House Democrats have a nearly $1 million cash advantage over Republicans in their bid to take control of the state’s lower chamber ahead of November’s pivotal elections.
New campaign finance filings show Democratic candidates in the House had $8.6 million on hand as of Aug. 31, compared with Republicans’ $7.7 million.
Republicans had the edge in the Senate with $5.3 million to Democrats’ $5 million, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.
Democrats’ balance in the House was more than twice the $3.7 million they had on hand at this point in 2017, while House Republicans’ balance was only slightly more than the $7.4 million they had at this stage two years ago, according to VPAP.
Every seat in the General Assembly is up for grabs Nov. 5, when Republicans will work to defend their thin majorities in both chambers as Democrats attempt to take full control of Virginia government.
Combining both chambers, Democratic candidates have a total cash advantage of more than $500,000, boosted in part by heightened national attention on Virginia’s closely watched legislative races.
“Republicans are getting out-raised and outworked. Their house is on fire,” Democratic Party of Virginia spokesman Jake Rubenstein said.
Republicans on Tuesday said Democrats’ big fundraising gains are inflated by out-of-state dollars or wealthy donors.
“This reporting period has shown Democrats care more about their big-money special interest groups and out-of-state donors than they care about hard-working families here in Virginia,” House GOP caucus spokesman Parker Slaybaugh said.
Only four states are conducting legislative elections this fall — Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi and New Jersey. The closest fight for control is in Virginia, which means its contests, a year before the presidential election, are attracting outside cash and are being watched as a bellwether of voter momentum and policy attitudes.
The race in a competitive House district outside Richmond held by Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, is attracting heavy fundraising for both the incumbent and Democratic challenger Sheila Bynum-Coleman.
The powerful speaker raised $390,453 in July and August, versus Bynum-Coleman’s haul of $330,347. Cox holds the cash-on-hand advantage with $590,172, to $341,463 for Bynum-Coleman.
The fundraising figures fall behind only Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, who raked in $521,345 to defend his seat with a write-in campaign, and Del. Debra Rodman, D-Henrico, who raised $408,292 in pursuit of a Richmond-area Senate seat held by Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico.
Rodman outraised every other Senate candidate in the July 1 to Aug. 31 reporting period, with big-ticket contributions from Planned Parenthood Virginia and Gov. Ralph Northam’s political arm, which gave her $36,000 and $25,000, respectively.
Dunnavant followed Rodman with $273,482, the second-highest fundraising figure in the Senate during the reporting period. The 12th Senate District that Dunnavant is defending has long been controlled by Republicans but has tilted toward Democratic candidates since 2016, when Hillary Clinton won it by 2 percentage points.
Rodman ended the period with $468,278 in cash on hand, nearly $200,000 more than Dunnavant.
Two other Richmond-area Republicans defending their seats — Sens. Glen Sturtevant and Amanda Chase, both of Chesterfield County — were outraised by their Democratic opponents.
Democrat Ghazala Hashmi raised $269,710 in July and August to Sturtevant’s $138,127. Sturtevant had an edge in cash on hand — with $352,690 to Hashmi’s $301,824.
Sturtevant is a top target for Democrats, given that his district, like Dunnavant’s, has supported Democrats in recent statewide elections.
Democrat Amanda Pohl raised $149,649 to Chase’s $99,701. Pohl had $152,126 in cash on hand, about $25,000 more than Chase, but is running in a traditionally Republican district. Republican Ed Gillespie won it by 7 points over Northam in the 2017 election for governor, and Republican Donald Trump carried the district by 11 points in 2016.
Senate Republican Caucus spokesman Jeff Ryer said strong fundraising by Democrats in competitive Senate races isn’t a threat to the party.
“In almost every competitive Senate contest this decade, Democrats have outspent Republicans,” Ryer said, saying some of the money comes from “out-of-state billionaires.”
“We have retained the majority in spite of this disparity because of great candidates and a superior message,” he said.
In the House, Del. Dawn Adams, a Democrat who is defending her seat against Republican challenger Garrison Coward in Richmond’s West End, outraised her opponent $86,804 to $36,174. Adams finished the period with $235,570 on hand to Coward’s $23,104.
Adams is serving her first term after unseating Del. G. Manoli Loupassi, a Republican who had represented the district since 2009. Adams is tangled in a lawsuit filed by a former aide who accuses the delegate of hacking into her online accounts and failing to compensate her for work the aide did for Adams’ health care consulting firm.
Another closely watched local contest is a rematch between Del. Roxann Robinson, R-Chesterfield, and Democrat Larry Barnett. Two years ago Robinson edged Barnett by 128 votes.
In the two-month period Barnett raised $158,989 to Robinson’s $44,677. Barnett had $249,584 in cash on hand at the end of August, to Robinson’s $162,974.
Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne gave money to two Republican legislators because, he said, “they were responsible for Medicaid expansion” in the budget adopted last year. The two-year budget expanded eligibility for health coverage under the federal-state program on Jan. 1.
Layne gave $500 last month to House Appropriations Chairman Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, who is facing Democrat Clint Jenkins in a district that flipped from majority Republican to majority Democrat under a court-ordered redistricting plan.
Jones raised $164,821 in July and August, and has the most cash on hand of any House candidate at $603,008. A copy of Jenkins’ report was not available on the Department of Elections’ website Tuesday afternoon.
The Finance secretary also gave $500 to Senate Finance Co-Chairman Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta, in May. Hanger defeated Tina Freitas in a Republican primary in June for the party nomination.
The two reported donations are Layne’s only this year. He said he also gave to Northam’s political action committee this quarter, but PAC director Mark Bergman declined to confirm the information. PACs file quarterly finance reports Oct. 15.