October fundraising shows enthusiasm for Democrats, Youngkin deploying out-of-state money

(AP photo/Steve Helber)

By Carolyn Fiddler

October 31, 2023

Money doesn’t win elections, but it definitely makes it easier for candidates to communicate with voters, canvas folks in their districts, and more. October’s campaign finance reports for Virginia’s General Assembly races dropped recently, and Democratic fundraising numbers show continued enthusiasm for the party’s candidates.

These campaign finance reports covered the entire month of September – key weeks for candidates trying to fund their GOTV efforts, paid media, and other work in the final days of Virginia’s House of Delegates and state Senate elections.

As with the previous fundraising period, Democratic candidates in both chambers outpaced their GOP counterparts.

Democratic candidates for the House of Delegates raised a combined $8.8 million, while Republicans brought in $8.3 million.

Democrats running for the state Senate raised almost $6.5 million collectively; Republicans raised just over $6 million.

It’s worth keeping in mind that these totals include some truly massive donations from Glenn Youngkin’s Spirit of Virginia PAC – which brought in a whopping $6.5 million through Oct. 7.

Youngkin’s remarkable fundraising totals are largely the result of just three donors, two of whom are very much not Virginians.

TikTok investor Jeff Yass is Pennsylvania’s richest man and a huge spender in GOP races in the state. But despite the fact that Youngkin banned TikTok from all state-owned phones and other electronic devices last December, Youngkin recently accepted $2 million from Yass for his PAC.

Florida megadonor Thomas Peterffy added another $1 million to the $2 million he donated to Youngkin over the summer.

The third-largest donor to Spirit of Virginia last month is actually a Virginian, though: It’s Glenn Youngkin himself. At the end of September, he donated $500,000 to his own PAC.

Youngkin’s PAC has not been simply sitting on its millions; the October fundraising reports show that Spirit of Virginia shoveled millions of dollars into key GOP races during the last reporting period.

Republican Senate candidate Siobhan Dunnavant, who’s locked in a fierce battle with Democratic Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg in suburban Richmond’s Senate District 16, received $727,000 from Spirit of Virginia over the course of that month. After the reporting deadline, the governor’s PAC gave her another $229,000; Dunnavant has received more money from Spirit of Virginia than any other candidate to date. But even though he lacked a billionaire benefactor, VanValkenburg stayed competitive in terms of money raised over the reporting period: his receipts totalled $866,625.

Republican Tara Durant is running in Senate District 27, which includes part of Fredericksburg and the area to the north and appeared to be a fairly safe GOP-leaning district earlier in the cycle; Youngkin won this seat in 2021 54-45%. But now Youngkin appears to be attempting to bail out Durant’s struggling campaign.

The race for SD-27 seems to have become more competitive over recent months. Democrat Joel Griffin has raised a boatload of cash – over $1.7 million since entering the race in February – while Durant, despite the fundraising contacts and advantages she has as a sitting member of the House of Delegates, has raised less than $1.2 million since Jan. 1. That total includes September donations of $130,000 from a national Republican campaign committee, but not the $400,000 Spirit of Virginia threw her way after the Sept. 30 candidate reporting deadline.

Further complicating Durant’s quest to win this GOP-leaning district is the fact that GOP primary loser Matt Strickland, a right-wing, anti-vax conspiracy theorist, is mounting a write-in campaign to fight what he describes as a “corrupt” primary campaign against him.

Spirit of Virginia’s biggest donations of the year have gone to the Republican Party of Virginia – almost $3 million, specifically. The state GOP has turned around and invested in various Republican House and Senate candidates, though not nearly as lavishly as Youngkin’s PAC has.

With mere days remaining until Election Day, we’ll learn soon enough if Youngkin’s ultra-rich GOP benefactors speak more loudly with their dollars than Virginia Democrats’ donor base.

  • Carolyn Fiddler

    Carolyn Fiddler is Dogwood's chief political correspondent. She is also the nation’s foremost expert in state politics with almost two decades of experience in statehouse machinations, and her comic book collection is probably bigger than yours.



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