RICHMOND — Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell continues to far outraise his Republican challenger, who has nevertheless picked up support from some conservative heavy hitters.
One week before the primary, incumbents are generally ahead in the money contest in General Assembly races across the state, according to newly released finance reports compiled by Virginia Public Access Project.
Howell (R-Stafford) has enjoyed a nearly 7-to-1 fundraising advantage over Susan Stimpson, a former Stafford County supervisor, who represents the first serious challenge he has faced since winning office nearly three decades ago.
The candidates, who were once political allies, are locked in a battle to represent a district south of Washington that includes Fredericksburg and Stafford County. Sensing an opportunity to harness the voter disaffection that helped Dave Brat (R-Va.) oust former House majority leader Eric Cantor from office a year ago, Stimpson has tried to paint Howell as a tax-happy, closeted liberal — an allegation he has called ridiculous.
Since the start of the year, Howell has raised $717,496, compared with her $104,895.
Howell, 72, raised $551,758 in the latest reporting period, which covers April and most of May, leaving him with $527,669 to spend in the final weeks of the campaign.
Howell’s list of biggest donors in the latest reporting period includes some of the top names in Virginia trade and industry. The Virginia Dental Association and Virginia Beer Wholesalers Association gave him $25,000 each, the Virginia Wine Wholesalers Association pitched in $17,500, and the Medical Society of Virginia donated $12,500.
The Realtors Political Action Committee of Virginia gave him $15,000, on top of the $40,000 that the group’s national counterpart reported last month. The campaign, though, has emphasized small-dollar checks that Howell has received from individuals in the district.
“This strong report is a sign of the momentum we’ve built heading to Election Day,” Howell spokesman Matt Moran said. “Not only do we have the resources to win on June 9, but the speaker is also well positioned to help protect and grow the conservative Republican majority in the House of Delegates this fall.”
Stimpson, 43, raised $28,663 over the same time period and had $21,032 cash on hand.
She picked up support from big names in national conservative politics. Stimpson received $2,500 from Foster Friess, the wealthy donor who has bankrolled campaigns for Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, and she has the support of Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.
The Pittsburgh-based Freedom and Opportunity PAC, which is tied to a firm founded by the former campaign manager of Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.), paid for $5,000 in in-kind services including mailers.
“Bill Howell should wear a racing suit to work so he can display a patch for each of the special-interest and corporate sponsors driving his tax-and-spend, big-government agenda,” Stimpson campaign consultant Tim Edson said. “In the remaining seven days, Susan will continue what she has done throughout this campaign — knocking on doors and communicating her positive, conservative vision to voters.”
Edson remains Stimpson’s biggest backer and is working for her for no payment. Stimpson also recently shed her top two campaign staffers, which her opponents take as a sign of weakness.
The latest report does not reflect the cost of mailers paid for by the Campaign for Liberty, a group controlled by former U.S. congressman Ron Paul, which accuse Howell of “supporting Obama’s health-care agenda.”
Yet Howell counts his opposition to Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s plan to expand Medicaid to 400,000 Virginians among his greatest accomplishments.
After Howell, the House candidates who raised the most money in the latest fundraising period were House Majority Leader M. Kirkland Cox (R-Colonial Heights), who pulled in about $100,000, and Del. Thomas A. “Tag” Greason (R-Loudoun), who raised about $82,000. Next on the list was a Democrat, Stephen Edward Heretick. He is mounting a primary challenge to one of the most conservative Democrats in the House, Del. Johnny Joannou (D-Portsmouth).
Heretick brought in nearly $78,000 and had $34,000 on hand, while Joannou raised about $49,000 and had $133,000 to spend.
Outnumbered 2 to 1 in the lower chamber, Democratic House candidates lagged in fundraising during the most recent period. For the House, four Democrats ranked in the top 10: Heretick, Del. Kathleen Murphy, Jennifer Boysko and House Minority Leader David J. Toscano (D-Charlottesville).
Murphy represents a Northern Virginia swing district that stretches from the Potomac River in McLean through Great Falls and into Loudoun County. She squeaked out a victory in a January special election for the 34th District seat that Republican Barbara J. Comstock vacated to move up to the U.S. Congress. Murphy raised $66,000 in the latest fundraising period and had $175,047 on hand. She faces a rematch with Republican Craig Parisot, who raised just less than $42,000 in the latest period and had $85,000 on hand.
Boysko, who is seeking to replace retiring Del. Thomas Davis Rust (R-Herndon), raised about $57,000. Toscano ranked ninth in House fundraising over the period, bringing in about $54,000.
On the Senate side, former delegate and businessman Alexander McMurtrie raised the most money over the period — $286,039 — by opening wide his personal checkbook. The self-funded Democrat is in a three-way primary battle with environmental activist Emily C. Francis, who brought in $41,000, and Daniel Gecker, who raised $137,000 — $75,000 of it from his own pocket.
They are competing for the Richmond-area seat being vacated by Sen. John C. Watkins (R-Powhatan). Democrats think the seat is their best pickup opportunity in the closely divided Senate. Republicans say they have a strong candidate in Glen Sturtevant, a Richmond School Board member and lawyer. Sturtevant, who raised $53,000 over the period, does not have competition for the GOP nomination.
The other top fundraisers on the Senate side were Sen. Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. (R-James City), who raised $205,000; Sen. Frank W. Wagner (R-Virginia Beach), with about $202,000; Republican Siobhan Stolle Dunnavant, with $196,000; and Senate Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax), with $176,000.
Dunnavant, an obstetrician-gynecologist with one brother in the House and another serving as Virginia Beach sheriff, is in a four-way primary race for the seat being vacated by Walter A. Stosch (R-Henrico). Of her GOP rivals, former delegate Bill Janis raised the most, with about $71,000.
The primary is June 9.