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Donations Favor Statehouse Dems and RVA City Government Under Ethical Cloud: Political Analysis | September 20, 2019

Craig Carper and Jeff Schapiro

Jeff Schapiro from the  Richmond Times-Dispatch joins VPM News Director Craig Carper for this week's political analysis.

Topics include: the latest General Assembly fundraising figures which suggest donors believe Democrats could take back the statehouse, the big names campaigning for Virginia Democrats and Richmond mayor Levar Stoney whose administration is under an ethical cloud after he fired Chief Administrative Officer Selena Cuffee-Glenn for nepotism. 


Phil Liles:  This is VPM news.  I'm Phil Liles in studio now with VPM News Director Craig Carper and the Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist Jeff Schapiro with this week's commentary, and good Friday morning to both of you.  Jeff and Craig, money makes the world go round, don't I know it, House and Senate races too.

Craig Carper:  That's right.  Thanks Phil, good to be back.  Jeff, nice to see you again.

Jeff Schapiro:  And you Craig.

Carper:  So the latest fundraising figures came in this week, and it suggests that donors big and small believe Democrats have a real shot at taking back the Senate and the House.

Schapiro:  And the gang at VPAP has been mashing the numbers, and looked at from 50,000 feet the Democrats on the House side are ahead by about $900,000.  They're only trailing in the Senate by about $300,000. Let's just sort of put this in perspective.  The House Democrats have a total of $8.6 million in the bank, Senate Republicans $5.3 million, and this is sort of a flip from the same point in the campaign four years ago when the House and Senate were up, House Republicans were up by $3.7 million in 2015 and Senate Republicans were up by $1.2 million in 2015.  Now let’s point out the money tends to gravitate in the direction and toward the candidates that the check writers believe will win, assume they have a good chance of winning.  And there's a lot of complaining among Republicans that these sort of hyper-inflated figures, because there have been some mega-donors putting in, you know, big six figure donations to Democrats.  But of course, if they were making big six figure donations to Republicans, you don't think the Republicans would be complaining.  Now, you know, there is a big six figure donation to a single Republican, Nick Freitas.  It's from one of these conservative mega-donors in the Midwest, and his name is Richard Uihlein.  He's from the family that started Schlitz beer, the beer that made Milwaukee famous. 

Carper:  Oh, right.

Schapiro:  This $500,000 donation to Nick Freitas, perhaps it will do the same for him.  Remember, he failed to get his candidate paperwork done in a timely manner and has to run a write-in campaign to save his seat.  So you can see that there's a certain amount of high dollar beneficence on both sides, but you have to drill down to really kind of find it.  What's really interesting is how competitive some of these Democratic challengers have been.  And two examples come to mind.  For the state Senate, Debra Rodman, who's giving up a House seat in Henrico to take on Siobhan Dunnavant in Henrico, has out-raised the incumbent at this point in the cycle.  Ghazala Hashmi, who's taking on Glen Sturtevant, one of the most endangered Republicans in a Richmond area seat, she too has overtaken the incumbent on fundraising.  And again, it all comes down to money tends to head in the direction of the winners.

Carper:  Lots of big names coming into Virginia for Democrats.  Republicans are largely going it alone and essentially running away from Donald Trump.

Schapiro:  And today, Gabby Giffords, former congresswoman and gun control advocate, is going to be in Virginia.  By the way, today absentee voting begins.  So if you're not going to be around on Election Day, get thee to the registrar's office and cast your ballots.  But we've seen lots of marquee names through the state, and we'll see more.  Stacey Abrams, Mayor Pete, Cory Booker is going to be coming in as well, and the Republicans don't really have these big names on which to draw.  They have a big name from which they are running, and of course that is Donald Trump.

Carper:  And Richmond's mayor Levar Stoney is not having a great week with city government again under an ethical cloud, and this problem would have or could have implications for Stoney's future.

Schapiro:  Yes, Selena Cuffee-Glenn, the Chief Administrative Officer for the city, the person sort of responsible for keeping the lights burning, streets clean, that sort of thing.

Carper:  Held over from the Jones administration.

Schapiro:  A holdover from the Jones administration.  She apparently hired five of her kinsmen and kinswomen.  There was an internal investigation.  The mayor is up in arms over this and fired her.  Now, I would argue that the damage is perhaps already done, and this sort of recalls what Doug Wilder said in the early days of his mayoralty when he was vowing to clean up City Hall.  What was his turn of phrase - cesspool of corruption?

Carper:  Right [laughing].

Schapiro:  And then there's this other possible real estate deal involving Louis Salomonsky. He's trying to build a park, actually his hotel needs parking.  The mayor's suggesting leasing some space that may be over, if you will, sacred ground, part of the infamous slave markets of Richmond.  And of course, Mr.  Salomonsky has a somewhat checkered past.  In 2003, he pleaded guilty to attempting to bribe a city council member.  And of course years and years ago, he helped Doug Wilder conceal some rundown slum property that had become a political embarrassment for Wilder as he was running for Lieutenant Governor and then for Governor. 

Carper:   Thanks to Jeff Schapiro, political columnist at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.  Jeff, we will catch up again next week.

Schapiro:  Good weekend to you.

Carper:  You as well.


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