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McAuliffe and Youngkin neck-and-neck in $115 million race for governor

<p>The Executive Mansion, the official residence of the Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia.</p>

The Executive Mansion, the official residence of the Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin raised a combined total of $115 million in the race for governor, with both candidates bringing in millions in the days leading up to the election, according to the Virginia Public Access Project’s pre-election finance reports.

The outcome of this contest will determine Virginia’s trifecta status, in which the Democratic party currently holds the governorship, a majority in the state senate and a majority in the House of Delegates.

Youngkin outraised McAuliffe in the latest reporting period after donations poured in over the past few weeks, according to the finance reports. McAuliffe raised approximately $5.6 million more than Youngkin in September, but large, last-minute donations have kept the candidates neck-and-neck with their total campaign funds now less than half a million dollars apart.

Despite democratic wins in four of Virginia’s five most recent gubernatorial elections and all statewide elections since 2013, McAuliffe’s narrow lead in polling has been decreasing as election day gets closer, according to FiveThirtyEight.

The candidates filed updated financial disclosures overnight. The most recent reporting period covers a full account of fundraising and spending activity from Oct. 1 through Oct. 21.

McAuliffe, who served as governor from 2014 to 2018, raised $12,912,137 in October, bringing his campaign total to $57.3 million, according to VPAP

Over $20 million of  McAuliffe’s total funds were from the political industry sector, according to VPAP. This includes groups such as Democrat Advocacy, Democrat Leadership/Candidate Committees and Democrat committees at state and local levels.

McAuliffe’s top donor, the Democratic Governors Association, donated $12.3 million as of Sept. 30, according to the finance reports.

Youngkin raised $15,405,941 in the most recent reporting period for a campaign total of $57.7 million, according to VPAP. 

$17.5 million of total funds were from lobbyists, including the Virginia Wins PAC, as of Sept. 30.

Additionally, 37% of McAuliffe’s donations were from Virginia, and 27% were from Washington, D.C. Most of McAuliffe’s donations from Virginia came from the capital region and northern Virginia.

The other 35% of McAuliffe’s donations were from other states, with the most money coming in from New York, Maryland, California and Florida.

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Contrary to McAuliffe’s fundraising geography, 76% of Youngkin’s donations were from Virginia, and 16% were from Washington, D.C.. Youngkin’s donations from Virginia were much more spread out across the state, with most from Richmond City and Fairfax County. 

Only 8% of Youngkin’s donations were from other states, and $897,318 of the $3,309,155 from states other than Virginia were from Texas. 

As one of the two states holding a gubernatorial election this year, the Virginia race has gained widespread, national attention. Despite Virginia leaning blue in recent presidential elections, a Republican poll showed that President Joe Biden’s decreasing approval rating may be enough for the governor’s race to swing red. 

Virginia’s numbers regarding presidential approval reflect nationwide polling as well, which is why it has become the bellwether for 2022 campaigns, according to FiveThirtyEight

As of Oct. 27, most polls show McAuliffe leading by 1.5 points, but it is too close to predict a winner, according to FiveThirtyEight. The data comprises multiple polls on both likely and registered voters.

The candidates are now considered to be in a virtual tie, according to a statewide poll conducted by the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University.

While McAuliffe’s campaign is heavily focused on encouraging voter turnout in order to keep Virginia blue, independent voters, who increasingly identify with Youngkin, may decide who will be the next governor of Virginia, according to the poll.

Local and national leaders from both political parties have encouraged Virginians to vote this November.  

Former president Barack Obama campaigned alongside McAuliffe in Richmond on Oct. 23, and emphasized the high stakes of the race. First lady Jill Biden and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams also attended a rally for McAuliffe this month. 

On Oct. 19, Biden expressed support for McAuliffe in a tweet: “Since flipping the legislature in 2019, Virginia Democrats have been a model of progress—including helping us vaccinate folks to beat the pandemic. To keep our progress, we must elect @TerryMcAuliffe and Democrats up and down the ballot.”

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney also expressed online support for McAuliffe and reposted an ad attacking Youngkin and former president Donald Trump.

Trump said Youngkin had his “complete and total endorsement” in a statement on May 11.

Youngkin avoided voicing an opinion on another Trump presidential bid in the gubernatorial debate on Sept. 28, and sidestepped any comparisons to him, according to the Associated Press.

In sticking to a traditional conservative policy agenda, Youngkin’s campaign has focused on appealing to both Trump supporters and independents as the potential strategy for becoming the first republican in statewide office in 12 years.

Princess Blanding of the Liberation Party and Paul Davis of the Independent Party are also running in the election, according to Ballotpedia. Blanding will appear on the general election ballot, and Davis is running as a write-in candidate.

“Because of the anticipated high volume of mail-in votes, the Department of Elections is urging all those who wish to vote by mail to request and return their ballots as soon as possible,” according to a press release from the Virginia Department of Elections.

The first day of in-person early voting was Sept. 17 and the last day will be Oct. 30, according to the Virginia Department of Elections

More than 788,644 people have voted early in the November election so far, already surpassing four times the total voter turnout for the 2017 gubernatorial election, according to VPAP. 

Contact City & State writer Natasha Sokoloff at natasha.sokoloff@richmond.edu.

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