Hurt dominates GOP fundraising in Fifth District race

 If money is power in the realm of political campaigns, Robert Hurt is mighty powerful. The state senator from Chatham raised $101,109 in the first three months of 2010, according to the Federal Election Commission. The six other GOP candidates seeking to unseat Fifth District Democratic Congressman Tom Perriello in November were not even close to matching Hurt’s fundraising clout.

Tom Perriello

Ivy native and real estate investor Laurence Verga, who was endorsed by former Jefferson Area Tea Party Chairman Bill Hay (who now manages his campaign), was a distant second, collecting $31,523 in the first quarter of 2010. Albemarle County Supervisor Ken Boyd raised $19,305, construction businessman Jim McKelvey amassed $13,375, and airline pilot Mike McPadden drew $29,556. founder Ron Ferrin told C-VILLE he collected roughly $5,000. Feda Kidd Morton’s campaign did not return C-VILLE’s calls requesting fundraising figures, and her quarterly total was not available on the Federal Election Commission’s Web site.

Hurt’s substantial financial advantage over all other GOP candidates seems to reinforce his frontrunner status. In a February survey of 400 likely primary voters conducted by Public Policy Polling, 22 percent said they would vote for Hurt, while 12 percent said they would cast a ballot for Boyd. About 51 percent of respondents were undecided.

Despite Hurt’s strong financial showing, Ferrin told C-VILLE that the value of a candidate’s campaign coffers matters less than it used to. The Web has enabled smart, targeted and inexpensive campaigning to succeed, he said.

“If you’re running a campaign the way they’ve been run for the last 50 years, then you need $100,000,” Ferrin said. “If you’re running a campaign similar to the way President Obama ran his, which was using a lot of the Internet, you don’t need a lot.”

The GOP primary is slated for June 8 and, based on forecasts from the political punditry, the winner of that contest will have a legitimate shot at replacing Perriello in Washington. The National Journal has ranked Perriello’s Fifth District seat as the 14th most likely to switch parties in November, and UVA political guru Larry Sabato has labeled Virginia’s Fifth a “toss-up.” 

However, if judging solely through a fundraising lens, Perriello has the early advantage. He collected more than $600,000 in the first three months of 2010, which his campaign called its “most successful fundraising quarter ever.” As of March 31, the Ivy resident’s campaign contribution pot totaled $1.4 million. The campaign claimed that 88 percent of the contributions were from donors who gave $200 or less.

“We are proving that a people-powered campaign can win over the big insurance companies and big energy companies that have dominated our political system for so long,” Anna Scholl, finance director for the Perriello campaign, said in a statement.

However, Federal Election Commission data revealed that Perriello’s first-quarter contributors also included larger interest groups. Among them were the largest federal employee union, the American Federation of Government Employees, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and a Democratic political action committee called Synergy that is led by Democratic Representative John Larson of Connecticut. The employee union contributed $2,500, the electrical workers paid $5,000 and Synergy gave $5,000.

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