If there was any doubt that the stakes in Tuesday’s Virginia gubernatorial election extend far beyond Old Dominion’s borders, just look at the campaign funds the major party candidates have raised.
Most of it comes from outside the state.
Campaign records show millions of dollars have flooded in from Washington, D.C., California and New York. Only about a third of the $54 million raised by Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli came from Virginia, according to the nonprofit MapLight.com, which tracks campaign finance.
Deep-pocketed Democrats around the country see a rare opportunity in Virginia. They are working aggressively to take back the governor’s mansion in one of the country’s few swing states. And they want to strike a blow against the tea party, which supports Cuccinelli.
Although voters are hardly enamored with the Democratic candidate, a former party chairman whose aggressive fundraising tactics in the Clinton years pushed ethical boundaries, donors are motivated by their distaste for the GOP alternative. Cuccinelli is an ardent pro-lifer and climate-change skeptic. He has long aligned himself with GOP social conservatives such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
Well-heeled Democratic activists are taking advantage of Virginia’s loose campaign finance rules to hammer the GOP candidate in their coordinated effort to put a Democrat in office and force the GOP to reconsider the types of candidates it fields.
Among those who opened their checkbooks for McAuliffe are several Californians. A campaign committee funded by billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer has spent more than $2 million. Television producer Chaim Saban has kicked in $296,500. Financier Ron Burkle has donated $158,000.
The Independence USA committee, funded by outgoing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent and billionaire who has worked to punish ideologically extreme candidates, has donated $1.7 million to help the Democrat. Planned Parenthood has spent nearly as much.
Republican activists have not responded in kind. Cuccinelli is being outspent more than 2 to 1. Beyond a nearly $8-million donation from the Republican Governor’s Assn. (McAuliffe got $6.2 million from its Democratic counterpart), there is not much in his campaign account in the way of outsized contributions from outside groups.