Dems Hold Fundraising Leads in Va. Political Races

July 20, 2010

Democratic incumbents in Virginia's most contested off-year congressional races held midyear fundraising leads over their Republican challengers.

Republicans are trying to reverse the gains of 2008 when Barack
Obama's presidential victory paced Democratic gains in the House and Senate. And Virginia is offering marquee contests as first-term Democrats fight to retain their seats as the president's popularity declines.

In the most-watched race, Rep. Tom Perriello banked nearly $2.3
million by June 30 to keep his seat, compared with about $770,000 for Republican challenger Robert Hurt.

The district in which they are running is rural and conservative in the southern and central part of the state, but it has also known deep economic suffering from lost manufacturing and tobacco jobs.

Perriello is a particular bullseye for the GOP because he won his seat by slightly more than 700 votes two years ago over Republican Rep. Virgil Goode, and Perriello sided with Obama on his health care and energy reform legislation.

Hurt, a state senator from Pittsylvania County, decisively won a seven-way GOP primary in June. His close ties to GOP state and national organizations, along with connections to Virginia business leaders from his nine General Assembly sessions, could allow him to close the campaign cash gap with Perriello quickly as the fall campaign begins.

Hurt won his party's nomination with nearly half the votes cast despite opposition by some within the district's conservative tea party movement because of Hurt's support for a 2004 state tax increase.

After the primary, conservative independent Jeff Clark secured a spot on the Nov. 2 ballot, potentially diluting Hurt's support from the right. FEC reports, however, show Clark reported no money raised through June.

In the Hampton Roads 2nd District, Democratic Rep. Glenn Nye had nearly $1.8 million to $1.65 million for Republican Scott Rigell. Nye also won his freshman term in the 2008 sweep from a district that ranges from conservative redoubts such as Chesapeake and Virginia Beach to Democratic-leaning Norfolk. He defeated Republican Rep. Thelma Drake.

Rigell, the only candidate to get popular new Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell's endorsement during the primaries, won the nomination with 40 percent of the vote in a six-candidate field. His ties to McDonnell and to business interests also mean he will remain financially competitive with Nye.

In the Washington, D.C., suburbs, Gerry Connolly raised $1.7 million to keep the seat he won two years ago. The seat became vacant when Republican Rep. Thomas M. Davis announced he would not seek re-election.

The candidate Connolly beat then, Republican Keith Fimian, raised $1.2 million for this year's rematch.

In Virginia's rural and mountainous southwestern corner, 14-term Democratic Rep. Ric Boucher raised $1.5 million, more than three times the $402,000 that Republican H. Morgan Griffith of Salem raised.

Griffith, however, also has legislative connections that could allow him to be competitive with Boucher. Griffith is the Majority Leader of the House of Delegates.

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