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Lt. Gov. Candidate Flips on Dominion Donation Pledge

AP Photo / Steve Helber

In recent years, many Democrats have started taking a pledge to resist money from one particular controversial source. Now, that is becoming an issue in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor.

There was a time when every member of the General Assembly took money from Dominion Energy, the utility monopoly that's long been at the center of Virginia politics. Now many Democrats have taken a pledge to resist money from Dominion. One of those was Delegate Hala Ayala, who’s now running for lieutenant governor. Campaign finance numbers show she recently received $100,000 from Dominion.

Quentin Kidd at Christopher Newport University says flipping on the pledge will probably cost her.

"I think it tarnishes any candidate who takes a pledge not to do something and then does it," Kidd says. "And it suggests that when you took the pledge you either hadn't thought through very seriously what that pledge meant or you didn't take it seriously yourself."

Democratic strategist Ben Tribbett says taking the money shows the Ayala campaign is getting desperate as the primary approaches.

"For a lot of new candidates, they all take the anti-Dominion pledge when they start running because there's really not much of a constituency to tell them not to, and then a lot of them want to flip on it after they're elected the same way that the Grover Norquist no-tax pledge in the Republican Party; every new candidate is going to take it but some people are going to become uncomfortable with it over time and want to flip out from underneath it," says Tribbett.

In a written statement, Ayala says her decisions in elected office have always been based on what's best for Virginia families -- adding that as lieutenant governor, that's exactly what she'll keep doing.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.