Youngkin PAC: Previous governors' annual fundraising records surpassed in single quarter
All signs are pointing to an extraordinarily expensive cycle in a state that allows unlimited donations.
Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s main fundraising apparatus will soon report raising $5.75 million in this year's second quarter, a sum that surpasses what any previous governor of the state has raised in an entire year, according to the group's accounting.
Youngkin's Spirit of Virginia political action committee has raised $8.5 million in the first six months of 2023, according to details provided to The Associated Press ahead of a Monday reporting deadline. And it will leave Spirit of Virginia with $6 million in cash on hand just over two months before the start of early voting in this year's legislative elections that will decide political control of the currently divided General Assembly.
“The Governor has built and scaled an unprecedented campaign to hold the House and flip the Senate,” Dave Rexrode, the PAC’s chairman and a senior adviser to Youngkin, wrote in a statement to the AP. "His commonsense approach to cutting taxes, backing the blue, empowering parents, and tackling our behavioral health crisis has united Virginians and he’s just getting started.”
Since his 2021 campaign, Youngkin, a wealthy former private equity executive, has continuallyshattered fundraising records, much to the delight of other Virginia Republicans, who have typically been outspent by Democrats in recent election cycles.
The two parties are competing this year for the state's 140 legislative seats in a cycle that's been shaken up by a redistricting process that overhauled Virginia's electoral maps. The new district lines were drawn without regard to incumbent protection, which drove a wave of retirements, leading to an unusually high number of open seats.
All signs are pointing to an extraordinarily expensive cycle in a state that allows unlimited donations. House Democrats have already reported raising $2.3 million for the second quarter, more than at the same point in 2021. House Democratic Leader Don Scott said earlier this month when the sum was disclosed that it showed “Democrats have a winning formula and the people are with us.”
“People are sick of living under the unsuccessful government run by the Virginia GOP and their extreme MAGA agenda,” Scott said.
The House Republican caucus and GOP Speaker Todd Gilbert will report raising a combined $3.2 million in the quarter, caucus spokesman Garren Shipley said Thursday.
The respective Senate caucuses have not yet released their topline numbers, but Senate Democratic Caucus Chairperson Mamie Locke said in response to Youngkin's totals that the governor's “priorities have never been in check.”
Most Republicans acknowledge they face a tougher road to victory based on the makeup of the sliver of seats in each chamber that will likely decide the balance of power. But Youngkin's advisors told reporters this week they expect the open-seat environment to work to their advantage by putting a greater focus on the governor's record at a time when polling shows him with higher approval ratings than President Joe Biden.
Full details of the governor's receipts and expenditures over the quarter will become clear once the PAC makes its public filing. But already available disclosures show the sum was powered in part by two individual $1 million donations. One came in April from GOP megadonor Thomas Peterffy, who attended a Florida fundraising event for Youngkin. Another came in May from a Texas education reformer, according to reporting from the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Other donors this quarter included a mix of Youngkin aides, at least one personal friend of the governor's, longtime Virginia donors, corporate interests and business executives including David S. Winter, co-CEO of New York-based Standard Industries.
Youngkin's April-June haul set a new quarterly record, beating the previous one held by Youngkin, and far surpassing what previous governors raised in the same three months of comparable election cycles, according to an analysis by the PAC based on records maintained by the nonpartisan Virginia Political Access Project.
Previous Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, who at the time was regaining his political footing from a scandal over a racist photo discovered in his medical school yearbook, raised $309,705 in the second quarter of 2019. Northam's predecessor, Democrat Terry McAuliffe raised $1,028,656 in the second quarter of 2015, VPAP's records show.
McAuliffe also set the now-broken annual gubernatorial fundraising record in 2015, with $4.77 million in his Common Good VA PAC.
Since his 2021 win in blue-trending Virginia captured national attention, speculation has swirled that Youngkin might launch a 2024 presidential bid. In public remarks, he has declined to unequivocally rule out a run but answered questions about the prospect by saying his priority is flipping the state Senate and holding the House of Delegates.
“When Governor Youngkin says he’s focused on Virginia, he means it,” Rexrode wrote in the statement.
Still, he remains an intriguing candidate for some influential conservatives who are concerned about former President Donald Trump’s hold on the party.
In a recent meeting with reporters, Rexrode and other advisers declined to answer a question about whether donors were encouraging the governor to get in the race.