Self-Financing In The Race For Governor

Apr 26, 2021

Running for office usually requires a lot of fundraising.

Sometimes it also involves writing a check to finance your own campaign. 

Republican candidate for governor Pete Snyder loaned his campaign five million dollars. And Republican candidate for governor Glenn Youngkin loaned his campaign five and a half million dollars.

Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington says anybody who can write a five million dollar check can also afford to afford to lose that much money without it causing much of a problem.  "Five million dollars may sound like a lot of money to most people, but if you're willing to spend five million dollars on a political campaign, it probably means it doesn't mean all that much to you. You're only likely to get that five million dollars if you become the party nominee. Then people will be standing in line to give you money."

Shruti Shah at the Coalition for Integrity says this kind of self financing creates the impression that elections are for sale.  "If we say that participation in elections or people who can hold political office are only going to be wealthy individuals because they are the only ones who can afford to give themselves a five million dollar check, these are not the values that democratic societies are based on."

Terry McAuliffe is also a wealthy candidate, and during his first run for governor back in 2009 he cut himself a check for half a million dollars. Now, more than a decade later, his potential rivals for governor are willing to spend 10 times as much of their own money.

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