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Some races may set spending records
 
BY PAMELA STALLSMITH
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
Jul 25, 2005

The costliest House contest so far is that between Albo and Werkheiser in Fairfax
House of Delegates candidates have raised at least $13.2 million so far in their quest to win election this fall, with some races poised to set spending records.

Contenders for 100 House seats had spent about $9.5 million as of June 30, according to a Times-Dispatch analysis of campaign-finance reports compiled by the Virginia Public Access Project, which tracks money in state politics.

Some delegates and challengers shelled out a chunk of that money in last month's bruising nominating primaries, which saw seven Democratic and 12 Republican contests. Half of the GOP races centered on last year's $1.4 billion tax increase.

Now the candidates are looking to Nov. 8. Thirty-eight delegates are facing challenges, and voters will decide 12 open seats.

Republicans want bigger majority

Republicans hope to expand their 60 members and solidify their majority, while Democrats -- who number 38 -- would like to continue the electoral gains they began making in 2003 after a nearly 30-year decline. The House also includes two Republican-leaning independents.

Both parties are prepared to pump dollars and direct resources to their candidates.

The House Republican Campaign Committee entered July with more than $102,000 and has raised more than $307,000. The House Democratic Caucus listed almost $117,000 in cash and had collected nearly $210,000. In addition, legislative leaders run their own political-action committees that disperse dollars, and other members and groups are writing checks.

"This is going to be our eighth contested election in just under eight years. We have never stopped running," said Del. Richard H. Black, R-Loudoun, who reported the largest treasury with $216,703, and who has brought in almost $306,000 since January 2004.

Black is facing a challenge this fall from Democrat David Poisson, who entered July with more than $61,000 in cash and has brought in a total approaching $109,000.

"I'm in constant campaign mode," said Black, a retired military officer. "I sort of subscribe to the old Marine Corps notion that when you seize a hill, you begin to reinforce it, and you never stop."

The most expensive race so far is the battle over the 42nd District in Fairfax County, which pits incumbent Republican David B. Albo against Democrat Gregory Werkheiser.

The two have already brought in a total of more than $530,000 four months away from the election.

Albo, a lawyer who has been expected to become chairman of the influential House Courts of Justice Committee, began July with more than $204,000 in cash, the second most of all House candidates, and had collected nearly $285,000 over the past 1 years.

Albo's biggest gift of $25,000 came from the Dominion Leadership Trust, the political-action committee of House Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford.

Albo has already raised more money for this race than he spent for his entire last "tough" election.

"I have to be able to get out my side of the story," said Albo, a delegate since 1994. "It's really expensive."

Werkheiser, a lawyer making his first bid for public office, has raised the most money of all the challengers and more than many incumbents, listing more than $245,000. He ended June with almost $128,000 in his treasury.

Two of his top benefactors includes OneVirginia, the PAC of Gov. Mark R. Warner, which gave him $15,000, and the House Democratic Caucus, which donated $17,000.

"We're keeping good pace with a 12-year incumbent," Werkheiser said. "If you want to know how much the race will cost, all you have to do is ask Mr. Albo how much money he's going to raise and double that, because we're going to keep pace with his campaign."

Amount rises each cycle

The amount of money spent in each election cycle continues to increase, especially in competitive contests, observed one political analyst.

"For many incumbents, raising a large warchest is a way of scaring off potential quality challengers," said Mark Rozell of George Mason University. "If I'm an incumbent, I would want to have a lot of money saved up to run."

Del. Ward L. Armstrong, D-Henry, brought in the most money of all House candidates last month, raising more than $106,000 between June 2 and June 30. Armstrong, who has represented the sprawling Southside district since 1992, enjoys a lopsided fundraising edge over his opponent, Republican David Young.

Armstrong has garnered more than $217,000 altogether, and began this month with more than $188,000 in cash.

"I'd be the first one to tell you that dollars are not votes, but I think that fundraising is a barometer of your support," Armstrong said, pointing to how 85 percent of his money last month came from the four localities he represents.

Armstrong learned a valuable political lesson from the lawmaker he succeeded, the late House Speaker A.L. Philpott of Henry County.

"Back in the '80s, he had a fellow running against him, and if you talked to A.L., you thought he was going to lose. And, of course, he didn't. He took every candidate seriously. If you don't, you do so at your own peril," Armstrong said.

Young, a retired agricultural teacher who's a member of the Patrick County Board of Supervisors, also received a pointer from Philpott.

"If you want things done in Richmond, you have to be in the majority party. A.L. Philpott used to say that in every political race. It makes sense, because the party in power determines where the money goes," Young said.

Young entered July with more than $4,000 in cash and has garnered almost $13,000. Of that, $9,000 came from the House Republican Campaign Committee.

"I'm shaking hands and talking to people," Young said. "That's the way I'm going to do it. It's hard for a challenger to raise a lot of money, especially in a rural area like this."


Contact Pamela Stallsmith at (804) 649-6746 or pstallsmith@timesdispatch.com