- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 19, 2007

RICHMOND (AP)— New campaign-finance reports show Democrats with a slight edge in raising money for this fall’s pivotal state Senate races.

Democrats in the Nov. 6 election raised about $1.85 million in July and August, while Republican candidates took in $1.7 million, according to State Board of Elections reports filed this week.

Republicans hold a four-seat advantage in the 40-member Senate, and Democrats think they have a chance this year to gain that many seats and retake the Senate majority they lost 12 years ago.

In the 100-member House, Republicans have an 11-seat edge that would be much more difficult for Democrats to surmount.

The Senate is the key battleground because it is the last time all of its seats are up for election before the General Assembly redraws Virginia’s legislative and congressional districts in 2011. If Republicans retain control of both the House and Senate then, they can consolidate or expand their majorities for another decade.

Democrats think several factors favor them this year, including Republican Senate vacancies, demographic shifts that have not favored the Republican Party in recent elections and sagging popularity for Republicans from the White House on down.

The quest for cash was most intense in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads Senate districts, where Republican incumbents are fighting for their political careers against aggressive Democratic challengers, or in districts where the Republican Party is trying to guard seats of retiring members.

In Fairfax County alone, where Democrats are focused on three incumbent Republicans, the stakes are obvious from the pace of the fundraising.

Sen. Kenneth T. Cuccinelli raised $205,000 in two months and had about $300,000 on hand to begin the autumn stretch run against Democrat Janet Oleszek, who raised nearly $83,000.

Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis raised nearly $85,000 but had more than $513,000 in the bank. She also had her husband, Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, helping her knock on doors. Her energetic Democratic challenger, former Delegate J. Chapman Petersen, took in $120,000 since June.

Sen. Jay O’Brien took in about $118,000 and had nearly $110,000 in reserve for the fall campaign against Democratic newcomer George Barker, who raised $150,000 over the period.

Those Republicans are concerned because Democrats have won in their region the past two statewide elections and gained seats in the 2005 House elections and a special election to fill a Senate vacancy.

In the Hampton Roads area, Sen. D. Nick Rerras, Norfolk Republican, received slightly more than $152,000 during the summer. That included $50,000 in cash from Senate Majority Leader Walter A. Stosch’s Virginia Senate Republican Leadership Trust and an assortment of lesser donations as diverse as $250 from Harry’s Lounge and $2,500 from religious broadcaster Pat Robertson.

No Senate candidate took in more than Republican Richard Stuart’s nearly $224,000, three-fourths of which came from Mr. Stosch’s PAC. Mr. Stuart won a four-way nomination battle in the spring and faces a vigorous campaign from Albert Pollard, a well-known Democratic former delegate, who raised about $182,000. The winner fills the seat of retiring Senate President Pro Tem John H. Chichester, Northumberland Republican.

Battles over two other Republican vacancies also have spawned six-figure summertime fundraising derbies.

Democrat John C. Miller never expected to be in a Senate race until incumbent Sen. Martin E. Williams, Newport News Republican, lost to anti-tax activist Tricia Stall in the June primary.

Mr. Miller raised nearly $195,000, and started September with $125,000 in reserve. Miss Stall raised nearly $43,000 and had half that much in the bank as of Labor Day.

In Winchester, Republican Jill Holtzman Vogel raised slightly more than $195,000 the past two months to about $148,000 for Democratic challenger Karen Schultz. They are vying for the seat of Sen. H. Russell Potts, a Republican who chose to retire.

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