Updated numbers show Elaine Luria and Jen Kiggans’ campaigns have raised a combined $12.9 million. No other race in Virginia has raised this much money.
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Campaign finance data shows the race for Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District seat is the most expensive race in Virginia this year, and ultimately could break fundraising and spending records by the time it’s all said and done.
State Sen. Jennifer Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach), has raised $2.7 million in her quest to unseat two-term incumbent Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria. That is more than former Rep. Scott Taylor raised in his entire 2020 campaign attempting to unseat Luria.
However, Luria’s fundraising total is three times the amount of her competitor. She has raised more than $8.7 million.
Dr. Ben Melusky, an assistant professor of political science at Old Dominion University, said the story of this race can clearly be seen in campaign finance.
Virginia’s 2nd Congressional seat has been held by a member of the Republican party for 18 of the last 22 years. Republicans desperately want the seat back, not just for tradition’s sake, but to help take back control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
While most political analysts predict Republicans will be able to make that happen, Melusky doesn’t believe it will happen without Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District flipping.
“If the Democrats are going to be able to hold onto their slim majority in the House, it’s going to have to go through the Second District,” Melusky said. “This race has received a lot of national attention.”
Indeed, a majority of Luria’s donors are from out-of-state, according to an analysis by OpenSecrets.org. Luria’s most common donors are either employees or associated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Pro-Israel America PAC and EMILY’s List — which is a political action committee aimed at getting female candidates elected that support abortion rights.
“She’s out fundraising even the average of all the members running for re-election in the House,” Melusky said.
Nearly $6.2 million has been spent on advertisements either in favor of Luria or against Kiggans, according to the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP). Luria’s campaign has funded more than half. $2.6 million has been funded by political action committees, with the House Majority PAC being the largest spender.
While Kiggans has raised much less, the majority of her money comes from inside Virginia. Individuals from the Franklin Johnston Group, Priority Automotive and Ripley Heatwole Company have all donated more than $10,000 to Kiggans’ campaign, according to OpenSecrets.org.
Again, roughly $6.2 million has been dolled out for either pro-Kiggans and anti-Luria commercials. However PAC’s have accounted for $5.5 million of the ads. The Congressional Leadership Fund is responsible for $3.6 million of that money.
Why all the attention now on this race? Melusky said it comes down to one word: redistricting.
Virginia’s Supreme Court redrew the maps for the once-a-decade redistricting after Virginia’s new redistricting commission reached an impasse along partisan lines.
Even before redistricting, the 2nd District was seen a toss-up based on past elections/voter makeup and the sitting president’s party usually doing poorly in the midterms. But new maps that will take effect for the 2022 general election make things even more difficult for Luria.
The new maps keep all of the Eastern Shore and Virginia Beach, but take away parts of Norfolk, Williamsburg, James City County, York County and Hampton, and add parts of Isle of Wight, Chesapeake and Suffolk, which experts say give Republicans an edge. FiveThirtyEight now has the district favoring the GOP by 6 points, as opposed to 2 points in the previous maps.
“(Luria’s) district is now much less favorable to her,” Melusky said.
Not only that, but she also no longer lives in the district.
Luria’s primary residence is in Norfolk. While there are no residency requirements to run for Congress, Jayce Genco, a campaign spokesperson, confirmed Luria will not be able to vote for herself.
Instead he said Luria will consult with her family about relocation to the district if she comes out the top vote getter on Nov. 8.
This is a change from what Luria’s campaign said earlier this year.
Luria, through a spokesperson, initially said she would be moving to Virginia Beach and registering to vote.
10 On Your Side has reached out to her campaign to ask why that has never happened.
“The Congresswoman’s parents moved from Alabama into her Virginia Beach residence earlier this year,” Genco responded.
Luria’s campaign did release a statement on their overall campaign finance this campaign.
“Congresswoman Luria will not let outside dark money groups lie to Coastal Virginians about her bipartisan record of working across the aisle to expand health care services for veterans, secure billions in defense investments to stand up to China, and deliver for Hampton Roads. The fact is that every one of the Congresswoman’s campaigns has proudly been fueled by grassroots supporters and Virginians, with nearly 69,000 individual contributions alone this cycle. Unlike Jen Kiggans, who has used her official position to benefit the private prison and pay-day loan lending industries that have funded her political campaigns, we do not accept contributions from private prisons or big pharma.”Jayce Genco, Elaine Luria Campaign
Kiggans’ campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment on their fundraising.
Melusky is confident campaign spending for this race will break records for the district. Donations will continue up until Election Day.
“It means we are going to see a whole lot of ads you know between now until Election Day as that money gets burned down,” Melusky said.