The elections are over, and the winners aren’t the only ones satisfied with the results. Count among the contented the printers, the website builders and the TV stations—in short, the people who siphon dollars off the ever-expanding piles of money being raised for area elections.
Ken Boyd celebrates his victory with grandson Carson Boyd. "I promise to keep doing the same things I’ve been doing," Boyd told a cheering crowd, "keeping your taxes low, preserving your property rights and making sure we’ve got a good Board of Supervisors."
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This year was witness to some of Albemarle County’s largest fundraising efforts. The majority of the contributions came from private citizens in small if respectable amounts. But Board of Supervisors, sheriff and Commonwealth’s Attorney races saw a steady influx of money from political action committees (PACs) and businesses. And as the dust clears from the 2007 elections, the question remains: Just where is the big money coming from?
One source is the Monticello Business Alliance, a PAC whose 2007 donors include NVR Homes ($5,000), the company that owns Ryan Homes; Management Services Corporation ($5,000), owned and operated by local student housing magnate Rick Jones; and Craig Development ($5,000), the company in large part behind the Biscuit Run development. It should come as no surprise, then, that it gave $48,900 to area candidates with pro-growth leanings.
Ken Boyd, who narrowly won re-election, received more from the Alliance than any other Board of Supervisors candidate—$13,500. The PAC also gave $9,500 to David Wyant, who lost, and $8,500 to Lindsay Dorrier, who won. Republican State Delegate Rob Bell got $1,000, and Democratic State Delegate David Toscano also got $1,000 (both ran unopposed). But the PAC really opened its pockets for the Albemarle County Republican Committee, giving it $15,400 to dole out to county Republican candidates as it saw fit.
Democrats had their own dual Daddy Warbucks, the Democratic Road Back PAC and the VA Dem–Albemarle Charlottesville PAC. The Democratic Road Back shelled out $21,000 to local Democrats, $10,000 to Connie Brennan (who unsuccessfully challenged independent Delegate Watkins Abbitt) and $3,000 each to Albemarle Board of Supervisors challengers Marcia Joseph and Ann Mallek. It also donated $3,500 to Denise Lunsford’s winning campaign for Albemarle Commonwealth’s Attorney and $3,500 to Larry Claytor, who ran unsuccessfully for Albemarle sheriff.
The PAC was set up in 2003 by then Democratic Delegate Mitch Van Yahres, but the Virginia Public Access Project does not list any of its donors.
The VA Dem–Albemarle Charlottesville PAC is funded by private donors, and gave $14,648 to area Democrats, as well as $4,150 to another PAC, Democratic Party of Virginia. City Council Democratic candidates—David Brown, Satyendra Huja and Holly Edwards—each received $1,666. County Board of Supervisors candidates got $1,500.
Not all the big-dollar donations were from PACs, though. Private business and citizens channeled money directly to candidates without going through a PAC. Boyd Tinsley, of Dave Matthews Band fame, showed a lot of love to Lindsay Dorrier, giving the incumbent $2,500. Tinsley also gave a total of $45,000 to two Democratic PACs, the Democratic Party of Virginia and Moving Virginia Forward.
On the other side of the ballot, ACAC founder and owner Phil Wendel gave Bell $5,000 and Boyd $2,500. He also cut a $4,000 check to Republican sheriff candidate Chip Harding (who won). Developer Bill Atwood gave $5,000 to incumbent Republican Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Camblos. WM Management Ltd., a rental property management company, gave $2,000 to Bell, Boyd and Wyant. It also donated $2,000 to Republican sheriff candidate Chip Harding.
Denise Lunsford, left, could kick back at Aberdeen Barn, site of the county Democrats’ party, knowing she had beaten four term incumbent Jim Camblos for Commonwealth’s attorney.
So how much difference do eye-popping donations make? Maybe not so much. As an example, look at the Commonwealth’s Attorney race: Newcomer Lunsford took on Jim Camblos, who’s held the position for 15 years. Upstart Lunsford raised just over $49,000, thanks to the help of a PAC and individual donors (including attorney Debbie Wyatt), but Camblos raised a whopping $58,940. Yet Lunsford won.
Maybe the voters just pick the best candidate after all.
Correction, November 29, 2007:
This story has been corrected. The original version, due to a reporting error, stated that Denise Lunsford raised more money than her opponent, Jim Camblos. While Lundsford did raise a little over $49,000, Camblos actually raise $58,940, not $26,400 as originally reported.