Gillespie has cash lead in early fundraising reports
By ALAN SUDERMAN
Jul. 18, 2017
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Republican Ed Gillespie has a small financial head start over his Democratic rival in Virginia's closely watched governor's race.
New campaign finance reports released late Monday show Gillespie had about $3.3 million in the bank compared to Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam's $1.7 million at the end of June.
The Gillespie campaign touted the financial advantage, saying it shows positive momentum as the general election campaign begins.
"Virginians are enthusiastic about our positive, policy-focused message, and this strong financial support will help me to continue sharing our vision across the commonwealth," Gillespie said in a statement.
But the lead could be temporary or insignificant, as both candidates are likely to raise millions more before the November contest. Virginia has a no-limit campaign finance system and in 2013 the candidates combined to spend about $60 million on that election. The winner, Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, is not allowed to seek a second term under Virginia's Constitution.
This year's contest is likely to attract big bucks as well. Virginia is one of only two states electing governors in 2017 and the contest is getting national attention as a potential early referendum on President Donald Trump.
Northam has been eager to tap into anti-Trump sentiment to boost his campaign funding.
"Thanks to the support of thousands of Virginians, the Northam for Governor campaign is ready to take on Ed Gillespie and his Donald Trump agenda in this general election," Northam campaign manager Brad Komar said in a statement.
Northam had to spend heavily to defeat a well-funded challenge from former U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello in last month's Democratic primary. Gillespie largely kept his powder dry in the GOP contest, but was nearly upset by an underfunded Trump-like candidate.
Gillespie and Northam both raised nearly $2 million in June, which included getting $1 million each from their parties through the Republican Governors Association and the Democratic Governors Association. Gillespie pulled in five-figure checks from numerous wealthy Republicans, including Missouri's most prolific conservative donor, Rex Sinquefield. Northam's large donors in June included stockbroker Edward Rice and various labor unions.
In the contest for attorney general, incumbent Mark Herring, a Democrat, has about $1.8 million more in the bank than GOP challenger John Adams.