By Alan Suderman
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The two major-party candidates in the nation’s marquee gubernatorial contest hauled in record amounts of cash in the final weeks of campaigning.
Campaign finance reports filed late Monday show Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam combined to raise more than $20 million between Oct. 1 and Oct. 26 in their contest to become Virginia’s governor. That’s far more than past candidates have combined to raise in the same period in previous elections, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. Northam raised $11 million and ended the period with $1.7 million on hand. Gillespie raised $9.7 million and reported $1.4 million in the bank.
The large cash infusion reflects the high stakes. Virginia has the only competitive gubernatorial contest this year, and the campaign is being closely watched for clues about President Donald Trump’s political popularity. The Old Dominion was the only southern state Trump didn’t win last year.
Most polls have shown Northam leading a tight race. Overall, he’s raised about $34 million to Gillespie’s $25 million.
Northam has been helped by massive donations from the Democratic Governors Association, Planned Parenthood, and Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, the gun control group backed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The Republican Governors Association has been Gillespie’s biggest donor, giving him nearly $5 million in the most recent reporting period and about $10 million overall. The RGA is backed by wealthy conservatives, major corporations and industry groups. The National Rifle Association is also spending heavily to help Gillespie.
Gillespie, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, has run on lower taxes, tougher policies toward immigrants who are in the state illegally and preserving the state’s Confederate statues.
Northam is a pediatric neurologist who has pledged to continue many of the policies of current term-limited Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Northam has promised increased spending in public education, tighter gun rules and strong support for abortion rights.
Big political names also worked to boost fundraising in October. Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton helped Northam raise money while former President George W. Bush headlined fundraisers for Gillespie.
In the attorney general’s race, incumbent Mark Herring, a Democrat, raised $2.7 million. With significant help from the Republican Attorneys General Association, challenger John Adams raised $3.4 million. Lieutenant governor candidates Justin Fairfax, a Democrat and Jill Vogel, a Republican both raised about $1.3 million.
Republican incumbents and Democratic challengers in several competitive state House raises also recorded significant fundraising hauls in October. GOP Del. Joseph Yost and challenger Chris Hurst both reported raising about $500,000.
Election Day is Nov. 7.