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Kaine boon for party’s hopefuls

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine's fundraising lead over other state lawmakers will likely be a big help to Democrats in the fall elections when they campaign in Northern Virginia and try to take control of the General Assembly for the first time since 1995.

Campaign-finance reports show Mr. Kaine's political action committee, Moving Virginia Forward, has roughly $1.3 million in cash, after raising more than $826,587 from April through June.

"I feel like in both the House and Senate, Fairfax is fertile ground, so we will be up here a bunch," said Mr. Kaine, a Democrat. "We expect a number of the races up here are going to be real close, and those are the ones I will be spending a lot of my time and resources on."

With all 140 seats in the General Assembly up for grabs Nov. 6, Democrats hope the money helps them net three seats in Northern Virginia in their effort to win four seats across the state to retake control of the Senate.

Additional resources usually result in more advocates, mailings, radio spots and in some races TV ads, but they do not always result in wins.

While Senate Republicans in Fairfax County hold overall fundraising advantages, Democrats outraised their counterparts last month in two of the three targeted races.

"We are still pretty far ahead as far as the cash on hand, but when I look at the governor's $1.3 million and know my name is written on a good chunk of it, I get renewed motivation to get back on the phone" and ask for donations, said Sen. Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, Fairfax County Republican.

Mr. Cuccinelli, who had $211,572 compared with Democrat Janet Oleszek's $132,000, said he is hustling to re-energize a base that has been "depressed" by President Bush's handling of immigration policy and national Republicans" supporting big government. For the filing period between May 31 and June 30, Mrs. Oleszek, a Fairfax County School Board member, raised nearly $70,000, while Mr. Cuccinelli raised almost $56,000.

State Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis, Fairfax County Republican, holds a more than a 2-to-1 — $530,000 to $225,000 — lead over her Democrat opponent, former State Delegate John Chapman "Chap" Petersen. Her total fundraising — nearly $800,000 — has outpaced Mr. Petersen, but he outraised her in June $96,000 to $31,000.

"I am concerned with some of the other Republican candidates who do not have that cache of money in the bank," she said. "I believe they are more vulnerable than I am, so it is imperative that Republicans open up their wallets and give to their candidates."

Mr. Cuccinelli and Mrs. Davis have won previous elections despite being outspent.

State Sen. Jay O'Brien, Fairfax County Republican, said he does not expect to match his opponent, Democrat George Barker, "dollar for dollar" because of the strong support from such party heavyweights as Mr. Kaine, former Gov. Mark R. Warner, and Virginia Sen. James H. Webb Jr.

"It is a daunting prospect," said Mr. O'Brien, who outraised Mr. Barker in June. "I'm not comfortable in that I think it will be a much more expensive race than I have had before. I cannot count on other sources at this point. The key to my winning is being Jay O'Brien and talking about what I have done for my constituents for 16 years."

Mr. O'Brien said Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, the party's fundraising guru in Northern Virginia, is getting "spread pretty thin" by the number of financial requests from Republican lawmakers seeking re-election.

"He has made a big difference for us in Northern Virginia, but he is having difficulty responding to a number of requests," he said. "It is tough."

Republicans hope former Virginia Sen. George Allen, whose newly formed PAC has raised $55,000, and former Gov. James S. Gilmore III, who dropped out of the presidential race over the weekend, will help bridge the financial gap.

J. Scott Leake, executive director of the Virginia Senate Republican Leadership Trust, said the governor's fundraising "does not come as a surprise."

"We're telling candidates that the chances of you being outspent are pretty good, so you have to work smarter and harder," he said.

Mr. Leake insisted the outlook is not as gloomy for Republicans as Democrats portray it. Republicans are confident they will renew their strength in the Senate.

Part of the reason is the leadership trust has raised about $600,000 and unopposed incumbents should have more than $1 million for fellow Republicans.

"When we pool together all of our resources, I think our competitors will be close in resources," Mr. Leake said.