Virginia’s Youngkin hauls in cash, campaigns cross-country

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin continued to raise funds at a quick clip over the past three months, outpacing his recent predecessors, while also traveling the country building his national profile and boosting midterm candidates.

The Republican’s Spirit of Virginia political action committee raised nearly $1.8 million in cash over the July to September quarter, spent about $1.1 million and ended the quarter with about $2.3 million on hand, according to campaign finance disclosures filed this month.

The governor, increasingly viewed as a potential 2024 presidential candidate, far outraised any other Virginia official’s leadership committee during that timeframe, and the strong receipts are a continuation of a trend: the political newcomer’s combination of fundraising and loans to his campaign during his race last year against Democrat Terry McAuliffe shattered records set in the 2017 gubernatorial campaign.

Youngkin also brought in big bucks post-election and for his inauguration.

In his first two full quarters in office, he raised more than twice as much as his three most recent predecessors in donations of $10,000 of more, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project, which tracks money in politics.

“The excitement continues to grow around Governor Youngkin’s approach to solving kitchen table issues with common sense solutions,” Kristin Davison, a political adviser to Youngkin, wrote in an email.

A wealthy former private equity executive, Youngkin quickly became the subject of 2024 speculation after he defeated McAuliffe, a former governor, in a state that had long been trending blue. The conjecture about a possible presidential run or other bid for federal office has intensified since, along with criticism from Virginia Democrats who say Youngkin is getting ahead of himself, and neglecting his day job.

Youngkin — who under state law will not be allowed to seek a second consecutive term as governor — typically demurs when asked publicly about future plans, saying he is flattered to be in the conversation but focused on Virginia. But since taking office in January, he has moved quickly to assert himself as a new voice in the GOP.

His recently filed PAC receipts hint at the scope of his political operation, showing spending with more than a dozen consulting, communications, fundraising, speechwriting or strategy groups, plus an ad maker and a polling firm.

Youngkin, who like other governors frequently uses state aircraft for state business, has said he pays his own way for political travel. He reimbursed for the use of the state plane for a political stop in Northern Virginia in August, according to Davison.

His PAC’s expenditures show spending on commercial airfare, lodging, parking, two reimbursements for his state police protective unit and meeting expenses at venues ranging from an Aspen, Colorado, steakhouse, to a deli in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

The governor has also been stumping across the country on behalf of GOP gubernatorial candidates, with stops since the summer in Nebraska, Colorado, Michigan, Maine, New Mexico, Kansas, Georgia, Nevada, Oregon and Arizona. This week he will be in Wisconsin with Tim Michels, the GOP candidate for governor.

Virginia Democrats and a couple of Republicans, including U.S. Rep. and Jan. 6 committee member Liz Cheney, have taken issue with either the pace of the governor’s travel or the candidates with whom he has chosen to share a stage, particularly Kari Lake.

The GOP candidate for governor of Arizona, Lake has said she would not have certified President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory and has put false claims of election fraud at the center of her campaign.

House Democratic Leader Don Scott said in a statement that Youngkin had “abandoned Virginia to campaign for extremists” and that it was “crystal clear that his loyalties lie with the MAGA base.”

Marcus Simon, a Democratic House member from northern Virginia, tweeted that Youngkin must have decided that since he donates his $175,000-a-year salary to charity, “he can decide whether and when he shows up for work.”

Davison said Democrats still haven’t learned their lesson from the losses of 2021, when the GOP swept all three of Virginia’s statewide seats and flipped the state House.

“Instead of addressing the kitchen table issues, they throw weak attacks on Twitter,” she said.

As for Youngkin’s fundraising, PACs in Virginia face no contribution limits, though they must disclose their donors. A review of Youngkin’s show he has drawn support from philanthropists, business owners and executives — including casino mogul Phil Ruffin — plus developers, attorneys and others. He has both tapped the network of reliable Virginia GOP donors and drawn in new ones.

Ramon Breeden Jr., who founded the Virginia Beach-based real estate development firm The Breeden Co. and now chairs its board, has donated over decades to mostly Republican candidates, but to none as generously as Youngkin.

Breeden, who with a $200,000 August donation became Youngkin’s top donor in the past quarter, said in a statement to The Associated Press that he thinks the governor understands business and the economy and acts with integrity.

“I also like that Governor Youngkin doesn’t talk like a politician. He’s intent on doing what he says, and he says what he will do,” Breeden said.

Through a separate super PAC, Youngkin is using some of his cash in support of GOP candidates in Virginia’s most competitive congressional races, and has also said he’ll do the same to help Republican legislative candidates next year, when every General Assembly seat will be on the ballot.

In the past week, Empowering Virginia Parents reported nearly $415,000 in independent expenditures in Virginia’s 2nd, 7th and 10th Districts, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, spots where Youngkin is also hitting the road through Election Day in support of the GOP challengers hoping to flip those seats.

On Monday, he was scheduled to appear with each of the Republican candidates — Jen Kiggans, Hung Cao and Yesli Vega — at three separate get-out-the-vote events around the state.

In recent campaign stops, Youngkin typically offers the candidate one of his signature red vests and seeks to draw a line from his win last year to Nov. 8, Election Day.

“See, there’s a … red wave that’s sweeping across the country,” Youngkin said last week during an appearance with Lake. “A red wave that may have found its headwaters in the commonwealth of Virginia last year.”

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