This year’s November elections are on track to be some of Loudoun’s most expensive yet.
Four years ago, there were four candidates on the ballot vying to be Loudoun County’s Chairman At Large. Between them, Phyllis Randall, Scott York, Charles King, and Thomas Bellanca spent $548,681 on the race, and Randall won having spent $86,698.
This election cycle, Randall’s challenger for the seat, Leesburg attorney and former state Republican Party chairman John Whitbeck, has already raised more than all four 2015 candidates combined.
And that cost is not restricted to board races. Excluding the nominally non-partisan School Board races, candidates for Board of Supervisors, local constitutional offices and the Virginia General Assembly in Loudoun have collectively raised $6,863,295, according to the most recent campaign financial disclosure reports.
In the races for Board of Supervisors alone, candidates have raised almost $2.3 million.
According to the Virginia Public Access Project, incumbent County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) has raised $333,482, and Republican challenger John Whitbeckhas raised $557,190, putting contributions toward that race close to $900,000. As of the September filings, Randall’s campaign has $213,639 on hand, and Whitbeck’s has $309,543.
Both races have been buoyed by large donations from outside of Loudoun. $261,058 of Whitbeck’s fundraising has come from outside Loudoun—47 percent of his total contributions—and $178,701 of Randall’s contributions—or 54 percent of her total—have come from outside the county. Whitbeck’s largest donors have been the Virginia Republican Victory Fund at $97,500; a political action committee called Loudoun First at $65,000, almost all of that PAC’s donating; and Whitbeck himself at $34,700.
Meanwhile, Randall’s largest donors are another political action committee, Better Together, at $30,000, which was mainly funded by MRE LLC and has given almost exclusively to Randall; and Del. John J. Bell (D-87)’s campaign for state Senate at $25,000.
Independent candidate for Chairman Bob Ohneiser is not doing any campaign fundraising.
Other races are still bringing in large donations, too. Some supervisors fundraise throughout their term or carry over balances from previous races. Supervisor Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian) has raised $220,997 since the beginning of 2016, entering the 2019 race with $155,182 already in the bank. She has continued to fundraise—and spend—since then, and as of the September deadline had $137,911 on hand.
That meant her challenger, Democrat Juli Briskman, began her campaign fundraising more than $150,000 behind the incumbent. Briskman has raised $106,650 and has $63,389 on hand.
Some of the other biggest fundraisers in the race have also been Democrats—Blue Ridge District hopeful Tia Walbridge has raised $151,764, rolling over less than $3,000 from her previous campaign for the House of Delegates; and Catoctin District hopeful Forest Hayes has raised $181,066.
But across the races for Board of Supervisors, Republicans have outraised Democrats by a close margin, $1.19 million to $1.05 million—less than the difference in the race for chairman.
While local races bring in large sums, they do not compare to state races.
With redistricting looming, Republicans only two seats ahead of Democrats in both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly,and any number of hot-button issues to be decided at the state level, almost every candidate for a state office has brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Among House of Delegates and Senate districts with large swaths in Loudoun, 15 candidates have brought in more than $4 million. In those races, Democrats have handily outraised Republicans overall, bringing in $2.5 million to Republicans’ $1.5 million.
The biggest fundraiser is current state delegate and candidate for state Senate John J. Bell (D-87). He has raised $747,971, starting his campaign with $10,092 from his House of Delegates campaign committee. His largest donors have been the Brambleton Group at $70,000; and major Democratic donor and investor Michael Bills, known for helping to finance candidates who swear off donations from Dominion Energy, at $50,000.
Bell’s opponent, current county Supervisor Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin), has raised $425,015. Higgins brought in $19,965 from his Board of Supervisors campaign fund, and his largest donors have been the super PAC Conservatives for Effective Government at $30,000; the Virginia Senate Republican Caucus at $23,472; and his wife, Gail Higgins, at $20,823.
In 2015, that race cost incumbent Sen. Richard H. Black (R-13) $848,985, and his unsuccessful challenger Jill McCabe $1,668,014.
But the second-biggest fundraiser this year is one of Bell’s former Republican colleagues in the House of Delegates, Randy Minchew, who lost his seat to Del. Wendy W. Gooditis (D-10) in 2017 and is now seeking a rematch.
According to campaign finance reports, Minchew never dissolved his campaign committee and entered 2018 with $15,717. He has raised $514,653 since the beginning of 2018. His largest donor by far has been Springfield-based real estate management firm Westview Associates at $100,000; followed by Speaker of the House Kirk Cox (R-66)’s Colonial Leadership Trust PAC at $55,786; and Leesburg-based property management firm Courthouse Corner Associates, which also donated $25,000 to the Colonial Leadership TrustPAC, at $51,250.
Gooditis began 2018 with $13,375 in the bank and has raised $441,050. Her biggest donors have been Bills, at $30,000, followed by Democratic group Win Virginia at $26,150 and the House Democratic Caucus at $23,833.
In 2017, Minchew spent $259,063 on that race, while Gooditis spent $493,761.
Now coming into the home stretch of the campaign season, there is still furious fundraising to be done—and serious spending. Collectively, those local and state candidates have $3.5 million in the bank, meaning plenty more commercials, mailers, and road signs still to come.