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Virginia Senate caucus collects $2.1M in 3rd quarter

Democrats seek to hold slim majority

- The Washington Times - Monday, October 17, 2011

RICHMOND — The Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus collected $2.1 million in the third quarter of the year as the party tries to fend off hard-charging GOP candidates to hold onto its last bastion of power in Richmond, according to campaign finance figures released Monday.

Ahead of Nov. 8 statewide elections, the caucus doled out $1.3 million, according to the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project. The campaign of Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw, Fairfax Democrat, spent $464,429 in September — including a $350,000 contribution to the Senate Democratic Caucus — as Democrats try to protect their tenuous 22-18 majority.

Meanwhile, the Senate Republican Caucus took in $367,498 and spent $976,683. But Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's Opportunity Virginia PAC raked in about $852,000 from July through September and doled out $2.4 million. Opportunity Virginia finished the reporting period with about $1.4 million on hand.

House Speaker William J. Howell's Dominion Leadership Trust brought in just over $500,000 in the third quarter. The Stafford Republican handed out $813,488, ending the quarter with a healthy balance of $777,130.

But Democrats are banking on a big name to help them in late October. Once-and-possibly future gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe sent out a fundraising email Monday reminding voters of an Oct. 28th event with former President Bill Clinton to support Senate Democrats. Tickets for the event range from $1,000 to $10,000.

"With the Governor's mansion and the House of Delegates both controlled by Republicans, our majority in the Senate is the only thing standing in the way of the Tea Party's extreme ideological agenda that will cost us jobs and decimate the Commonwealth's education system," Mr. McAuliffe wrote in an email. "We can't let these radical Tea Partiers turn back all the progress we've made."

Democrats have consistently warned of the dangers of complete GOP control in Richmond, which would give Mr. McDonnell an easier time pushing through his agenda, which includes initiatives such as overhauling the state's depleted retirement system and finding a long-term solution to fix the state's crumbling roads without raising taxes.

In the strategically insignificant but symbolically crucial 9th District in Southside, Delegate Ward L. Armstrong, Henry Democrat, was more than holding his own against incumbent Charles D. Poindexter, Franklin Republican, finishing September with $385,811 cash on hand after spending $244,860. The Republican-led House drew Mr. Armstrong out of his own district this year, so he moved into a furnished home owned by his mother-in-law in the new district and has raised eyebrows by distancing himself from President Obama.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. finished the filing period with the most cash on hand of any member of the General Assembly's upper chamber, with $428,705.

Monday was the deadline to register to vote in the 2011 general election, but if a poll from Christopher Newport University and the Richmond Times-Dispatch is any indication, it didn't matter for many people.

In response to a question about how much thought they had given to the coming November elections for the General Assembly, 70.4 percent of those polled said they had given "little" or "none."

The survey, conducted Oct. 3 to 8 of 1,027 registered voters, had a margin of error of 3.1 percent.

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