PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — It was on Aug. 1 when the first TV political ad for this fall’s elections aired on broadcast stations in Hampton Roads.
Since then, campaigns have spent more than $11 million on advertising on the Hampton Roads stations alone, according to FCC records.
Politicians have made claims regarding their opposition, and WAVY-TV 10’s Truth Tracker can help distinguish the truthfulness of their ads.
Every four years in the November before a presidential election, all 140 seats of Virginia’s General Assembly are on the ballot.
On the line? Political control.
If the Republicans hold a majority of the seats in the State Senate and House of Delegates, they will have a cleaner path to control policy decisions with Gov. Glenn Youngkin in his executive role.
Democrats, in the last two years, have been able to block many of his conservative initiatives, with their slim majority in the Senate. In this election, they are looking to hold onto that position and gain control in the House.
For the first time with the entire legislative body up for election, early voting is taking place. Because of early voting, and several other factors, the money spent in this election cycle is expected to shatter records.
For the month of October, alone, Virginia legislative candidates raised $46 million, according to finance disclosures compiled by Virginia Public Access Project. That is roughly a third of what candidates spent in the entirety of the 2019 campaign, the last time all 140 seats were up.
Democratic candidates for the state Senate raised about $12.7 million between Oct. 1-26 and ended the period with a nearly $1 million cash-on-hand advantage over their GOP counterparts. Republican candidates reported raising $10.6 million over the same period.
In the House of Delegates, Democratic candidates brought in more than Republicans — $14.2 million to $8.4 million — but Republicans ended the period with a cash advantage of about $730,000.
Yes, inflation has had an impact on everything, but Benjamin Melusky, Ph. D., a ODU associate professor of political science, said it has more to do with redistricting and the fact that campaign just must start earlier.
“It is a jump ball in many of these districts,” Melusky said. “In tight races, every vote counts.”
No race may be tighter than the race for Senate in the district Melusky resides in.
Senator Monte Mason and former York-Poquoson Sheriff Danny Diggs have raised an upward of $10 million combined this election cycle, and have spent more than half of it on advertising.
“Every single day my mailbox is stuffed with flyers from both campaigns,” Melusky said.
Both Mason and Diggs’ respective parties have provided a majority of the cash.
However, when VPAP looks at who is funding the parties and candidates overall, it revealed large donors were: Youngkin’s Spirit of Virginia political action committee fueling Republicans, Charlottesville billionaire Michael Bills, and his Clean Virginia PAC, funding Democrats and Dominion Energy giving almost equally to both parties.
Since 2022, the three have donated a combined $43 million.
Dominion is a longtime political megadonor. However, Bills and Youngkin are first timers in the race for all General Assembly seats.
Bills — a vocal critic of Dominion Energy — asked candidates to take a pledge to not own stock or accept campaign contributions from Dominion Energy or Appalachian Power.
Youngkin, who funded most of his gubernatorial campaign himself two years prior, now is seeing large donations flow in from Republican megadonors from out of state.
“Gov. Youngkin’s fundraising ability, compared to his predecessors it is just blowing them out of the water breaking records left, right and center,” Melusky said.
Youngkin raised more than $7.5 million between July and September, and has spent $1.4 million on his own ads touting his abortion plan.
“He’s been able to attract a lot of attention from out of state,” Melusky said. “And maybe some of it has to do with his 2024 Dark Horse potential.”
But even more so Melusky said it could make Youngkin’s style, a blueprint for a wing on the Republican party that wants to move on from former President Donald Trump.
“Can he flip the Senate, can he grow his majority in the house — that speaks to, alright can that kind of plan — that vision — operate more across the country,” Melusky said.
The Associated Press Sarah Rankin contributed to this report.