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Stories about Virginia

House District 12 tops Virginia battleground fundraising list with nearly identical candidate donation totals

Elections for all 100 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates are taking place on November 2, 2021. Democrats hold 55 seats and Republicans hold 45 seats. This is the first election cycle since 1999 with Democrats defending a majority in the chamber.

Ballotpedia has identified 22 battleground races in these elections. Sixteen are in Democrat-held districts, and six are in Republican-held districts. Based on analysis of these districts’ electoral histories, these races have the potential to be more competitive than other races and could possibly lead to shifts in a chamber’s partisan balance.

To determine these battleground races, Ballotpedia looked for races that fit one or more of the four factors listed below:

  1. The 2019 winner received less than 55 percent of the vote.
  2. The presidential candidate who won the district in 2020 is of a different party than the 2019 winner in the district, and the 2019 winner won by a margin of 10 percentage points or less.
  3. The presidential candidate who won the district in 2020 is of a different party than the 2019 winner in the district, and the incumbent is not on the ballot this year.
  4. The presidential candidate who won the district in 2020 is of a different party than the 2019 winner in the district, and that presidential candidate won the district by a margin of 20 percentage points or more.

Five battleground districts with the most fundraising

#1 District 10 – $1,427,115.04

Incumbent Wendy Gooditis (D) raised $713,788.18 while Nick Clemente (R) raised $713,326.86.

The Democratic candidate won 52-48 in the 2019 general election.

#2 District 40 – $1,100,583.90

Incumbent Dan Helmer (D) raised $751,851.02 while Harold Pyon (R) raised $348,732.88.

The Democratic candidate won 52-48 in the 2019 general election.

#3 District 31 – $1,029,964.75

Incumbent Elizabeth Guzman (D) raised $918,627.01 while Ben Baldwin (R) raised $111,337.74.

The Democratic candidate won 52-48 in the 2019 general election.

#4 District 12 – $935,729.31

Incumbent Chris Hurst (D) raised $666,962.18 while Jason Ballard (R) raised $268,767.13.

The Democratic candidate won 54-46 in the 2019 general election.

#5 District 73 – $928,158.74

Incumbent Rodney Willett (D) raised $643,732.59 while Mary Margaret Kastelberg (R) raised $284,426.15.

The Democratic candidate won 52-48 in the 2019 general election.

The data above are based on campaign finance reports that active Virginia candidate political action committees (candidate PACs) submitted to the Virginia Department of Elections. It includes fundraising activity between Jan. 1, 2020, and Aug. 31, 2021. Candidate PACs represent individuals who have run for state or local office at any point, including past and present officeholders. This article does not include non-candidate PACs.

This article was published in partnership with Transparency USA. Click here to learn more about that partnership.



State race spotlight: Virginia House of Delegates District 66

The Virginia House of Delegates is one of three state legislative chambers holding general elections this year. All 100 seats are up for election, with Democrats defending a majority for the first time in more than two decades. Today,

Ballotpedia identified 22 battleground districts based on four criteria. Sixteen battleground districts met one of those criteria and five met two. The only district to meet three of the criteria was District 66, located in between Richmond and Petersburg. The district is currently represented by Kirk Cox (R), who was first elected in 1989 and last re-elected in 2019, defeating Sheila Bynum-Coleman (D) 51.7% to 47.0%. Cox, who served as speaker of the House before control of the chamber flipped, ran for governor this year rather than seeking re-election. In 2020, Joe Biden (D) defeated Donald Trump (R) 54.5% to 44.2% in the district.

This year, Katie Sponsler (D) and Mike Cherry (R) are running for the seat. Both filled out Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey; see their profile pages on Ballotpedia for the complete survey responses.

Who are you? Tell us about yourself.

Cherry:

Mike Cherry is an educator, veteran, pastor, and patriot. From the flight line to the classroom to City Council, Mike has proven he will work with anyone and everyone to support and protect our community. Mike’s deep belief in Faith, Family, and Freedom drives his commitment to protect the American Dream for all Virginians. Mike was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and graduated from Roanoke Rapids High School in 1990. After graduation, Mike joined the United States Air Force as a Loadmaster on C-141B and C-17A aircraft. He is a decorated veteran with many Commendations, Achievements, and Meritorious Service medals to his credit. Mike traveled around the world defending our values and our freedom — visiting 6 of the 7 continents and more than 75 different countries. That exposure to different parts of the world strengthened his love for our country and his dedication to protecting our values. He is married to Teresa. They have two children, Jonathan and Madison, a daughter-in-law, Mikala, and the most precious granddaughter, Jovie. Mike is a Staff Pastor at Life Church and is Head of School at Life Christian Academy, a growing, thriving, a fully accredited school in South Chesterfield and Colonial Heights.

Sponsler:

I am a veteran of the US Air Force, a former Park Ranger with the National Park Service and a mother to 2 children on the autism spectrum. I am running to bring a working class voice to the GA.

Please list below 3 key messages of your campaign. What are the main points you want voters to remember about your goals for your time in office?

Cherry:

When Mike entered the USAF, he took an oath to protect our constitutional rights. He believes all Americans have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Mike believes a strong and safe Virginia is only possible with a strong police system.

As an educator, Mike has a very clear understanding of what is going on in today’s education system.

Sponsler:

Education should be public, equitable, and fully funded to serve the needs of diverse communities and a wide range of abilities

Economic Justice is central in every American family’s needs. Without reliable, fair, and safe employment our communities and families can not thrive.

Our environment is not just climate change, it is the landfills and factories in our our backyards. We must address the air, water and soil pollution in our district.

What areas of public policy are you personally passionate about?

Cherry:

Preservation of constitutional rights and individual liberties. Support for law enforcement and allowing the flexibility to do their jobs and preserving qualified immunity.

Sponsler:

Labor, Education, Gun Violence Prevention, Healthcare, Disability and Mental Health Advocacy

What characteristics or principles are most important for an elected official?

Cherry:

Honesty. Integrity.

Sponsler:

Integrity, and compassion. The ability to listen and process the stories and requests of your constituents into effective policy that makes real differences in the lives of those you serve is the most important ability anyone should bring to this office.

What qualities do you possess that you believe would make you a successful officeholder?

Cherry:

Honest, caring, integrity, personable.

Sponsler:

I have a knowledge of policy and how it actually impacts those on the ground. This is my reality and has been for most of my life. When I look at policy I know how it impacts many communities because I’ve lived in them, but I also know what I don’t know. I can listen and integrate the stories of others.

What legacy would you like to leave?

Cherry:

Change in the direction of returning this state back to its conservative values.

Sponsler:

That the Commonwealth and the 66th District are a little bit less painful for people on the margins.

What is your favorite book? Why?

Cherry:

The Bible. It is the most impactful book in the history of mankind. It is the instructions for a successful life.

Sponsler:

The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

It’s discussion of the human experience and how that forms us in different ways causing a deep internal look no matter how many times I read it and that is what I think all the best books do.

Do you believe that it’s beneficial for state legislators to have previous experience in government or politics?

Cherry:

Yes. It gives the citizens a real representation of how you will vote and represent them in the legislature.

Sponsler:

I believe networks, knowledge, and connections matter but that those can be built through many means. Too much experience often creates a complacency and a withdrawal from the real life experiences of the people within the district they represent.

Do you believe it’s beneficial to build relationships with other legislators? Please explain your answer.

Cherry:

Yes. You are more likely to get a positive response if you know them and they know you.

Sponsler:

Relationships are always valuable. Those relationships should be based in values that align and should not override the needs of the people you represent or the values that you represented on the campaign trail, however. Bipartisanship for the sake of bipartisanship or personal relationships that distance you from what you have set out to do should never be acceptable.

Both sitting legislators and candidates for office hear many personal stories from the residents of their district. Is there a story that you’ve heard that you found particularly touching, memorable, or impactful?

Cherry:

Recently there was a young man who ran 100 miles to raise money for a new police dog. That is the kind of community togetherness that I love and appreciate.

Sponsler:

After my first run in a district in which the partisan shift was severe and in opposition to my party I was wondering if a run to move the needle had been worth the exhaustion I was feeling . A young couple in one of the reddest part of the district reached out. I had never met them in person, but had knocked on their door a few times, each time leaving a note with my literature. They reached out to tell me that they were queer and had been both kicked out of their homes at the age of 16. They asked me to officiate their wedding in 3 months, saying simply that they had felt that all they had in the world since being shunned by their families was each other, until they started receiving my notes. Knowing that I lived around the corner made them feel like they were seen. The request was too beautiful to be ignored and watching this quirky, wonderful couple celebrate their love and getting to be a part of it, made me certain that not only was running worth it, but that I would never stop advocating for people like them.



Democratic candidates in Virginia House battleground districts raised 69% more money than Republican candidates

Elections for all 100 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates are taking place on November 2, 2021. Democrats hold 55 seats and Republicans hold 45 seats. This is the first election cycle since 1999 with Democrats defending a majority in the chamber.

Ballotpedia has identified 22 battleground races in these elections. Sixteen are in Democrat-held districts, and six are in Republican-held districts. Based on analysis of these districts’ electoral histories, these races have the potential to be more competitive than other races and could possibly lead to shifts in a chamber’s partisan balance.

To determine these battleground races, Ballotpedia looked for races that fit one or more of the four factors listed below:

  1. The 2019 winner received less than 55 percent of the vote.
  2. The presidential candidate who won the district in 2020 is of a different party than the 2019 winner in the district, and the 2019 winner won by a margin of 10 percentage points or less.
  3. The presidential candidate who won the district in 2020 is of a different party than the 2019 winner in the district, and the incumbent is not on the ballot this year.
  4. The presidential candidate who won the district in 2020 is of a different party than the 2019 winner in the district, and that presidential candidate won the district by a margin of 20 percentage points or more.

Total money raised

Across these battleground districts, Democratic candidates have raised a total of $10.0 million, while Republican candidates have raised a total of $4.8 million. The average is $455,162 per Democratic candidate and $220,148 per Republican candidate.

For comparison, across all general election candidates in the state, Democratic candidates raised an average of $309,606 and Republican candidates raised an average of $113,046.

The data above are based on campaign finance reports that active Virginia candidate political action committees (candidate PACs) submitted to the Virginia Department of Elections. It includes fundraising activity between Jan. 1, 2020, and Aug. 31, 2021. Candidate PACs represent individuals who have run for state or local office at any point, including past and present officeholders. This article does not include non-candidate PACs.

This article was published in partnership with Transparency USA. Click here to learn more about that partnership.



Beth Barts, subject of Loudoun County school board recall effort, resigns from office

Beth Barts, the Leesburg District representative on the Loudoun County Public Schools school board in Virginia, announced her resignation from office on Oct. 15. Her resignation will be effective Nov. 2.

Barts was the subject of a recall effort that included five other members of the board. Her petition was the first one filed with the Loudoun County Circuit Court. At a pre-trial hearing on Oct. 5, the circuit court judge ruled that the petition could advance to a full trial. The judge also granted the recall petitioners’ request to appoint a special prosecutor. Stafford County Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Olsen (R) was appointed to serve in that position.

In Virginia, recall efforts are determined in circuit court rather than at the ballot box. Virginia also requires certain reasons to be met for a recall to move forward, including neglect of duty, misuse of office, incompetence, or conviction of misdemeanors related to drugs or hate crimes. Recall supporters must collect signatures ​​equal in number to 10% of the votes cast in the last election for that office. The recall effort against Barts needed 1,176 signatures. Recall supporters announced they collected 1,860. They submitted the petition signatures on Aug. 25.

In her resignation announcement, Barts said, “This was not an easy decision or a decision made in haste. After much thought and careful consideration, it is the right decision for me and my family.” Her attorney said he expected the recall case against her to be declared moot. He said if she had fought against the case, he expected her to have won.

Recall supporters said they launched the effort due to school board members’ involvement in a private Facebook group. They said the board members’ involvement in the group was a violation of Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act as well as the school board’s Code of Conduct because the members discussed public matters in a private setting. Recall supporters also alleged that the district was using Critical Race Theory in its employee training and student curriculum, which they opposed.

Interim Superintendent Scott Ziegler said the district uses a Culturally Responsive Framework that “speaks to providing a welcoming, affirming environment and developing cultural competence through culturally responsive instruction, deeper learning, equitable classroom practices and social-emotional needs for a focus on the whole child.” He said the district did not use Critical Race Theory in its staff training or student curriculum.

Barts was first elected to a four-year term on the board on Nov. 5, 2019. She received 54.8% of the vote and defeated one other candidate. Though school board elections are nonpartisan, Barts was supported by the Loudoun County Democratic Committee.

Loudoun County Public Schools served 81,906 students during the 2018-2019 school year.

Ballotpedia has tracked 81 school board recall efforts against 209 board members so far in 2021—the highest number of school board recall efforts we have tracked in one year. The next-highest year was in 2010 with 38 recall efforts against 91 school board members.

In the first half of 2021, Ballotpedia tracked 164 recall efforts against 262 officials overall. This was the most recall efforts for this point in the year since the first half of 2016, when we tracked 189 recall efforts against 265 officials. In comparison, we tracked between 72 and 155 efforts by the midpoints of 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.

Additional reading:



Eight of 13 Virginia House committee chairs raised less money than the average member this cycle

Elections for all 100 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates are taking place on November 2, 2021. Democrats hold 55 seats and Republicans hold 45 seats. This is the first election cycle since 1999 with Democrats defending a majority in the chamber.

Committee chair fundraising

State legislative committee chairs set a committee’s legislative agenda. As a result of this legislative influence, they often raise more money than their counterparts in a state legislature. The average amount raised by delegates who did not serve as a committee chair was $364,123. The funds raised by each of the House’s 13 committee chairs are shown below. 

The data above are based on campaign finance reports that active Virginia candidate political action committees (candidate PACs) submitted to the Virginia Department of Elections. It includes fundraising activity between Jan. 1, 2020, and Aug. 31, 2021. Candidate PACs represent individuals who have run for state or local office at any point, including past and present officeholders. This article does not include non-candidate PACs.

This article was published in partnership with Transparency USA. Click here to learn more about that partnership.



Democratic incumbents in VA House elections raised 126% more money than Republican incumbents

Elections for all 100 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates are taking place on November 2, 2021. Democrats hold 55 seats and Republicans hold 45 seats. This is the first election cycle since 1999 with Democrats defending a majority in the chamber.

Elections for 93 of the 100 House of Delegates seats up this year feature both a Democratic and Republican candidate. Among the 93 contested House races, there are 48 Democratic incumbents and 35 Republican incumbents. 

Total funds raised

The total funds raised by general election candidates broken down by incumbency status and political party are shown below. 

  • Democratic incumbents raised a total of $22,372,826.
  • Republican challengers raised a total of $5,120,263.
  • Republican incumbents raised a total of $5,094,437.
  • Democratic challengers raised a total of $5,158,720.

Average funds raised

The average funds raised by general election candidates broken down by incumbency status and political party are shown below.

  • Democratic incumbents raised an average of $463,928.
  • Republican challengers raised an average of $88,280.
  • Republican incumbents raised an average of $145,555.
  • Democratic challengers raised an average of $114,638.

The data above are based on campaign finance reports that active Virginia candidate political action committees (candidate PACs) submitted to the Virginia Department of Elections. It includes fundraising activity between Jan. 1, 2020, and Aug. 31, 2021. Candidate PACs represent individuals who have run for state or local office at any point, including past and present officeholders. This article does not include non-candidate PACs.

This article was published in partnership with Transparency USA. Click here to learn more about that partnership.



Top five donors to Democratic and Republican candidates for Virginia House

Elections for all 100 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates are taking place on November 2, 2021. Democrats hold 55 seats and Republicans hold 45 seats. This is the first election cycle since 1999 with Democrats defending a majority in the chamber.

Top five individual donors by party

Virginia House candidate political action committees (PACs) raised a total of $44.74 million from Jan. 1, 2020, through Aug. 31, 2021. Democratic House candidate PACs raised $33.12 million, while Republican House candidate PACs raised $11.62 million. 

The five individual donors who gave the most money to candidates of a single political party are shown below. 

Top five individual donors to Democratic candidates:

Top five individual donors to Republican candidates:

The data above are based on campaign finance reports that active Virginia candidate PACs submitted to the Virginia Department of Elections. It includes fundraising activity between Jan. 1, 2020, and Aug. 31, 2021. Candidate PACs represent individuals who have run for state or local office at any point, including past and present officeholders. This article does not include donations made to non-candidate PACs. Click on any donor to see their total donations during this fundraising period.

This article was published in partnership with Transparency USA. Click here to learn more about that partnership.



Campaign finance data now available for all Virginia House of Delegates races

Elections for all 100 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates are taking place on November 2, 2021. Democrats hold 55 seats and Republicans hold 45 seats. There are 93 districts with both a Democratic and Republican candidate on the ballot. This is the first election cycle since 1999 with Democrats defending a majority in the chamber.

In partnership with Transparency USA, Ballotpedia has published campaign finance information for each of the districts in the Virginia House. To view the data by district, click here. On each district widget, you can click on a candidate’s name to view their profile and explore their campaign finance information in more detail.

The data available is current through Aug. 31, 2021. Additional data will be available in late October once the state’s final pre-election campaign finance deadline passes.



Two of the five Virginia House districts with the lowest total donations this cycle are 2019 rematches

Elections for all 100 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates are taking place on November 2, 2021. Democrats hold 55 seats and Republicans hold 45 seats. There are 93 districts with both a Democratic and Republican candidate on the ballot. This is the first election cycle since 1999 with Democrats defending a majority in the chamber.

Five least expensive general elections

#1 District 23 – $27,064.85

This district is located in West Central Virginia and includes portions of Lynchburg City and Bedford and Amherst counties. Incumbent Wendell Walker (R) raised $27,060 while Natalie Short (D) raised $5.

The Republican candidate won 64%-36% in the 2019 general election.

#2 District 98 – $34,702.80

This district is located in Eastern Virginia and includes portions of Essex, Gloucester, King & Queen, King William, Mathews, and Middlesex counties. Incumbent Keith Hodges (R) raised $34,703 while Ella Webster (D) raised $0.

Hodges defeated Webster 69%-31% in the 2019 general election.

#3 District 16 – $43,278.02

This district is located in the Southside region and includes portions of Martinsville City and Henry and Pittsylvania counties. Incumbent Les Adams (R) raised $41,038 while Chance Trevillian (D) raised $2,240.

The Republican candidate defeated a Libertarian Party candidate 75%-25% in the 2019 general election.

#4 District 54 – $53,230.00

This district is located in Central Virginia and includes portions of Caroline and Spotsylvania counties. Incumbent Bobby Orrock (R) raised $52,385 while Eric Butterworth (D) raised $845.

The Republican candidate won 58%-42% in the 2019 general election.

#5 District 61 – $56,926.59

This district is located in the Southside region and includes portions of Amelia, Cumberland, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, and Nottoway counties. Incumbent Tommy Wright (R) raised $39,615 while Trudy Bell Berry (D) raised $4,913 and Joseph Paschal (L) raised $12,399.

Wright defeated Bell Berry 67%-33% in the 2019 general election.

Comparison to the state average

Across Virginia in the 2021 election cycle, the average amount raised for a general election featuring more than one candidate was $394,827.38. The map below shades the Virginia House districts based on the amount of money raised in that district.

The data above are based on campaign finance reports that active Virginia candidate political action committees (candidate PACs) submitted to the Virginia Department of Elections. It includes fundraising activity between Jan. 1, 2020, and August 31, 2021. Candidate PACs represent individuals who have run for state or local office at any point, including past and present officeholders. This article does not include non-candidate PACs. General elections without both a Democratic and Republican candidate were not included.

This article was published in partnership with Transparency USA. Click here to learn more about that partnership.



Three of the top five fundraisers to lose a Virginia House primary this cycle were incumbent Democrats

Elections for all 100 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates are taking place on November 2, 2021. Primaries were held on June 8, though party committees could also choose to hold conventions instead of primaries.

Top fundraisers with unsuccessful primary campaigns

The Democratic candidates who raised the most money and lost their primary were:

  • Pamela Montgomery – $774,386.90 – District 2 (Lost primary 68%-32%)
  • Incumbent Mark Levine – $534,948.62 – District 45 (Lost primary 59%-41%)
  • Incumbent Steve Heretick – $507,960.02 – District 79 (Lost primary 47%-41%)
  • Incumbent Lee Carter – $262,065.50 – District 50 (Lost primary 44%-38%)
  • Rod Hall – $240,416.56 – District 31 (Lost primary 53%-37%)

The Republican candidates who raised the most money and lost their primary were:

  • Incumbent Charles Poindexter – $140,994.86 – District 9 (Lost primary 63%-37%)
  • Christopher Stolle – $113,601.00 – District 83 (Lost primary 48%-47%)
  • Rich Breeden – $49,870.00 – District 88 (Lost convention 46%-40%)
  • Lowell Bowman – $40,736.78 – District 7 (Finished third in convention with 20% of vote)
  • Mike Dickinson – $39,535.00 – District 68 (Lost primary 91%-8%)

The data above are based on campaign finance reports that active Virginia candidate political action committees (candidate PACs) submitted to the Virginia Department of Elections. It includes fundraising activity between Jan. 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021. Candidate PACs represent individuals who have run for state or local office at any point, including past and present officeholders. This article does not include non-candidate PACs. Primary elections with only one candidate were not included.

This article was published in partnership with Transparency USA. Click here to learn more about that partnership.