- The Washington Times - Monday, November 7, 2011

Top Virginia Democrats rallied before an enthusiastic crowd at George Mason University on Monday in a final push before Tuesday’s elections, where the party will try to prevent a Republican monopoly from controlling Richmond just three years after the state swung blue.

“The last thing we need to do is turn Richmond and make it more like Washington,” said Sen. Mark R. Warner, calling the state Senate a “bulwark” that has counted good Democrats and good Republicans among its members.

“But those more moderate Republican voices won’t be heard if we turn the keys of every part of state government over to a fringe group,” he said.

Republicans currently control the governor’s mansion, lieutenant governor’s office, attorney general’s office and the state House of Delegates. Democrats hold a 22-18 advantage in the state Senate.

“I am tired of our party being on defense, and it’s time for us to be on offense,” said Terry McAuliffe, who is eyeing another bid for governor after losing in the 2009 Democratic primary.

Other Democratic speakers included Sen. Jim Webb, U.S. Senate candidate and former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, Rep. James P. Moran, Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, former Rep. Tom Perriello, and state Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw of Fairfax.

Eleventh-hour cash is also flowing to Democrats. Large, last-minute donations to Democratic candidates have eclipsed $2.2 million from Oct. 27 through 5 p.m. Sunday, compared to about $1.6 million for Republicans, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonpartisan tracker of money in politics.

State Sen. Phillip P. Puckett, Russell Democrat, who is locked in a tight battle with Republican Adam Light, has received nearly $250,000 since Oct. 27, and freshman Sen. George L. Barker, Fairfax Democrat, who is squaring off against constitutional lawyer Miller Baker, has collected about $235,000.

“The last-minute efforts by Democrats shouldn’t come as a surprise,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a professor of communication at George Mason University. “Elections are decided not only on issues heard throughout the fall, but often boosting turnout at the last minute.”

Still, Republicans have had the edge in fundraising throughout the election cycle. Gov. Bob McDonnell’s Opportunity Virginia PAC, for example, has doled out more than $3.6 million to support the state party and Republican candidates.

Through Nov. 3, the Democratic Party of Virginia had spent over $4 million on House, Senate and local candidates, and the Republican Party of Virginia nearly $7 million.

“There’s no question that for Democrats to hold the Senate is extremely important,” said David Leckie, of Leesburg, who attended a Democratic rally on Sunday in Ashburn, Va.

“We’re old enough to remember when the Republican Party was reasonably moderate, but it’s swung so extreme it’s made some of us fearful,” added his wife, Margaret.

Still, looming budget squabbles in Washington and President Obama’s sinking popularity in the state have presented the party with difficult obstacles to overcome.

Jim Pfeiffer, of Mineral, Va., said at a GOP stop in Fredericksburg this weekend for Senate candidate Bryce Reeves that he hoped Republican gains in the state would send a message across the Potomac.

“Once Obama got in there, I just don’t like the way things are — period,” said Mr. Pfeiffer, who added that he has supported state Sen. R. Edward Houck, Spotsylvania Democrat, in the past. “If you have more [Republicans] here, I think it sends the message that we’re unhappy with Washington.”

But at the same event, David Amstutz of Spotsylvania, Va., while supportive of Mr. Reeves, said he just wanted to see government run well — regardless of who’s in charge.

“It’s not all Democrat and Republican,” he said. “My hope would be to get good government. Good people in good government will make that work for us — whether it’s Republicans or Democrats, it doesn’t make any difference.”

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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