Scandal-plagued Virginia Dems see money dry up

Scandal-plagued Virginia Dems see money dry up
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Virginia’s top three Democrats have seen donations to their political action committees almost completely dry up in the wake of three separate scandals that rocked the commonwealth earlier this year.
Political groups run by Gov. Ralph Northam (D), Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) and Attorney General Mark Herring (D) all struggled to raise money over the past three months, according to campaign finance reports filed earlier this week.
The money stopped flowing, the reports show, in the days after Northam apologized for, and then denied, being in a college yearbook photo wearing either blackface or a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood.
Days later, Fairfax was accused of committing sexual assault against two women, which he has denied.
And Herring admitted he, too, appeared in blackface at a party in the 1980s.
All three have so far resisted calls to resign their office.
The reports show Northam’s PAC took in just two donations of more than $100 since the middle of January; Fairfax’s group did not collect a single three-digit check; and Herring raised only $17,250 since mid-January.
The lack of donor interest comes at a pivotal time for Virginia Democrats, who see an opportunity to win back both the state House of Delegates and state Senate in elections later this year.
Republicans control both chambers by narrow margins, but new district boundaries ordered by a federal court give Democrats the chance to pick up enough seats to win control for the first time since the mid-1990s.
Virginia governors are prohibited from serving consecutive terms under state law, so they do not raise money for their own reelection bids.
Instead, they typically raise money for PACs that back their party’s candidates, in hopes of winning majorities that can advance their agendas in Richmond.
State Democrats say they are not concerned, and the campaign finance reports show the Democratic Party of Virginia, the Virginia House Democratic Caucus and the state Senate Democratic Caucus all outraising their Republican counterparts.
“We will have the resources we need to finish the work we started in 2017 and flip the General Assembly blue,” said Jake Rubenstein, a Virginia Democratic Party spokesman. “Just look at our first-quarter fundraising dominance of the Republicans. Full speed ahead.”
Northam’s group, The Way Ahead, maintained nearly $1.2 million in the bank at the end of March, according to the filings.
The fund has donated to several candidates running for General Assembly seats in the last few weeks, but it also spent $25,000 on legal fees paid to the law firm Alston & Bird a week after the controversy over alleged blackface photos surfaced.
Fairfax’s group, We Rise Together PAC, also paid a law firm, McGuireWoods LLP, to represent him in relation to the two allegations of sexual assault.
Fairfax has said he would answer the allegations, but Democrats in the General Assembly have resisted Republican calls for a public hearing. Fairfax’s group has $147,000 remaining on hand.
Herring’s One Commonwealth PAC has $310,000 in the bank. His committee did not report spending any money on legal fees over the last three months.
Fairfax and Herring had already begun jockeying to replace Northam when a new governor is elected in 2021.
Herring has already said he will run, and Fairfax was widely expected to join the race — before the scandal erupted that threatened to derail his political future.
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney (D) is also likely to seek the Democratic nomination in two years.