Campaign finance documents show that former Lt. Gov. Don Beyer crushed the nine other candidates in the hotly contested Democratic primary. But who came in second place? That depends on how you want to count the numbers.
If second place means the candidate who came in second place in terms of total contributions, that honor goes to former Urban League of Northern Virginia president Lavern Chatman. But if second place means the second largest war chest of cash on hand, the answer is radio personality Mark Levine. Then again, if the silver medal goes to the candidate who took in the second largest amount of money, that distinction belongs to former Navy pilot Bruce Shuttleworth. On the other hand, Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille issued a press release claiming he was in second place, only to later explain that meant he raised the second highest amount of money that did not include loans or money from the candidate.
"Everybody else is still number two no matter how you slice it," said Stephen Farnsworth, political science professor with the University of Mary Washington.
No matter which way the other candidates sliced and diced the numbers, Beyer comes out on top on the fundraising game. The former lieutenant governor ran several statewide races in the 1980s and 1990s, and he later served as the chairman of the American International Automobile Dealers Association. More recently, he served as an ambassador to Switzerland and Lichtenstein. Since launching his campaign to replace longtime U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8) in January, Beyer has been able to use those connections to raise more than twice as much as any of his competitors, even ones who loaned hundreds of thousands of dollars to their campaigns.
“Don’s proven record on many progressive issues sets him apart in this race,” said campaign finance director John Moffett. “That distinction, coupled with his incredible work ethic, translated into a formidable first quarter of fundraising.”
ONE CANDIDATE tried to portray his campaign as superior to the Beyer campaign in one aspect, pointing to the number of individual contributors as a critical indication of support. Arlington Del. Patrick Hope (D-47) issued a press release this week claiming his campaign was the first to have 1,000 individual donors. That's about 350 more donors than the campaign had on March 31, the deadline for contributions in the first quarter.
"We have made this election a referendum on standing up for the voiceless, the sick, the disabled, the young and the elderly," said Hope in a written statement. "I'm so thankful that so many have responded and helped fund the voter contact efforts we will need to win on June 10th."
Beyer campaign officials responded that they have "well more" than 1,000 individual contributors, although they declined to share specifics until the next fundraising deadline in May. Federal campaign finance documents do not specify the number of individual donors, and individual contributions are listed only if they are more than $200. Beyer's campaign finance documents list $617,000 in itemized contributions and $24,000 in unitemized contributions. Hope supporters raised suspicions that these numbers could have come from more than 1,000 individual contributors because the average contribution for an unitemized donor would have to be between $25 and $40 rather than a series of $100 checks.
"We're not going to do a tick-tock of it between now and then or respond when another campaign decides they want to announce something," said Ann O'Hanlon, senior advisor to the Beyer campaign.
CAMPAIGN FINANCE documents for Chatman show that she raised the second highest amount of total contributions, logging almost $270,0000. Her campaign was able to benefit from a fundraiser her campaign held at the Crystal Gateway Marriot in Arlington featuring Oprah Winfrey. The event, which brought an audience of 400 supporters, focused on empowering women and girls for leadership.
“In just a few months, our campaign continues to grow in momentum and strength,” said Chatman. “I look forward to meeting and connecting with more voters across the 8th District in the coming weeks.”
The Euille campaign responded with a press release claiming the Alexandria mayor had actually come in second place in fundraising. When asked how Euille could claim second place when Chatman reported about $64,000 more than Euille in total contributions, the Euille campaign pointed out that Chatman had contributed $100,000 to her own campaign on March 21. By that logic, the mayor's campaign argues, Euille had more "supporter contributions."
"The fact that we are second in the race for supporter contributions signals that the people are making a strong statement about who they want to see in Congress,” Euille said in a written statement. "Momentum is building just at the right time and it will continue in the coming weeks."
AS THE DEADLINE approached for the first quarter fundraising documents, two candidates issued massive unsecured loans to their campaigns to boost their standing. One was Levine, who issued two loans in February worth $10,000. Then on March 31, the last day before the deadline, he loaned his campaign $240,000. This gave him the second largest total for cash on hand in the race.
“This is a people-powered campaign,” Levine said in a written statement about his campaign fundraising numbers. “People from across the district and across the country are excited about my candidacy."
When the Federal Election Commission released the first-quarter fundraising documents last week, Shuttleworth's original report showed he had a negative campaign balance. The campaign has since filed an amended report, explaining that a software problem created errors in the first document. His amended reports shows he issued several unsecured loans to his campaign totaling $330,000, some of which date back to his last campaign against Moran. His campaign issued a statement declaring "Bruce Shuttleworth and Beyer lead in fundraising in first quarter filings."
"If you have to drop a lot of your own money into a race, that suggests you are not likely to be successful," said Farnsworth. "It suggests to potential donors that you don't need or can't get money effectively, and it also doesn't really allow you to campaign as having the common touch."