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Virginia campaign spending confirms 2024’s record-breaking election expenses.

Virginia’s General Assembly Elections: ‌A Bellwether for⁣ the 2024 Presidential Primaries

Politicos nationwide are eagerly watching Virginia’s General Assembly elections on Nov. 7​ as a crucial indicator for the upcoming 2024 presidential primaries, set to begin just three months later.

While ‍analysts will need to sift ​through data after‍ Election Day to fully ‍understand the implications for the 2024 elections elsewhere, one thing is certain right now: Virginia’s 2023 General Assembly‌ campaign spending is on track to double ⁤or even triple the record-setting pace seen in 2019.

If the⁣ spending in Virginia is indeed a barometer for the 2024 elections,‍ it will confirm the prediction⁤ made by an⁢ ad ‍agency that the 2024 ​elections will ⁣be “the most‌ expensive political cycle of all time.” AdImpact projected that‍ campaigns nationwide will spend a staggering $10.2 ​billion for the‌ 2024 cycle, representing a 13-percent increase⁢ over the record-setting elections of 2020.⁣ However, some⁢ experts believe this estimate may be too conservative.

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The political industry has long been captivated by ​the voting patterns of Virginia’s bellwether commonwealth, which holds state legislature elections‍ every November before the Iowa January presidential caucuses, as it often provides ⁤insights into potential trends.

Virginia’s 2023 General Assembly elections are no exception. According to FiveThirtyEight, Virginia currently boasts the only highly competitive state legislature ‍in the​ nation. As a⁣ result, the election​ rating service predicts ‌that ⁢Virginia will be the center⁤ of attention during the 2023 elections.

On​ Virginia’s Nov. 7 ballot, all 100 seats in the House of Delegates, currently led ‍by Republicans with a 52-48 majority, and all 40 seats in the state Senate, where Democrats hold a 22-18 advantage, will be up for ‍grabs.

Several key issues are​ emerging in Virginia, including the economy, abortion, and education. While voter enthusiasm may not be as high as ⁤in 2020 or‍ even 2022, it ⁢is important to note that this could change. Furthermore, campaign spending, particularly by outside national ​groups, is skyrocketing.

Early voting has been underway in Virginia’s⁢ Nov. 7 General Assembly election since Sept. ​22 in polling sites such‍ as this one in Hillsboro, where voters here are casting their ballots, on Nov. 3, 2020. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP‍ via Getty Images)

A⁤ $300 Million Election?

According to a Wason Center/Christopher Newport ⁣University survey conducted‍ from Sept. 28 to Oct. 11, more ‌than⁣ one⁤ in four Virginians consider the economy their top issue, followed ‍by inflation, ‍abortion, and K-12 education.

Republicans and Independents both prioritize the⁢ economy and inflation as their top two concerns, while Democrats are focused on campaigning‍ against Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s ⁤proposed 15-week⁢ abortion ban.

Notably, only 39 percent of‍ the 800 poll respondents supported the 15-week abortion ban, which could serve as a warning for​ candidates who endorse it.

The poll reveals a‍ highly competitive landscape, with 42 percent of respondents indicating they will vote Democrat, 41⁣ percent⁣ Republican, and 17 percent​ undecided. However, the ultimate outcome will depend⁣ on voter turnout.

Turnout is a ​crucial factor, and there are indications that it may mirror the pattern observed in Louisiana’s Oct. 14 “jungle primary.” Despite having races for governor and eight proposed constitutional amendments on the ⁣ballot, Louisiana experienced its lowest turnout in​ a dozen​ years‌ during the fall 2023 election. Democrats, in particular, showed a‌ lack of engagement.

If​ early voting trends in Virginia from​ Sept. 22 to Nov. 4 persist, turnout may fall below the 42.4 percent recorded in the 2019 General Assembly elections, which ‍is significantly lower⁤ than the‍ 75 percent turnout in 2020 and the nearly 50 percent in 2022.

However, with⁢ same-day registration voting via provisional ballot allowed since 2022, ⁤there is ‌a possibility of a surge in turnout beyond the ‌6.1 million registered voters in Virginia​ as of Oct. 1.

What is certain is that a substantial amount ‌of money is being spent on the campaigns. According to the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP), OpenSecrets, and the Virginia Center for Investigative‍ Journalism‌ (VCIJ),⁤ candidates for the General Assembly and state-registered PACs ⁣have raised over‍ $54.5 million as⁢ of Sept. 12.

It⁣ is more challenging to track the millions pouring into⁢ state PACs and issue-oriented entities from national organizations, as ‌Virginia law does not require 501(c)(4) nonprofits to disclose their donors.

The general consensus⁤ is that campaign spending, including contributions from campaigns, PACs, and interest groups, will ultimately exceed⁣ $100 million, more than double ​the amount ‍spent in the 2019 General Assembly elections. Some estimates even suggest that ‌election spending directed towards 2023 since 2019 could reach between ​$200 million and $300 million, doubling or even tripling the amount spent in ‌the 2015-19‍ cycle.

Virginia General Assembly House of Delegates⁣ chamber in session in Richmond, Va., on Feb. 23, 2023. (Courtesy of Vision Times)

‘Outsiders’ Spending Big

As of mid-September, Democrats have outpaced their Republican opponents in fundraising for the most competitive ⁣House⁢ and Senate district ⁢races.

Out of the $13.13 million raised by 134 Senate candidates, Democrats have ⁣collected $8.12 million, while Republicans have ​raised $4.857 million.

In the House, 309 candidates have raised nearly ‍$13.35 million, with Democrats⁤ receiving $7.5 million and Republicans $5.7 million.

State-registered PACs have reported contributions of nearly $28 million by mid-September. Notably,‌ Gov.​ Glenn​ Youngkin’s Spirit of Virginia PAC has contributed $3.8⁢ million ‌to Republican ‍campaigns between July 1 and Sept. ⁢15. The PAC had already⁤ raised over $12 million by⁣ mid-summer, and during an “Red Vest Fundraiser” on Oct.‌ 16-17, donors added another $4.4 million to Spirit of Virginia’s funds.

While Mr. Youngkin may not be on the ‌ballot, he ⁤is actively supporting Republican candidates both financially and on the campaign trail, advocating for his “moderate” 15-week abortion ban. Other notable PAC ​donations include Dominion Energy‍ with $2.385 million, ⁣Clean ​Virginia Fund with⁤ $3 million, Planned Parenthood VA with $1 million, and League ‌of Conservation Voters ⁣with $800,000.

Virginia’s Republican Commonwealth Leadership PAC has contributed $1.4 ⁤million to campaigns, while Democrats have received nearly $4 million from national organizations. ‌The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has⁣ committed $1.5⁣ million, including $1.2 million between July 1 and Sept.​ 15, and the ⁢Democratic Legislative‌ Campaign Committee has contributed at ⁢least $2.2 million.

However, these numbers only scratch the surface. According to OpenSecrets,‌ VCIJ, and ​VPAP, untraceable “dark money” that falls below the state’s disclosure requirements is ⁤flowing into state-based ⁣PACs from wealthy individual donors⁤ and national organizations who view Virginia’s ​Nov. 7 election as a rehearsal for their tactics and ​strategies in 2024.

For instance, Americans ⁣for Prosperity, the conservative​ nonprofit founded by the⁤ Koch brothers, ⁤has injected over $1 million into 17⁣ Republican ⁣campaigns, with two GOP ⁣Senate candidates⁢ receiving nearly $221,000 and $179,000, respectively.

The American Federation for Children,‌ which spent $9 million on state elections in 2022 to support school choice candidates, has contributed⁢ around $400,000 to⁤ its Virginia chapter ⁤for select candidates in the ⁤primary and is expected to match that ‍amount in the general election to advocate for school‍ choice.

Forward Majority Action, ​a⁢ nationwide PAC focused⁣ on⁢ fair democracy, ⁢has distributed at least $241,000 to predominantly Democratic candidates running in House races.‌ In June, the group received $2.5 million in donations, including $535,000 from billionaire hedge fund manager Stephen Mandel, to support Virginia’s elections.

Why ​is Virginia’s status as a political bellwether significant in relation ‍to the upcoming 2024 presidential primaries?

The significance of Virginia’s General⁤ Assembly ⁣elections is not limited⁢ to the state itself but extends to the broader political ​landscape of the United States.⁣ With the 2024 presidential⁤ primaries‌ approaching,⁢ political analysts are closely observing the outcomes‍ of‍ these elections ⁣on November 7th, as‍ they are expected‍ to serve as a bellwether for the primaries.

One notable aspect that has caught the⁢ attention of experts is the unprecedented campaign ‍spending in⁤ Virginia’s 2023 General Assembly elections. ⁤It is projected that the spending will surpass the record-setting pace ⁤witnessed in 2019, potentially⁢ doubling or even tripling it. If this pattern holds true, it ⁣will corroborate⁢ the prediction made by an advertising agency that the ⁤2024 elections will be the most expensive political cycle in‌ history. AdImpact projected a staggering ​$10.2 billion in campaign spending nationwide for the 2024 cycle, ⁣representing a 13-percent increase over the 2020​ elections which already ‍set a record. However, some ⁤experts‍ speculate that this‍ estimate may be too conservative, suggesting that the actual expenditure could ​be ⁣even higher.

Virginia’s status as a political bellwether is not new. The state’s voting patterns and outcomes have often provided valuable insights into ⁢potential ⁢trends for the broader political landscape. This is particularly significant⁢ as Virginia ⁢holds its state legislature elections every November ​ahead of ​the Iowa January presidential caucuses. Therefore, the⁣ elections in Virginia tend to set the stage for the ⁣mood and potential patterns in the upcoming primaries.

This year’s General Assembly elections in Virginia have garnered intense national interest and attention ‌due ‍to ‍several​ factors.‌ FiveThirtyEight reports that Virginia currently possesses the only ‍highly competitive state legislature in the country. Consequently, the election‍ rating service ‌predicts ⁢that Virginia will be the center of attention during the‍ 2023 elections. On November 7th, all 100 seats in the⁢ House of ⁤Delegates, currently led by Republicans with a 52-48 majority, and‍ all 40 seats in the state Senate, where⁢ Democrats hold a 22-18 advantage,⁤ will be up for grabs.

Several key‌ issues‌ have emerged as central to these elections in Virginia.⁤ The economy, abortion, ​and education have taken the ⁢spotlight, shaping the‍ campaigns and inspiring public discourse. While voter enthusiasm may not currently match the levels seen in 2020 or​ 2022, it is important ⁣to⁤ note that this could change as the​ election ‌draws ‍nearer. Moreover, campaign spending, particularly by outside national groups, has seen an unprecedented rise, reflecting the significance ⁢placed on these elections.

In​ conclusion, Virginia’s General ‌Assembly elections on November 7th serve as a​ crucial indicator ⁣for the ⁣upcoming 2024 presidential primaries. ‌The ⁢projected campaign spending⁢ in Virginia‌ and the level of interest‌ generated by these elections highlight their potential impact on the broader political landscape. As the most expensive political cycle in history looms, Virginia’s outcomes will provide ‍important insights into the trends and patterns‌ that the nation can expect in the ⁢upcoming ⁣primaries.



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