Republicans took a beating last week during Virginia’s gubernatorial and down-ballot races. However, a closer look at the money raised and spent reveals the Election Day outcomes may have been a result of more than just Democrat voter enthusiasm.
Along with Republican Ed Gillespie losing to Democrat Ralph Northam in the race to be the state’s next governor, Virginia Republicans were defeated in the other two statewide races. The GOP watched its 66-34 majority in the state’s House of Delegates dwindle to a razor-thin 51-49 split.
In fact, the GOP may lose control of the state capitol’s lower chamber depending on the outcome of recounts in several extremely close races.
Altogether, Gillespie lost to Northam by nearly 9 points — the largest margin of victory for a Democrat gubernatorial candidate in over three decades — and Republicans in Virginia’s House of Delegates have lost at least 15 seats.
Was this the result of renewed Democrat enthusiasm under President Donald Trump and a sign of what’s coming for Republicans in the 2018 midterms, as CNN and other media outlets reported?
According to many GOP operatives, there is more to the story.
When pressed for comment by The Western Journal, the Republican State Leadership Committee provided a statement from the group’s president, Matt Walter.
“The numbers show Democrats spent millions more to fight in state and local races. Their money was invested in a network of over a dozen new and enhanced liberal, special interest groups, modeled after the RSLC’s successful 2010 REDMAP program,” Walter said.
The RSLC works to elect Republican candidates to state legislatures across the country. While it focuses on local campaigns, the RSLC carries a national scope.
“Democrats and their liberal billionaire allies outspent Republicans by millions to achieve operational victories in already blue states,” according to a news release from the organization.
While they can be seen as a form of damage control, the sentiments expressed by the RSLC do carry merit.
The House of Delegates race to attract the most attention was Democrat Danica Roem’s successful bid to oust Republican Del. Robert Marshall. The incumbent, widely known for his social conservative views, had served in the state House for 26 years and was a mainstay in Virginia politics.
Roem, on the other hand, is a 33-year old local journalist from the Prince William County area who had never run for office before and touted no political experience. Roem was perhaps most well known for being transgender.
One would imagine that a 26-year veteran of the Virginia House would have the means to out-fundraise and outspend almost any political novice. The reality, however, was the complete opposite.
According to records provided by the Virginia Public Access Project, Roem outspent Marshall by a more than 2-1 margin. Roem’s campaign dropped nearly $500,000 than the incumbent Republican’s.
Roem’s campaign was not an outlier.
Republican Del. Richard Anderson, first elected in 2009, was defeated by first-time Democrat candidate Hala Ayala. Similar to Roem, Ayala was able to far outspend her Republican rival — despite being a newcomer to the campaign scene — by almost $300,000.
The same type of disparities were seen in many of the Democrat campaigns that defeated Republican lawmakers in the Virginia House.
The GOP may find solace in the fact that many of the Democrats who far outspent rival Republican candidates only won by slim margins. In Ayala’s case, she bested Anderson by six points, despite the enormous advantage in fundraising and the fact that Hillary Clinton won the district by the same margin in the 2016 presidential election, according to a breakdown by the Cook Political Report.
The huge boost in fundraising numbers was due in large part to national Democrats taking a newfound interest in winning state legislative races. After losing hundreds of seats in state legislatures across the country, former operatives of the Obama campaign have formed Forward Majority, a super PAC committed to electing Democrats to state capitols.
Forward Majority was a major player in Virginia’s election.
Governor-elect Northam enjoyed the same parallels in campaign expenses in his battle against Gillespie.
The Democrat benefited from a 2-1 cash advantage throughout the campaign, heading into October with $5.7 million cash on hand, compared to Gillespie’s $2.5 million. By Election Day, Northam had spent $32 million in campaign expenditures — $9 million more than Gillespie.
Outside of expenditures made by the two campaigns, progressive outside groups poured money into Old Dominion.
Planned Parenthood spent $3 million in support of Northam. Michael Bloomberg’s gun control advocacy group, Gun Safety Action Fund, invested $700,000 in Virginia Democrat candidates and billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer spent $2 million on Northam’s behalf, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.
Jason Hopkins is The Western Journal’s Washington, D.C., correspondent.