RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Terry McAuliffe held on to his commanding fundraising lead in the Democratic nomination contest for Virginia governor, and incumbent Attorney General Mark Herring maintained a financial edge over his primary challenger, according to the latest campaign finance filings made public this week.
Here's a look at those and other key takeaways from the final comprehensive reports in this year's statewide races before the June 8 primary:
McAuliffe, the former governor and prodigious Democratic Party fundraiser who is seeking a second term in office, continues to lead the pack in both receipts and cash on hand at the end of the latest reporting period, though GOP nominee Glenn Youngkin brought in an even bigger haul.
McAuliffe, widely considered the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, raised about $2.8 million in cash over the period from April 1 to May 27, according to an accounting by the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonpartisan tracker of money in politics.
That's more than three times what his closest Democratic competitor, former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, brought in — about $876,000 in cash.
State Sen. Jennifer McClellan was next, with about $409,000, followed by Del. Lee Carter, who raised nearly $32,000 and then Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who reported just over $4,000 in cash raised.
Carter, a self-identified socialist and state lawmaker simultaneously seeking to hold on to his seat in the state House, refuses donations from for-profit entities and industry interest groups, to the extent they may be offered.
Fairfax is campaigning while facing allegations of sexual assault that he strenuously denies but which have affected his campaign and ability to fundraise.
McAuliffe also ended the reporting period with a multimillion-dollar lead among the Democrats in cash on hand. He reported about $3.27 million, while none of his primary opponents had more than Carroll Foy's approximately $282,000.
Youngkin, who won the GOP nomination at an unassembled convention in May, raised far more than any candidate during the reporting period: about $8.34 million. Most of that, $6.5 million, was from loans he made to his campaign, VPAP's accounting showed.
A wealthy former executive of an investment firm and a political newcomer, Youngkin reported spending about $7.2 million over the reporting period, ending with a balance of about $4.4 million cash on hand.
Two-term incumbent Mark Herring outraised his challenger, state Del. Jay Jones, this period when accounting for both cash and in-kind donations.
Herring's in-kind donations, which came to nearly $877,000, were almost entirely from the Democratic Attorneys General Association, and they prompted a sharply worded complaint from Jones's campaign, filed Wednesday with the state Department of Elections.
Jones' campaign accused Herring and the association of structuring the spending in an “illegal” way that obscures the initial donors.
Sean Rankin, executive director of the Democratic Attorneys General Association, said in a statement that the association was in full compliance with all applicable state and federal campaign finance laws.
Andrea Gaines, a spokeswoman for the Department of Elections, confirmed that the agency was in receipt of the complaint and said it would “respond as soon as we have had a chance to fully review the matter.”
The primary winner will face GOP nominee Jason Miyares in November. Miyares reported raising nearly $248,000 in total receipts, including cash and in-kind contributions.
In the lieutenant governor's race, the new reports show that Del. Hala Ayala, around whom establishment Democrats have coalesced, accepted $100,000 from Dominion Energy’s political action committee. That's despite previously making a pledge to environmental group Clean Virginia to refuse Dominion money.
Dominion, which has historically been a lobbying powerhouse in Richmond, has faced a backlash from environmentalists who believe the company has outsize influence in Virginia politics. Clean Virginia says 44 out of 100 state delegates and eight of 40 state senators indicated on a questionnaire that they don't take money from Dominion Energy.
Asked about her decision to break her pledge to Clean Virginia, the campaign sent a statement from Ayala saying that "my decisions in elected office have always been based on what’s best for Virginia families, and as Lieutenant Governor, that’s exactly what I’ll keep doing.”
In a statement, Clean Virginia said it would be launching a $125,000 statewide digital ad campaign to ensure voters were aware of her “broken promise.”
“Del. Ayala’s actions are uniquely disappointing and deceptive — she has campaigned for statewide office on a promise to Virginians that she would hold polluting utility monopolies accountable and then accepted a massive contribution from Dominion Energy. That is not leadership — it is desperation,” Clean Virginia Executive Director Brennan Gilmore said in a statement.
Del. Sam Rasoul, who leads the field in fundraising, has done so despite a pledge to reject all corporate donations and rely only on individual contributions. He, too, has faced criticism, though: In 2017 he pledged while running for delegate not to accept individual contributions of more than $5,000. In this race he has received dozens of individual contributions exceeding that amount including five donors who each gave between $20,000 and $75,000.
In an interview, Rasoul said that running a statewide campaign requires accepting larger individual donations.
“I’m in a much larger race.” he said. “The best way to remedy all of this is public financing.”
Rasoul has said campaign-finance reform is a top item on his agenda. He said he has supported reforms that have been killed by the legislature even after Democrats took control of both chambers.
The winner of the six-way Democratic primary will face Winsome Sears, a former member of the Virginia House, in the general election.
Sears reported raising nearly $327,000 over the reporting period, less than Rasoul's approximately $492,000 in cash.
This story was first published on June 2, 2021. It was updated on June 3, 2021 to correct that 44 state delegates and eight state senators did not sign a pledge to environmental group Clean Virginia against accepting money from Dominion Energy but rather indicated on a questionnaire that they don’t take money from Dominion.
Barakat reported from Falls Church, Virginia.