RICHMOND — Two national Democratic political action committees will pour a combined $600,000 into Virginia this year to try to wrest control of the legislature from Republicans.
Priorities USA and Emily’s List announced Monday that they will back some of the 36 female candidates around the state who support abortion rights, in part with a $600,000 digital campaign “focused on voter persuasion and mobilization.”
Democrats picked up 15 seats in the state House in 2017, riding a wave of antipathy toward President Trump. This year, both the House and Senate will be on the ballot, and the GOP is defending narrow majorities in both chambers.
“Women made history in 2017 when they were elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in record numbers, helping break the Republican supermajority,” said Stephanie Schriock, president of Emily’s List, which backs Democratic women who support abortion rights.
“This year, with both chambers up for election, redistricting around the corner and ongoing Republican attacks on women and families, the stakes could not be higher, which is why Emily’s List is doubling down on its effort to turn the Virginia Assembly blue by making our largest-ever investment in a state legislative effort,” she said.
The announcement came on top of one from billionaire Tom Steyer, who said Monday he was pouring $1 million into efforts to register at least 12,000 millennial voters in Virginia through his liberal advocacy group NextGen America.
John March, a spokesman for the Republican Party of Virginia, said the flood of money from national Democratic groups was a sign that Democrats’ in-state fundraising operations have been hobbled by scandals involving the state’s three leading Democrats: Gov. Ralph Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark R. Herring.
In February, Northam and Herring admitted to wearing blackface as young men. Two women came forward at that time to accuse Fairfax of sexually assaulting them in the early 2000s — allegations he has firmly denied. All three remain in office.
“We’re not surprised that these two radical liberal groups are donating so much out-of-state money,” March said, referring to Priorities USA and Emily’s List. “Ralph Northam, Justin Fairfax and Mark Herring are all pariahs to the Democratic Party and have absolutely no fundraising power. The 2019 message of the Virginia Democrats seems to be, ‘Embrace racism, embrace the most radical factions of their party.’ ”
Virginia is one of four states with legislative races this year, with all 140 seats on the ballot in November. It is the only state where control of the chambers appears to be at stake, given that elsewhere, one party or the other enjoys overwhelming majorities. The GOP holds a three-seat edge in Virginia’s House of Delegates (51 to 48) and a bare majority in the Senate (20 to 19), with one vacant seat in each chamber.
Several national Democratic groups have been organizing in Virginia this year, with some seeing it as a bellwether for the 2020 presidential elections.