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Many area politicians help others financially, making politics more and more a “team sport.”
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
The year's first campaign finance reports show candidates, even in so far uncontested races, are raising lots of money — and sending thousands of dollars to other politicians.
The campaign finance numbers may be pointing to an emerging role for Southwest Virginia — a cash cow with relatively young legislators who gain influence by having money to share.
"Politics has become even more of a team sport than it was before," said Tom Morris, a political scientist and former president of Emory & Henry College.
It's not all altruism, though.
"It does allow an entrepreneurial politician, a legislator without a lot of experience, to have an impact," Morris said.
Del. Greg Habeeb, R-Salem, who gave more than $31,000 to other Republicans during his 2011 race, continued the pattern this year. He gave more than $17,500 to other campaigns or Republican political groups in the first three months of the year.
Habeeb said the donations are part of building political relationships.
"You can't have a relationship if they're not there in the first place," he said. "I want to be sure people I want to work with are re-elected. It's an affirmation of what you are trying to do together."
But donations are not about angling for advantage, Habeeb said. He said he has the committee assignments he wants and isn't eyeing a higher office.
One of Habeeb's first quarter donations was $1,000 to Del. Joseph Yost, R-Blacksburg.
"Joseph Yost and I take different positions sometimes. We're seat-mates and we argue about them," Habeeb said. "I respect him a lot, and as long as we're in the legislature I think he knows he can count on my support to keep coming back."
Yost's $13,000 in first quarter donations also include $2,500 from the political action committee of Speaker of the House Bill Howell, R-Stafford County, and $1,000 from the Friends of Jackson Miller, another Republican legislator.
Del. Ben Cline, R-Rockbridge County, also has been spending campaign funds with the GOP, in his case with a $14,000 contribution from Howell's PAC. During 2011, his campaign gave more than $52,500 to other Republican candidates or groups.
That included $10,000 to Del. Charles Poindexter, R-Franklin County, for what was his $1 million race against Ward Armstrong, who was the Democratic leader in the House.
That race left Poindexter with just $9,000 in his campaign fund. But even with the $3,400 he raised in the first quarter, his current balance stands at just $8,000.
The $1,500 Del. Nick Rush, R-Christiansburg, raised during the first quarter included $1,000 from the campaign of Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Scott County, and $500 from the Friends of Greg Habeeb.
Del. Onzlee Ware, D-Roanoke, raised just $1,000 during the first three months, leaving his campaign fund balance at $11,000 or about $3,000 below where it stood at the end of his uncontested 2011 race.
So far, nobody has reported they were raising funds to challenge Cline, Poindexter, Rush, Ware or Yost.
In the one Roanoke region race that is contested — the rematch of Del. Chris Head, R-Botetourt County, and Democratic challenger Freeda Cathcart — campaign finance reports suggest there will be more resources in play this time around.
Head already has more than $29,500 cash in hand, or more than 40 percent of the total he spent in his 2011 race. He outspent Cathcart in that race by 4.5 to one.
So far this year, he's raised $10,743.
Cathcart has raised more than $17,600. That's more than she spent in the 2011 campaign.
"I've been really pleased by the enthusiasm," Cathcart said. "I go to the post office and there are these donations of $10 — it adds up, you know — from people I've never heard of, sometimes with really sweet notes."
The five candidates seeking the Republican Party nod to succeed Del. Lacey Putney, I-Bedford, have not had to file campaign reports yet.
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