Report: Spending in Va. Senate Races Topping Previous Elections

December 12, 2011

Spending in Virginia state Senate races rose five percent this year compared with the previous election cycle as Republicans ended Democrats' four-year control of the chamber, according to an analysis released Monday.

Republicans were able to pick up two seats to give the Senate a 20-20 split between Republicans and Democrats. With Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling holding the tie-breaking vote, Republicans are now effectively in control of the Senate.

Republicans already controlled the House and were in no danger of losing it this election cycle. Financial figures in House races reflect that, with total spending decreasing about 39 percent to about $23.4 million this cycle, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. Spending on state Senate races rose to $38.6 million, the VPAP analysis said.

The biggest single donor was the Republican Party of Virginia, which spent more than $7 million on legislative races. The party's Republican Senate caucus chipped in another $1 million. Combined, that figure outpaced Democrats, with the state party and its Senate caucus combining to donate nearly $6.5 million.

Heading into the election with newly redrawn districts, Democrats faced a tough fight. Only three Democrats had uncontested races in seeking Senate re-election while 11 Republicans had no opponent. Seventeen Democratic incumbents had challengers, while only four sitting Republican senators had opponents.

By occupation, the top donors were attorneys, beverage distributors and those in the electrical utility business. Those with jobs in hospitals, labor and coal made the biggest increase in giving compared with the 2007 election. Those in the coal industry increased their donations by about 41 percent this election cycle, up to nearly $540,000.

Some of the most contentious state Senate races were in southwestern Virginia coal country, where Sen. Phillip Puckett narrowly kept his seat against a challenge from Republican Adam Light.

President Barack Obama's support for the failed cap-and-trade clean energy legislation was so unpopular that Puckett renounced Obama after Light and the GOP labeled him as Obama's man in southwestern Virginia.

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