- Associated Press - Friday, October 30, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Virginia state candidates, political parties and special interest groups are in a frenzied push ahead of next week’s legislative elections.

With control of the state Senate at stake, politicians and activists plan on holding rallies and doing other get-out-the-vote efforts all weekend. And the airways are set to be choked full of political ads, many of them paid for by well-funded outside groups looking to tilt the outcome and promote their agendas.

Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, trying to help Democrats take control of the upper chamber, is set to barnstorm the state with more than a dozen campaign events in key races.

As an off-year election with no statewide candidates on the ballot, turnout is expected to be low. Both parties have tailored their messages to their bases, and are currently focused on getting them to the polls.

“This is a real choice election and you need to come out on Tuesday and vote,” McAuliffe said Friday during an appearance on WJLA in Northern Virginia.

Election Day will be a test of McAuliffe’s efforts to build a lasting advantage over Republicans in terms of campaign field work. The governor has often touted his heavy investment in data-driven voter identification and get-out-the-vote efforts. If successful, McAuliffe’s efforts could help Democrats in 2016. Virginia is expected to be key swing state and Hillary Rodham Clinton, a close friend of McAuliffe, is the favorite to be the Democratic nominee.

“Campaigns are firing on all cylinders and volunteers are fired up for a huge weekend of getting out the vote,” said Brian Zuzenak, director of McAuliffe’s political action committee.

Republicans control the Senate 21 to 19, and GOP officials said they’re confident they’ll keep or expand their majority.

“We feel like everything is lined up in our favor,” said Republican Party of Virginia Chairman John Whitbeck.

Republicans are particularly enthusiastic about their efforts at tying McAuliffe and Democrats to potentially high new tolls in Northern Virginia, a line of attack McAuliffe has said is disingenuous and untrue.

Virginia’s legislative elections have drawn big investments from outside interests, including an announced $2.2 million last minute spending spree by billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s gun control group attacking GOP candidates in two key Senate races. Democrats said they are confident gun control issues will resonate well with their voters, but Whitbeck said Bloomberg’s spending is “a desperate Hail Mary pass” that “is not going to get it done.”

The National Rifle Association has also spent heavily promoting GOP lawmakers.

Other outside groups that have been active in Virginia include Americans for Prosperity, which is backed by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch and NextGen Climate Action, backed by billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer.

Campaign finance data compiled by the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonprofit money-in-politics tracker, shows that some of the most competitive Senate races are on track to be the most expensive in Virginia’s history.

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