The latest campaign filings show some candidates are struggling to raise the kind of cash necessary to get their message out on television this campaign season.
Sen. Tim Kaine is a notable exception, and the incumbent Democrat began running his first TV ad of the election cycle on Monday. In the ad titled ‘Skills,’ Kaine said he has supported career and technical skills throughout his career.
“Here in Virginia, we have to build an economy that works for all,” Kaine said in the ad.
Set to run in Norfolk, Richmond, Roanoke and the Tri-Cities markets, the ad is part of a strategy that includes $5 million in TV ad spending, according to Kaine’s campaign.
As the candidates make their pitch to voters ahead of the Nov. 6 general election, Kaine has the advantage of campaign cash to help spread his message.
So far, Kaine has outraised and outspent his Republican Party opponent Corey Stewart, at-large chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors.
Kaine reported raising $13.1 million from Jan. 1, 2017, through June 30, 2018, according to his campaign finance report filings on the Federal Election Commission website. Kaine has spent more than $10.2 million during the same period, and reported having $6 million on June 30.
Stewart reported raising more than $1 million from July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2018. Stewart reported spending $949,423 during the same period and he had $142,853 on June 30.
Kaine outraising Stewart is not a surprise, because the incumbent senator has national name-recognition as Hillary Clinton’s running mate during the 2016 presidential election, said Jennifer Victor, associate professor of political science at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University.
Still, there are no guarantees in politics, so Kaine is running “hard,” Victor said. A winner for Senate races spends on average $10 million, said Victor, adding that typically those who challenge incumbents have to outspend their opponent.
Stewart’s fundraising numbers show he is “struggling” to raise money for the race, Victor said.
While it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how TV ads affect voter choice, winning campaigns still tend to spend a lot of money on TV ads, Victor said, adding that ads can also spread on social media.
"More than 11,000 individuals have donated to Corey Stewart for U.S. Senate — including 6,000 Virginians," Stewart campaign spokesperson Nathan Brinkman told InsideNoVa. "As the polls tighten in this race, we expect the funding gap to narrow significantly."
In other races, campaign finance reports also reveal incumbents outraising their challengers so far.
Incumbent Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-10th District, is running against Democratic Party challenger Jennifer Wexton, who currently is a state senator representing District 33.
Comstock reported raising more than $3.8 million from Jan. 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018. She reported spending more than $2.1 million during that time and had more than $1.7 million on-hand June 30.
Wexton reported raising more than $1.9 million from April 1, 2017, until June 30 and spent more than $1.1 million during that time, with $765,705 on-hand as of June 30.
Independent Nathan Larson said in an email he did not file a campaign finance report because he did not raise or spend any money.
Both Comstock and Wexton are raising more than a typical House race because the race is competitive, Victor said. In the 2016 election, Comstock won with 52.7 percent of the 400,000-plus votes cast in total.
“So it’s kind of flippable or winnable for either party,” Victor said.
Incumbent U.S. Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-11th, is seeking his sixth term. Republican Jeff Dove Jr., a Woodbridge resident and Iraq War veteran, and Libertarian Stevan Porter, of Herndon, are challenging Connolly.
Connolly reported raising more than $1.6 million from Jan. 1, 2017, through June 30, 2018. He reported spending about $720,870 during that time, and he had more than $3.2 million on-hand as of June 30 to take on his challengers.
Dove reported raising about $372,691 from Jan. 1, 2017, through June 30, 2018. He spent about $333,099 during that time and had roughly $39,592 on June 30.
Porter reported raising about $5,088 from Nov. 30, 2016, until June 30, 2018. Porter reported spending about $4,709 during that time. Porter reported having about $378 on June 30.
Rep. Rob Wittman, R-1st District, who has represented the district since 2007, is seeking re-election against Vangie Williams, the Democratic Party nominee and a King George resident.
Wittman reported raising more than $1.1 million from Jan. 1, 2017, until June 30, 2018, and spent about $950,278 during that time. He had more than $1 million on-hand as of June 30.
Williams reported raising about $97,837 from Jan. 1, 2017, through June 30, 2018. She had spent around $67,922, leaving her about $29,915 as of June 30.