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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.

Community

Storm the Gates with Art 180, All City Art Club, and Supply.RVA

Bridging the divide between street art and gallery spaces with street signs, black book works, graffiti pieces, and creative public art activities.

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Art 180, All City Art Club, and Supply.RVA is bringing you their first exhibition of 2023, Storm the Gates, a gallery takeover celebrating graffiti artists, illustrators, cartoonists, and people painting in the corner of their bedrooms and garages. Bridging the divide between street art and gallery spaces with street signs, black book works, graffiti pieces, and creative public art activities.

Join them this Friday during February @rvafirstfridays where they’ll unveil a mural collaboratively painted by All City Art Club and ART 180’s program alumni and current participants.

Friday, February 3
5-9 p.m.
ART 180’s Atlas Gallery
114 W Marshall St.

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Business

Greater Richmond Convention Center marks 20 years serving region

Since 2003, the complex has hosted a total of 7,034 conventions, consumer shows, sports tournaments, and other events, bringing millions of people and dollars to the region.

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Virginia’s largest meeting and exhibition venue celebrates two decades of welcoming events and visitors to the Richmond Region this year. The Greater Richmond Convention Center officially opened on February 28, 2003, as cheerleaders from across the country flipped in the American National Cheer and Dance Championships in the building’s exhibit hall.

Since then, the GRCC has hosted a total of 7,034 conventions, consumer shows, sports tournaments and other events bringing millions of people and dollars to the region.

The GRCC replaced the 62,000-square-foot Richmond Center, which opened in 1986. Stretching across a six-block area, the 700,000 square-foot GRCC incorporates some of the steel and pillars from the original facility.

Construction for the project began in 1999 and was supported by a $10 million investment from former Governor George Allen and the regionwide transient lodging tax.

“It is the best example of regional cooperation in the history of this whole area,” said late Lt. Gov. John H. Hager during a 2002 press conference.

The Greater Richmond Convention Center Authority – a political subdivision of Virginia with representation from the city of Richmond, Chesterfield, Hanover and Henrico counties – oversaw the financing, development and construction of the GRCC. The Authority’s 25th anniversary is this year.

We’re immensely proud of the legacy and the positive impact the Greater Richmond Convention Center has had on tourism,” said Lincoln Saunders, City of Richmond Chief Administrative Officer and Chair of the Greater Richmond Convention Center Authority. “Millions of people are introduced to the Richmond Region through events and competitions that are hosted at the facility every year. These visitors support our economy by shopping at our small businesses, eating at restaurants and visiting attractions.”

To examine the viability of the GRCC, regional leaders commissioned a feasibility study by C.H. Johnson Consulting in 1999. The researchers projected hotel tax collections to reach $30 million by fiscal year 2020. Hotel tax collection revenues reached $30 million by fiscal year 2019.

Throughout the GRCC expansion phases, groups were welcomed to the region to use completed portions of the building. About 1,200 women from the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority were the first to use the facility’s new ballroom during a three-day conference in May 2001.

When the GRCC was officially completed in 2003, Richmond Region Tourism had booked 18 conventions through 2008.

Interest and bookings have experienced a dramatic uptick over the years. During its last fiscal year, the GRCC hosted over 180 events.

From USA Fencing tournaments and ice dancing competitions to offshore wind conferences and comic conventions, the GRCC has hosted various large-scale events since it opened.

“The convention center is a shining example of regional collaboration,” said Jack Berry, president and CEO of Richmond Region Tourism. “The success of the convention center demonstrates how investing in tourism results in positive economic development for our entire region. Richmond Region Tourism and its partners are committed to working alongside our community to continue tourism’s positive momentum.”

The GRCC went through extensive upgrades to modernize the facility in 2020.

GRCC’s technological and cosmetic improvements include new LED lighting and RGB color lighting, monitors, digital signage, and a new digital sound system.  Its interior spaces were updated with new tile, accents, paint scheme, and pub-style tables and seating. The facility also features a new executive lounge and a renovated food court and service desk.

Today the GRCC features 178,159 square feet of contiguous exhibit space, a 30,550 square foot grand ballroom, and 50,000 sq. ft. of additional meeting room space.

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Downtown

Animal welfare advocates disappointed bill to declaw cats failed

House Bill 1382 would have made the declawing of cats a $500 civil penalty for the first violation, $1,000 for the second violation and $2,500 for the third or any subsequent violation. The bill failed to advance when it was tabled by a 6-4 vote in a House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources subcommittee.

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By Cassandra Loper

A proposal to outlaw the declawing of cats, a procedure that animal rights advocates call cruel and unnecessary, failed to advance from a House subcommittee last month.

House Bill 1382 would have made cat declawing a $500 civil penalty for the first violation, $1,000 for the second violation and $2,500 for the third or any subsequent violation. The bill was tabled by a 6-4 vote in a House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources subcommittee.

The bill is important because cats’ claws are natural and used for stretching, marking territory, balance and more, according to Molly Armus, Virginia state director of the Humane Society of the United States.

Declawing cats is actually an “incredibly painful procedure,” according to Armus.

“I think it’s up to us, as people who are taking these cats into our homes, to learn more humane and less invasive ways to manage scratching,” Armus said.

An onychectomy, or declawing, is a surgery that includes 10 separate amputations, according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA. PETA is the largest animal rights organization in the world, according to its website.

Declawing is typically performed for convenience, according to the Animal League Defense Fund. Many people declaw their cats to prevent scratching, its website states.

“Localities around the nation, a couple of states, including our neighbor Maryland, have passed a declawing ban,” said bill sponsor Del. Gwendolyn Gooditis, D-Clarke, in the committee meeting.

New York and Maryland are the only U.S. states that have outlawed declawing. Multiple U.S. cities have passed declawing laws, with the most located in California, according to PETA.

“Declawing cats means, look at your hands, it would be the equivalent of your fingers and your toes being chopped off at the first knuckle,” Gooditis said.

The procedure can cause impaired balance, as much as a person would after losing his or her toes, according to PETA. Declawed cats may have to relearn how to walk.

“It’s a removal of that last bone,” Gooditis said.

Susan Seward, a lobbyist for the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, or VVMA, testified against the bill in the committee meeting. The VVMA strongly opposed the bill, Seward said.

“I think one of the unintended consequences would be setting up a really unpleasant and adversarial relationship between animal control and veterinarians, and that is certainly not a relationship we want to diminish,” Seward said to the committee panel.

Alice Burton, program director for nonprofit animal welfare organization Alley Cat Allies, said the organization was disappointed the bill failed.

Alley Cat Allies mission is to protect and improve the lives of cats. according to its website. The organization operates a trap-neuter-return program to help stabilize the cat population. A cat is transported to a veterinarian, spayed and returned to its original location.

It’s an act of cruelty to declaw cats, according to Burton, who was an animal control officer for 15 years.

“They no longer have their nails as a defense, so their first instinct is to bite,” Burton said. “So all of a sudden they’ve got these bites on their record, which obviously does not bode well for them.”

Declawed cats also struggle to use the litter box because the litter hurts their paws, she said. Many cats who have been declawed will stop using the litter box and soil where they aren’t supposed to, Burton said.

“I would say most of the time these negative effects lead to these cats being surrendered to the shelters or rescue groups,” Burton said. “They would, in most cases, be deemed unadoptable and they would be euthanized.”

There are many other humane options out there, according to Burton.

Humane alternatives to declawing include trimming a cat’s claws regularly, using deterrents such as double-sided tape on furniture, rubber caps for the nails and providing a variety of scratching options, according to Alley Cat Allies.

“We’re not giving up,” Burton said. “We’re going to come back and keep fighting.”

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We need your help. RVAHub is a small, independent publication, and we depend on our readers to help us provide a vital community service. If you enjoy our content, would you consider a donation as small as $5? We would be immensely grateful! Interested in advertising your business, organization, or event? Get the details here.

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