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Latest Fundraising Totals Show Democrats Leading in Key Richmond-Area Races

Democratic candidate Sheila Bynum-Coleman speaks at a press conference
Democratic candidate Sheila Bynum-Coleman speaks at a press conference for the Human Rights Campaign earlier this year. The group is one of over a dozen left-leaning groups that have collectively donated millions to Democratic candidates. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

General Assembly candidates submitted their September fundraising totals on Tuesday, with Democrats showing an edge in many of the region and state’s most competitive races.

Democrats in the House now have over $2 million more cash on hand than Republicans, although they trail in the Senate.

That edge extends to most, but not all, of the closest Richmond area races. A handful of races in the Richmond and Hampton Roads suburbs could determine whether Republicans maintain or extend their slim control of the General Assembly.

Del. Debra Rodman (D-Henrico), an anthropology professor who won her delegate seat in 2017 and is now running in one of the state’s tightest Senate races, led all candidates by raising over $1 million in September.

Her incumbent opponent, Sen. Siobhan Dunnovant (R-Henrico) raised almost as much cash as Rodman, but trailed in reported donations of goods or services from supporters.

GOP Sen. Amanda Chase and Senator Glen Sturtevant both brought in less money their Democratic challengers -- Amanda Pohl and Ghazala Hashmi, respectively.

In the House of Delegates, Democrat Sheila Bynum Coleman out-raised Speaker of the House Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) and now holds an over $100,000 cash advantage.

There were a few bright spots for Republicans: GayDonna Vandergriff out-raised Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg (D-Henrico), and Mary Margaret Kastelberg captured more dollars than Democrat Rodney Willet in a battle for the seat vacated by Rodman.

Democrats were bullish on their numbers.

“Winter is coming for Virginia Republicans,” said state party spokesman Jake Rubenstein. “Absolute domination across the board.”

Garren Shippley, a spokesman for GOP House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert, said Democrats’ totals reflected interest from out-of-state special interest groups like Everytown for Gun Safety rather than genuine voter enthusiasm.

“They may have cash,” Shipley said. “But how is that going to convert into support?”

Large campaign war chests give candidates flexibility to reach people through ads and get-out-the-vote campaigns, according to Richard Meagher, an associate professor of political science at Randolph-Macon College. He said Democrats were capitalizing on off-year discontent with President Donald Trump with big, out-of-state donations from the national party and other groups.

“It suggests that the energy around the Democratic Party and Democratic candidates is still there -- at least in terms of fundraising,” Meagher said.

Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.
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