FWIW Virginia: 🚴‍ The Cash Dash 🏃

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6 mins read

Welcome to FWIW Virginia, where we analyze digital spending trends on both sides of the aisle in advance of the 2019 Virginia legislative elections. Each week, we look at whose digital spending is up, whose is down, and whose is non-existent across the Commonwealth.

For what it’s worth, some of it might surprise you.

Each week, our newsletter typically focuses on how campaigns and outside groups spend their money on digital media. But with the release of the September campaign finance reports, this week we’re digging beyond the top-line numbers to see not just how much candidates raised, but how they raised it.

But first…

2019 by the numbers

Here’s how Facebook spending by Republican and Democratic party committees and candidates in the most competitive districts compare since the primary election.

Here are the top ten biggest Facebook spenders in Virginia from September 15-21:

*Everytown for Gun Safety is running Virginia-specific ads from its national page. Because Facebook reports a spending range on individual ads, this number is an approximation of their weekly spend based on the spending range for their individual, Virginia-specific ads.

Days left until the general election: 40

Deep Dive: The Cash Dash

The post-Labor Day campaign finance reports showed Democrats outpacing Republicans in fundraising as General Assembly campaigns ramp up for the home stretch. From July 1 to August 31, Democratic candidates for the House of Delegates outraised Republicans by almost $1.1 million, and in the State Senate, Republicans were outraised by over $924,000.

Speaker Kirk Cox’s spokesman tried to spin this to the Washington Post by claiming that Democrats “care more about their big money special interest groups and out of state donors than they care about hard-working families here in Virginia.” But does this claim really hold up under scrutiny?

While it’s true that Democrats benefit from out-of-state donations through ActBlue, an analysis from the Virginia Public Access Project found that 63% of small-dollar Democratic donors are from Virginia. If Cox’s team wants to talk about who really represents working families in Virginia, then let’s take a look at the small-dollar donors behind Democratic and Republican campaigns.

Across the 24 competitive House of Delegates races we’re watching, Democrats received an average of 836 small donations of $100 or less and raised 10.2% of their total hauls from these small donations. Republican candidates, on the other hand, received an average of just 64 small donations across the same time period and only raised just 3% of their funds from grassroots supporters.

FWIW, Cox had 372 small donations during the last reporting period, more than any other Republican candidate in the districts we’re tracking. Even still, those contributions only made up about 5% of his total fundraising haul. Meanwhile, his Democratic opponent, Sheila Bynum-Coleman, raised almost 13% of her total from small donations with over 2,700 donations of $100 or less.

The seven competitive State Senate elections we’re watching show similar partisan trends. Democrats received an average of 1,362 small donations, which made up 10.7% of their total fundraising. Republican candidates received an average of just 79 small donations, making up barely more than 2% of their total fundraising.

Spotlight: SD 11 – Amanda Pohl (D) v. Amanda Chase (R)

For our district spotlight this week, we’re taking a look at SD 11, where Democratic nominee Amanda Pohl is taking on incumbent GOP State Senator Amanda Chase.

Source: Virginia Public Access Project

SD 11 is mostly based in Chesterfield County just south of Richmond. The district remains Republican-leaning in the Trump era, voting for Trump 53-42 over Clinton in 2016 and 53-46 for Gillespie over Northam in 2017. Tim Kaine managed to narrowly carry the district 50-49 against Corey Stewart in 2018.

Chase first won the seat in 2015 by primarying long-time Republican incumbent Steve Martin, winning the primary by just under 700 votes despite being outspent over 8-to-1. 

Chase found herself in hot water last week after her campaign ran Facebook ads claiming that she’s “not afraid to shoot down gun groups.” Chase attempted to deflect blame on her digital advertising firm over the final copy despite signing off on the “shoot down” language.

This isn’t the first time Chase’s campaign has found themselves in trouble over their candidate’s remarks. Earlier in the summer, Chase responded to a comment on her own Facebook page, stating, “It’s those who are naive and unprepared that end up raped. Sorry but I’m not going to be a statistic.” Not the type of online engagement her campaign was looking for.

Amanda Pohl’s campaign has stayed issue-focused throughout Chase’s controversies, running ads around affordable healthcare and education funding.

Thanks for reading and make sure to sign up for weekly updatesfollow us on Twitter and email us with ideas of what you’d like us to dive into next. 

– The team at ACRONYM

P.S. Here’s a sign-up link for our national FWIW newsletter and you can find today’s issue here.

Originally posted at ACRONYM. Re-posted with permission.

ACRONYM is a nonprofit organization committed to building power and digital infrastructure for the progressive movement.

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