Two state Senate districts in the Richmond suburbs topped the early fundraising charts about four months out from November’s General Assembly elections.
Democrat Ghazala Hashmi reported raising $182,793 between May 31 and June 30, surpassing the $114,068 raised by Sen. Glen Sturtevant, R-Richmond, according to midyear campaign finance reports filed this week.
With almost $300,000 raised between Sturtevant and Hashmi, the 10th Senate District saw the highest fundraising total in the state for the early summer reporting period.
The neighboring 12th Senate District wasn’t far behind. In that race, Del. Debra Rodman, D-Henrico, edged out Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, for the period, raising $146,837 compared with $144,059 for Dunnavant.
Despite being outraised in the most recent period, Sturtevant and Dunnavant still have sizable cash-on-hand advantages over their opponents, according to data compiled by the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project.
Sturtevant reported having $413,556 in the bank, compared with $143,491 for Hashmi, who had to spend money to win a competitive Democratic primary on June 11. Dunnavant had $331,836 on hand, compared with $233,657 for Rodman, who also had a contested primary last month.
Political analyst Bob Holsworth said the fundraising numbers are an early indicator of where the two parties will be waging the most intense battles in the fall, with control of the legislature at stake.
“It’s incredibly important for these challengers to raise money early so that the outside money will come in later,” Holsworth said. “And that’s what’s going to happen in both of these races. ... Central Virginia in some ways is going to be ground zero for the legislative races. Because we’re a legitimately competitive region right now.”
The results in the two Richmond-area Senate races mirrored the statewide dynamic. Democrats said they’re seeing fundraising momentum that’s allowing them to gain ground in GOP-held districts in the Richmond region, Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia. Republicans pointed to the hefty bank accounts they’ve built up over years in power and argued they’ll have the resources to protect their thin majorities in November.
“It’s no secret that Democrats are going to be well-funded by millionaires and outside groups,” said Parker Slaybaugh, a spokesman for House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights.
All 140 General Assembly seats are up for election, and Democrats can flip both chambers by gaining just a few seats.
In a Newport News-based district that was famously decided by a random tiebreaker in 2017, Democrat Shelly Simonds raised $95,281 while Del. David Yancey, R-Newport News, raised $51,013.
In a news release, the House Democratic Caucus noted that their candidates outraised Republicans rivals in several swing districts.
In the Richmond area, Del. Roxann Robinson, R-Chesterfield, was outraised by Democrat Larry Barnett, who finished the period about $5,000 ahead of Robinson in cash on hand.
“House Republicans’ initial cash on hand advantage is rapidly slipping away,” said Trevor Southerland, executive director of the House Democratic Caucus.
The results didn’t show Democrats outpacing Republicans across the board.
Republican hopeful Garrison Coward kept pace with Del. Dawn Adams, D-Richmond, raising $122 more than the incumbent in another battleground district in the Richmond suburbs.
Gov. Ralph Northam’s fundraising appeared to rebound somewhat from the anemic pace it fell to after the blackface scandal broke in February. Northam’s PAC reported raising $309,707 between April 1 and June 30, a sum that still fell far short of the seven-figure fundraising totals the last two governors have shown for the same period in their tenures.
Fundraising numbers for Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring, both facing scandals of their own, were similarly lackluster compared with their predecessors, a VPAP analysis showed.
The governor reported spending $150,000 with the Alston & Bird law firm for work related to the controversy over the racist photo printed on Northam’s 1984 medical school yearbook page.
Democratic candidates also appear less skittish about taking Northam’s money. The governor’s PAC made several large donations to allies in competitive districts, including a $25,000 contribution to Hashmi.
Hashmi received a $50,000 donation from Charlottesville investor and Democratic megadonor Michael Bills, who made five-figure donations to numerous Democratic hopefuls.
Sturtevant received $25,000 from GOPAC Election Fund, the financial arm of a national GOP group that says its mission is to build a “healthy roster of prepared and Republican leaders ready to run for higher office.”