GOP incumbents hold big cash advantage

Kai Degner

Kai Degner and LuAnn Bennett are finding themselves in a familiar place for candidates challenging incumbent members of Congress in the final weeks of the campaign: Lagging far behind their opponents in money raised and cash on hand.

Quarterly campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Elections Commission show Degner, a Democrat from Harrisonburg, raised $80,809 and spent almost the same amount compared with $202,982 raised and $257,077 spent by U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke, in the 6th Congressional District.

Goodlatte’s $1,040,850 cash on hand dwarfed Degner’s $20,635.

The finance reports cover the period from July 1 through Sept. 30.

The story was similar in the 10th District, although the sums of money were considerably larger and the race between U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-McLean, and Bennett, a Democrat also from McLean, is widely perceived to be a toss-up or leaning slightly toward Comstock with Bennett closing in.

LuAnn Bennett

Comstock raised $1,060,959 and spent $1,369,274, compared to Bennett’s $692,718 in receipts and $1,474,523 in expenditures. Comstock entered the last five weeks of the campaign with a massive advantage in cash on hand, $1,948,297 to Bennett’s $90,024.

Representatives from the Democrats’ campaigns tried to put the best face on the disparities by focusing on amounts received by individual donors.

Degner stated in a written statement that 94 percent of his contributions came from “people, not PACs.”

“This shows we have an efficient, people driven campaign, rather than one supported by wealthy donors and political interest groups,” Degner stated.

Degner’s financial statement showed a single PAC contribution of $250 from the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws. Goodlatte’s campaign showed a long list of contributions from PACs, a few of which have donated up to $10,000 since January.

Bob Goodlatte

Messages left with Goodlatte’s campaign were not returned.

Robert Howard, a spokesman for Bennett’s campaign, said Comstock’s fundraising prowess comes as no surprise.

“We always knew we were going to be outraised and outspent going against a formidable fundraiser like Barbara Comstock,” Howard said, adding that when only contributions from individual voters are considered “we’re right there neck and neck.”

Susan Falconer, Comstock’s campaign manager, said her candidate raised nearly 60 percent more than Bennett in small dollar contributions, defined as less than $200, during July, August and September. For the entire election cycle, Comstock has received almost 80 percent more in small dollar contributions than Bennett, Falconer said.

“Barbara’s opponent is a Washington, D.C.,-based real estate developer … with few ties to Virginia’s 10th District, and it shows by her lack of support with small dollar donors,” Falconer said in an email statement.

Barbara Comstock

Howard said the finance reports do not reflect trends in receipts and expenditures since Sept. 30, a period in which Democrats have grown more hopeful about Bennett’s chances.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com.