouring in $1.6 million in October.
Democratic lieutenant governor nominee Justin Fairfax in September raised $600,000, twice as much as his Republican rival, Jill Holtzman Vogel. He ended the month with $568,000 on hand to Vogel’s $168,000.
Vogel, a state senator from Fauquier County, has been able to count on her father, megadonor William B. Holtzman, for help in the final stretch of earlier campaigns. He gave $250,000 in the final weeks of her heated primary contest.