- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 15, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam said Wednesday that he has raised more than $341,000 for a gubernatorial bid and more than $114,000 for a political action committee aimed at helping his fellow Democrats retake the state Senate.

“Virginians are responding to our message of protecting women’s reproductive rights and expanding Medicaid while seeing our results of creating 3,000 more pre-K spots for children of low-income families and streamlining mental health care and crisis response,” Northam said in a statement touting his fundraising totals since April.

Northam is the first major potential gubernatorial candidate in 2017 to open a campaign account dedicated to that race. His biggest donor is Michael Bills, a Charlottesville investor who gave $50,000. Other major donors include Macon Brock Jr., the co-founder of K and K Toys and Dollar Tree, and G. Gilmer Minor III, the former chief executive of Owens & Minor Inc.

A practicing physician in Norfolk, Northam said in a statement that he has spent recent months “operating a statewide effort to take back the Virginia Senate majority.”

Those efforts have included recruiting Democratic candidate Jill McCabe, who is challenging Republican Sen. Dick Black, and headlining events for Democratic candidates around the state. Northam said his leadership PAC has given $50,000 to the state party.

After a Democratic state senator abruptly resigned last summer, Republicans took control of the upper chamber. Democrats need to win one additional seat in November’s election to win back control. Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has made retaking the state senate a top priority and reported raising about $1 million since April.

Attorney General Mark Herring, a potential Democratic rival to Northam for the top of the 2017 ticket, reported raising nearly $224,000 for his political action committee since April and reported spending about $100,000.

Adam Zuckerman, a spokesman for Herring’s PAC, noted that Herring has had to retire about $1 million in debt related to a recount fight over his 2013 election. Zuckerman said that with the recount debt behind it, Herring’s PAC will be active in helping Democrats retake the Senate, pick up seats in the GOP-controlled House and in critical local races around the state.

Republican Sen. Mark Obenshain, who is often mentioned as a possible GOP gubernatorial candidate, reported raising $23,000 for his senate re-election campaign since April.

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