Lawmakers are forbidden from raising money during the General Assembly session, but their opponents are not.
But that might not make for an early advantage.
Other than the days surrounding an election, the biggest two weeks for fundraising in Virginia are the week before the General Assembly session begins and the weeks after the session ends. Campaign finance
numbers posted to the Virginia Public Access Project show lawmakers took in $870,000 in the days leading up to the session and $1.8 million in the month following the session.
Democratic strategist Ben Tribbett says the fundraising moratorium during the session certainly has an influence on challengers. “Sometimes they actually will plan their candidacy announcements around this moratorium," Tribbett says. "So incumbents won’t know that they’ll get a challenger until the day the session begins.”
Theoretically challengers might have an advantage being able to raise money for two months while their opponents cannot.
But Republican strategist Dan Scandling says it’s not that simple. “If a challenger is raising money and a special interest or someone is contributing to them during the session, and that gets back to the incumbent that so-and-so is contributing to your challenger, that doesn’t bode well for that person.”
Candidates challenging incumbents were able to rake in about $380,000 during the session when lawmakers had to deal with the moratorium. But that’s only a small fraction of what incumbents were able to raise before and after the session.