Candidates for the 45th district of Virginia's House of Delegates, the seat currently held by Del. Marian Van Landingham, have released financial records that paint a lopsided picture of the Democratic primary. One candidate raised significantly more than others, giving her a comfortable financial lead.
Laura Mandala, who is chairwoman of Alexandria Commission for Women, led the pack of six candidates by raising almost $73,000. Her fundraising total significantly increased by donations totaling $57,000 from Edward Spoden, an independent contractor who has dated the candidate for the past six years.
"I've supported issues that are important to the Mandala campaign for many years — long before I met Laura," said Spoden, an Alexandria native who identified human rights, animal rights and conservation as issues that he supports. "I think Laura has shown a commitment to this community that makes her candidacy stand out from the rest."
Mandala's fundraising prominence has the added benefit of attracting more donations, which often flow into campaigns that lead in fundraising efforts.
"Money is very important to a House of Delegates race, as it is to any political race. The biggest obstacle for challengers to overcome is name recognition, and many a wonderful candidate has lost in a landslide because voters were vastly more familiar with the incumbent's name. Money is not the only factor in accomplishing this, but it is essential," said Matthew V. Smyth, director of communications for the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. The candidate with the most money wins about as often as they do on the congressional level, which is to say usually over 90 percent of the time."
BUT MONEY IS NOT the only factor in a successful race for the House of Delegates. Another factor is the number of people who gave donations, a gauge of support. While Mandala's campaign raised the most money, she had 67 contributors. This is in contrast to David Englin, who raised the second highest amount of money. His campaign, which raised more than $35,000, came from 186 contributors — more than twice as many as Mandala. Libby Garvey had the largest number of contributors, listing 256 on her financial report.
"There's a clear contrast in the types of races that are being waged in Virginia," said Brian Reich, editor of Campaign Web Review. "One is the traditional, media-driven kind of campaign that uses expensive television advertising. The other kind of campaign, which Englin is running, uses a grassroots effort to create a much larger and more committed group of supporters."
More than 20 percent of Englin's fundraising total was collected on-line, an accomplishment that puts his candidacy at the vanguard of using technology for political purposes.
"The Englin campaign's use of the web is above the level of many congressional campaigns," said Reich. "I'm sure that's driving their unusually high rate of on-line donations."
ELSIE MOSQUEDA, who has the closest ties to the Alexandria Democratic Committee, came in third place in the money race. She raised $30,050, and she still has more than $16,000 to spend as the campaign unfolds- the second largest amount of cash-on hand for the duration primary race, which culminates on June 14.
"I believe in Elsie, and I think she is very well qualified to represent us well in Richmond," said School Board member Gwendolyn Lewis, noting that Mosqueda's experience as Del. Brian Moran's legislative aide will serve her well at the Capitol. "She already knows the players- inside and out- she even knows their assistants. Elsie understands the system and how it works, and that's why I think she will be effective in Richmond."