McDonnell nets record haul for GOP governors

RICHMOND — Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s Republican Governors Association hauled in a record $44.7 million last year, far outpacing the Democratic Governors Association’s $20 million in the latest chapter of Mr. McDonnell’s rivalry with Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley.

The RGA, which raises and spends money to elect GOP governors across the country, raised twice as much as it did in 2007 and carries forward a $26.6 million balance into 2012.

“The RGA’s strong fundraising is a reflection of our governors’ position as leaders of our party,” Mr. McDonnell said in a statement. “While President Obama racks up trillion-dollar deficits and creates uncertainty for the nation’s job creators, Republican governors are making the tough choices to balance budgets and make their states more competitive.”

Meanwhile, the DGA, and its chairman, Mr. O'Malley, racked up its own record-setting figure in 2011, but the total of more than $20 million was less than half of the RGA’s haul.

“There’s always been a rivalry across the Potomac between Maryland and Virginia. Both states are proud that they do things differently than each other,” said Stephen Farnsworth, professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington. “And the governors, both of whom are rumored for high office, personify that rivalry.”

Republicans won two governors’ races in 2011, in Louisiana and Mississippi, and Democrats also took two, winning in West Virginia and Kentucky. A controversial Republican-backed measure in Ohio that sharply curbed the collective-bargaining rights of public-sector unions was also overturned in a referendum.

“While they outraised us, and traditionally outraise us by a sizable amount, they also outspent the DGA by a sizable amount,” DGA spokeswoman Lis Smith said. “A strategic deployment of resources beats out a big, flashy deployment of resources.”

She pointed to a last-minute million-dollar ad buy from the RGA in the D.C. market for the West Virginia governor’s race as an example.

“It generated a lot of chatter among D.C. insiders, but ultimately proved to be an unwise investment in determining the outcome of the West Virginia governor’s race,” she said.

The two groups largely spend their money on television ads, but also can and do offer direct assistance to campaigns.

In Ohio, for example, the DGA directed $150,000 to We Are Ohio, a group that worked to overturn the collective-bargaining measure. The DGA also spent $30,000 on online advertising to help defeat it.

Still, while the totals provide nice fodder for the ongoing rivalry between Maryland and Virginia, Mr. Farnsworth said the true measure was still to come.

Mr. O'Malley took the DGA helm in December 2010, and Mr. McDonnell became chairman in August after Texas Gov. Rick Perry decided to run for president. In November, Mr. McDonnell was elected to continue serving as chairman.

“I don’t think you can do all that much to credit or blame either governor for 2011,” Mr. Farnsworth said. “A much more effective test for these governors will be seen [in] the fundraising numbers for 2012.”

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