- Associated Press - Monday, June 1, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Virginia House Speaker William J. Howell has a dominant cash advantage over his tea party rival in the run-up to the June 9 primary election, though his opponent is getting help from big names in national politics.

Howell’s campaign said Monday it had raised more than $550,000 in the latest reporting period, leaving his campaign $528,000 to spend in the final days of the contest.

“Citizens from across the 28th District and the Commonwealth are investing in the Speaker’s campaign because they know he is a proven, conservative leader,” said Howell’s spokesman Matthew Moran.

Howell has raised more than $700,000 for his re-election campaign since January and also fundraises for political action committees aimed at helping the House Republican Caucus. Moran said that Howell’s fundraising haul would not only help the speaker win the primary, but “help protect and grow the conservative Republican majority in the House of Delegates this fall.”

The longtime Republican speaker is facing a former political protégé, Susan Stimpson, who has accused Howell of abandoning his conservative beliefs in favor of serving deep-pocketed special interests.

Stimpson reporting raising $29,000 during the latest reporting period, with about $10,000 being in-kind donations, and has $21,000 cash on hand. Among her donors is Foster Friess, a Wyoming investor and prominent GOP donor who almost singlehandedly bankrolled a super PAC aimed at helping presidential hopeful Rick Santorum in 2012.

Stimpson has also received help from anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist, whose group Americans for Tax Reform has created a website attacking Howell.

Tim Edson, a Stimpson campaign consultant, said the contest will come down to more than just money and said it was “not surprising” that Howell’s been able to raise so much cash.

“Bill Howell’s running a Richmond favor factory where if you want to influence the agenda you make campaign contributions,” Edson said.

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