RICHMOND, Va. — Voters will be heading to the polls in a few months. Do you know who else is backing your candidate?
The mid-year campaign finance reports were released yesterday by many candidates. With only a few weeks after the June Primary, there’s still a long ways to go before Election Day, Nov. 6, 2018.
“Campaign finance is one window into a campaign and into a candidate,” said Richard Meagher, an Associate Politics Professor at Randolph-Macon College. “You get a sense of not just what the candidate is interested in, but what kinds of interests, industries and people are interested in the candidate.”
“It’s less about which Virginia interests are lining up behind Abigail Spanberger and Dave Brat, and more about the D and R behind their names,” Meagher said.
This is an issue seen across the country, as more Democrats try to unseat incumbent Republicans. Many are getting the backing of party leadership and special interest groups, who are mobilizing in districts that could be “flipped” to the other party.
“So, the whole country is looking at anyone with a D and saying ‘can they win? Then they’re our candidate, and the whole country is looking at is the person with an R, can they win? Then they’re my candidate,” Meagher said. “If they’re Democrat or Republican they can line up behind the candidate no matter what district we’re in, no matter what state.”
As of June 30th, they both raised about $1.3 million for their campaigns. Brat has $917,101 of “cash in hand,” meaning it hasn’t been spent for the campaign yet. Meagher says Spanberger has less, at $465,074, because she has to spend more money to get the same name recognition to people in the district as the incumbent does.
“So even if you’re able to match your incumbent, dollar for dollar in terms of fundraising You’re still at a disadvantage in terms of spending because you have to spend more money to make sure that your message and you voice and your name gets out there,” he explained.
Both of these candidates are being backed by groups historically supporting their respective parties.
Spanberger has received large donations from Emily’s List, which gives to female candidates who are pro-choice, and the New Democrats Coalition. Brat was backed by Koch Industries, owned by the Koch brothers who give money to candidates who support their interests, as well as House Speaker Paul Ryan’s PAC Prosperity Action Inc.
PACs are political action committees that form to help raise money for a candidate or a cause. Meagher says many are created separately from a campaign. For example, Meagher says House Speaker Paul Ryan’s PAC allows him to allocate funds and donations to his own campaign, as well as give money to other candidates he supports.
“(Brat)’s a core member of the Republican Party, so it’s not surprising, that he would be getting money from wealthy donors, sort of connected institutions to the Republican Party,” Meagher said.
According to campaign finance reports dating up to May 23rd, Stewart raised about $840,000 to Kaine’s $12 million. Most Stewart’s larger donations came from local businesses and individuals, as opposed to Brat who is getting support from establishment Republicans.
“So if the national Republican apparatus doesn’t really think Stewart has a shot, then he’s going to find it really hard to get money and resources and support,” Meagher said.
Meagher says Stewart is using campaign tactics “out of the Trump playbook.”
“He’s counting on turning out the Republican base on riling up really hardcore conservative to come out to vote for him, and hoping that that will be enough to overcome a lack of significant enthusiasm for the other candidate,” he added.
The campaign finance reports for the District 7 go back to the end of last month, while the numbers from the Senate race are as recent as May 23rd.
For an in-depth look at the other candidates, check out the Federal Election Commission’s website.