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Analysis: Donations flood competitive races in election home stretch

Candidates for Senate Districts 10, 12 and 13 claimed over $1.5 million in fundraising in just 11 days, from Oct. 25 to Nov. 4, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. The six candidates in these races continued to receive cash and in-kind — non-monetary — contributions of $1,000 or more each after Oct. 24, when the last fundraising report was filed. In the homestretch of the General Assembly election, candidates received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations.

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By M. Quesada

Into the home stretch of the General Assembly election, candidates received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations.

Candidates for Senate Districts 10, 12 and 13 claimed over $1.5 million in fundraising in just 11 days, from Oct. 25 to Nov. 4, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. The six candidates in these races continued to receive cash and in-kind — non-monetary — contributions of $1,000 or more each after Oct. 24, when the last fundraising report was filed. By law, General Assembly candidates must report last-minute donations over $1,000 by close of business each day up to the election.

Early donations allow campaigns to plan their strategy ahead, but donations closer to Election Day are also helpful, according to Stephen Farnsworth, director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies at the University of Mary Washington.

“There are a lot of campaigns that are very well funded this cycle; there has been a lot of money put into these campaigns from both parties, typically when you compare to four years ago,” he said. “Probably, campaigns may have spent more money than they had raised already, hoping that they would get last minute donations.”

Del. John Bell, D-Loudoun, vying for the open seat in Senate District 13, raised the most among the six candidates after the October filing period. From Oct. 25 through Monday he received $465,978. His biggest benefactor was the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus, which donated three different times, for a sum of $410,000.

Republican candidate, Geary Higgins raised $436,499 in the final push. His biggest contribution came from incumbent Sen. Thomas Norment, R-Williamsburg. Norment donated four different times to help Higgins raise $195,000 in cash.

The last push for District 13 elevated Bell’s fundraising to $2.5 million total, from July to Sunday. In the same time frame, Higgins raised over $1.5 million. He didn’t break the $2 million mark for 2019 fundraising, though he came close in the homestretch.

In the race for District 12, Democratic challenger, Debra Rodman, received $285,684 since Oct. 25. The Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus donated $100,000 to her campaign on Oct. 28 and $10,000 four days later. She received over $50,000 from Planned Parenthood Virginia, once in cash and twice through in-kind contributions.

Incumbent Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, received $116,521, less than half of what her challenger raised in the same time frame. The Republican State Leadership Committee donated $25,000 to her campaign, her largest influx in the final period, followed by a $20,000 donation from Dominion on Monday. Her only in-kind contribution came from The Cannabis Business Association of Virginia Board for over $1,500 on Oct. 29.

After the last push, Rodman totalled $2.6 million since July. Dunnavant collected $1.8 million in the same period, though she raised over $2 million total for all of 2019.

Incumbent Sen. Glen Sturtevant, R-Richmond, raised $105,000 from Oct. 25 through Sunday. Sturtevant received cash contributions only. Some of his biggest contributors included Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, and Dominion Energy. Both donated $20,000 on Oct. 28 and Nov. 2, respectively.

In the same time frame, opponent Ghazala Hashmi received $186,419. NextGen Climate Action and Everytown for Gun Safety made multiple in-kind contributions, but her biggest influx came in cash from the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus, which donated $100,000 on Oct. 28 and $10,000 more four days later.

These contributions helped her collect $2.2 million in collections since July. In the same period, Sturtevant managed to raise $1.7 million, though he raised over $2 million total in 2019.

Del. Cheryl Turpin, D-Virginia Beach raised over $2 million from Jan. 1 to Oct. 24 in her bid for Senate District 7. Turpin accumulated $308,148 since Oct. 25, for a total of $2.3 million raised in 2019. Her Republican opponent, Jennifer Kiggans raised over $1.3 million from Jan. 1 to Oct. 24 and received $110,500 in her final push, for a total of almost $1.5 million.

With all 140 General Assembly seats up for re-election Tuesday, and Republicans holding both chambers by a slim majority, Democrats have dug in to win. The Democratic Party has made Districts 10, 12 and 13 priority pick-ups, Farnsworth said.

“Democratic and Republican donors are putting a lot of money in those two races because of how competitive they are,” he said. “With the narrow Republican majority, Republicans can’t afford to lose anything they currently hold.”

Farnsworth said the most competitive elections are in the suburbs and with so much on the line, donors for both parties are weighing in this cycle. “It could be a pivotal year for the future of Virginia politics,” he said.

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The Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. In the program, journalism students cover news in Richmond and across Virginia and distribute their stories, photos, and other content to more than 100 newspapers, television and radio stations, and news websites.

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Schools, nonprofits hustle to feed over a half million Virginia students: ‘It’s incredible’

Richmond school bus driver Tyrone McBride is still driving a big, yellow bus through Richmond neighborhoods, but these days, he’s transporting boxes of food for kids in need. More than a week has passed since Gov. Ralph Northam announced students will not return to school this academic year, and volunteers are still fighting to feed the 590,000 children in Virginia with free or reduced lunches who were ordered to remain home during the coronavirus pandemic.

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By Hannah Eason

Richmond school bus driver Tyrone McBride is still driving a big, yellow bus through Richmond neighborhoods, but these days, he’s transporting boxes of food for kids in need.

“It gets me out of the house,” said McBride, who has been a school bus driver for 18 years, “and you know, you’re doing a great deed and helping people out.”

More than a week has passed since Gov. Ralph Northam announced students will not return to school this academic year, and volunteers are still working to feed the 590,000 children in Virginia eligible for free or reduced lunches who were ordered to remain home during the coronavirus pandemic. Schools have been closed since March 16, though students were originally slated to return by March 27.

Whitcomb Court resident Simone Sanders said her children are now eating at home during the day, but she didn’t receive an increase in food stamps. One child is disabled, which prevents Sanders from being able to work.

“It’s affecting us bad, especially in the projects, and there’s nothing for the kids to do all day,” Sanders said. “And then you have to worry about your child just being outside getting shot.”

Sanders said she’s grateful for the food from Richmond Public Schools, and says she occasionally gives food to neighborhood kids who say they’re hungry.

The Richmond Public Schools meal distribution program, like others around the state, continues to evolve during the coronavirus pandemic that caused a surge of Virginians to file for unemployment. Almost 46,300 Virginians filed for unemployment between March 15 and March 21. The previous week 2,706 people filed an unemployment claim, according to the Virginia Employment Commission.

The program started with 10 school sites, and has since grown into at least 43 sites throughout the community and 10 school sites.

Erin Stanley, director of family engagement at Richmond Public Schools, said volunteers, bus drivers and the district’s nutrition staff have made the efforts possible. Volunteers were using personal vehicles to drop off food, but RPS decided that school buses would better suit the cause.

“We did that for a couple of reasons,” Stanley said. “One, so we can get more food out, and two, because school buses are a bit more well known and probably more trusted than individual volunteers going in with their personal vehicles.”

Plastic bags filled with milk cartons, sandwiches, apples and snacks are handed out in neighborhoods found on the Richmond Public Schools’ website. School distribution sites are open Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and neighborhood times vary by location. Any student in the school district can use the program, Stanley said.

Volunteer Natalie Newfield said many families she gave meals to lost jobs in the restaurant industry.

 “They’re changing the way they do deliveries, which is amazing,” Newfield said. “Every day you give them a count. If they need more food, the next day, all of a sudden your bus has more food. It’s incredible.”

Statewide efforts to feed children in Virginia

When schools closed, the U.S. Department of Agriculture activated the Summer Meals Program, which funds public schools and local organizations to serve breakfast and lunch during the summer.

Del. Danica Roem, D-Prince William, pressed the USDA to change its policy which required parents to have their child with them when picking up food.

Roem said it was difficult for a Prince William County mother to access food for her two children. Her daughter has an immune system deficiency caused by recent cancer treatments, making her susceptible to the COVID-19 virus.

“When you’re talking about a 7-year-old with cancer, we have to really evaluate what is it that our policy is trying to prevent that is more important than feeding a child with cancer,” Roem said.

Roem said she was able to bring groceries to the family, who live in the representative’s district. As they carried bags of food inside, Roem said the mother told her children, “We’re eating tonight.”

“I fought with the USDA for a full week and won a major, major victory for kids throughout Virginia and across the country, and especially immunocompromised kids, to make sure that they stay safe, that they stay home,” Roem said.

The USDA waived the restriction last week, and states can now choose to waive the in-person policy for students to receive food.

No Kid Hungry, a national campaign launched by nonprofit Share Our Strength, is offering emergency grants to local school divisions and organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The grants can help people who are trying to make meal distribution possible, but may lack the equipment necessary to feed children outside of a school setting.

Sarah Steely, senior program manager at No Kid Hungry Virginia, said the grants can fund necessities like vehicles, gas, coolers and equipment to keep food safe during distribution.

“Those might not be resources that folks already have, because those aren’t service models that were expected of them before,” Steely said, “so we’re here to support community organizations and school divisions as they figure out what it is they need to distribute to kids.”

The organization works with YMCAs, childcare centers, libraries and all 133 of Virginia’s public school divisions.

The organization recently activated their texting hotline for those unsure of where their next meal is coming from: text “FOOD” to 877-877. The hotline is generally used during the summer months, but was reactivated to combat food insecurity during the coronavirus pandemic.

Steely called the hotline “a tool in a bigger toolbox of resources” and encouraged families to contact their local school board for updated information about their locality.

“They count on that as a primary source of nutrition, so with schools closed, we want to make sure that the students who are accessing meals at school are now accessing those meals at home,” Steely said.

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Use Exact Change or E-Zpass on Powhite Parkway Starting Today

There will be no manned booths taking money on Powhite for the foreseeable future.

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The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has temporarily suspended cash exchange tolls on Powhite Parkway extension and the George P. Coleman Memorial Bridge. This means there won’t be someone to take your money so either have exact change, pay too much, or use an E-Zpass. No mention of any changes to Nickel aka Boulevard Bridge.

As of April 1, if you make an unpaid trip on a Virginia toll facility, you may be able to pay that toll through the “missed-a-toll” process before receiving a notice/invoice. The “missed-a-toll” payment process must take place within six days of the unpaid toll trip.

The standard administration fee associated with “missed-a-toll” has been suspended temporarily.

Exact change can still be dropped into the coin basket at the Powhite Parkway Extension.

E-ZPass is now the most convenient and safest way to pay tolls.

For more information or to order your own E-ZPass, click here.

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Friday Cheers cancels, postpones various concerts amid COVID-19

Venture Richmond Events staff is working to reschedule Friday Cheers’ early June artist performances, and remain cautiously optimistic about performances later in June.

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Friday Cheers fans are devoted and unwavering, but in these times we must all be mindful that the COVID-19 virus has dramatically changed our daily social interactions and we must all follow the directives of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s stay-at-home executive order through June 10.

The governor’s order prohibits all public and private in-person gatherings of more than 10 individuals.

With these guidelines, and for the safety of both our patrons and staff, we have made the following changes to the May Friday Cheers schedule:

  • Jade Bird with Sweet Potatoes that was previously scheduled for Friday, May 1, 2020 is cancelled.
  • Billy Strings with Andrew Alli and Josh Small is rescheduled for Wednesday, August 26, 2020.
  • RVA Music Night – Palm Palm is rescheduled for Friday, May 21, 2021.
  • Jay Som with Angelica Garcia – We are working to reschedule this show for Friday Cheers 2021 and will provide details when finalized.

Venture Richmond Events staff is working to reschedule Friday Cheers’ early June artist performances, and remain cautiously optimistic about performances later in June.

2020 Friday Cheers Season Pass holders can still use their pass for the remaining June Friday Cheers events and for the rescheduled Billy Strings event on August 26, 2020.

In addition, as a thank you for your understanding during this difficult time, 2020 Season Pass holders will receive a 50% discount off a 2021 Friday Cheers Season Pass! TicketsToBuy.com will email current Season Pass holders with information about the discount which can be used when purchasing a 2021 Season Pass.

Those who have purchased a ticket online for any one of these May events may request a refund by emailing [email protected]com beginning Friday, April 3, 2020.

Venture Richmond Events, LLC and its staff work to produce an excellent experience for you on Brown’s Island, but we take the safety and health of our guests, staff, and community very seriously, and appreciate your continued support moving forward.

At this time, all other events produced by Venture Richmond Events, LLC, including the June Friday Cheers events, remain scheduled as planned, but are subject to change. Again, thank you for your continued support of Friday Cheers.

Presented by: Pacifico
Sponsored by: CoStar, Dominion Green Power,  Delta Hotels by MarriottDrive Shack103.7 PlayRichmond.comStyle Weekly NBC12CW Richmond and Easley Made Catering.

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