POLITICS: PennAve

Terry McAuliffe tops Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia fundraising heading into final 50 days

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Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe raised $1.7 million more than Republican opponent Ken Cuccinelli in fundraising over the summer, according to campaign finance reports released Monday.

McAuliffe hauled in $7.4 million during July and August compared with Cuccinelli's $5.7 million. McAuliffe also has more than twice as much cash on hand heading into the final two months of the bruising battle for the governor's mansion — $5 million in the bank versus $2.2 million for Cuccinelli.

Both candidates received significant financial support from their respective parties. As much as two-thirds of Cuccinelli's reported donations came from the Republican Governors Association, which pitched in $3.7 million.

The Democratic Governors Association gave McAuliffe $2.7 million.

The average poll in Virginia shows McAuliffe with a seven-point lead, according to Real Clear Politics, with just 50 days to go. The former Democratic National Committee chairman on Monday scored the endorsement of Will Sessoms, the Republican mayor of Virginia Beach, the largest city in the state.

But Cuccinelli, who has reportedly reshuffled his campaign organization and has more willingly embraced conservatives recently after months of moving to the middle, is looking to build momentum from an endorsement to his campaign from TechPAC, the political arm of the influential Northern Virginia Technology Council. According to reports from the Washington Post, that endorsement was highly coveted by McAuliffe, whose campaign spent the weekend pressuring the TechPAC members to reconsider.

Ultimately TechPAC stood by the endorsement, but the NVTC distanced itself from the decision and said that the full board would not back a candidate.

TechPAC typically endorses more Republicans, but much has been made of the Northern Virginia business community's reticence to embrace Cuccinelli, the state's outspoken conservative attorney general. The endorsement of Cuccinelli suggests at least some business leaders are just as skeptical of McAuliffe, who has never held political office.

Cuccinelli spent Monday highlighting the Post report and accused McAuliffe of employing bully tactics reminiscent of the Washington, D.C., culture where the Democrat sharpened his political knives.

Cuccinelli's campaign called the endorsement the "defining moment in the Virginia gubernatorial election."

"The significance of the NVTC TechPAC’s endorsement of Ken Cuccinelli is news in and of itself, but tactics employed by McAuliffe’s allies in a brazen attempt to derail it, perfectly encapsulate everything each Virginian must know about Terry McAuliffe," spokeswoman Anna Nix said.

Indeed, if the race breaks late for Cuccinelli, many will point to the NVTC saga as the turning point. McAuliffe also has taken heat recently for not returning a 2009 $2,500 donation from Jeffrey Thompson, who is accused of running illegal shadow campaigns for D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign.

But if McAuliffe maintains his lead, many will point to the fundraising advantage he has held from the start over Cuccinelli, whose own flaws as a candidate have helped McAuliffe gain a lead in the polls.

Much of McAuliffe's help has come from organized labor, which pitched in another $425,000 after $1.8 million in donations already. While McAuliffe says he supports Virginia's right-to-work laws, a Cuccinelli governorship gives Republicans a greater shot at further restricting union power in the state.

Cuccinelli, meanwhile, continues to garner financial support from energy groups. Organizations with ties to energy companies gave Cuccinelli well over $160,000 in recent months on top of the nearly $570,000 contributed through June. The Republican has faced a backlash for his office's role in a land royalties dispute between homeowners and companies looking to extract natural gas in southwest Virginia.

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