Oct 5, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Virginia Republicans wonder if RNC will join battle for state legislature

Youngkin addresses the Economic Club of Washington on Sept. 26. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

As national Democrats pour millions of dollars into Virginia's legislative races, Republicans in the state are growing increasingly frustrated when they ask a simple question: Where is the RNC?

Why it matters: With all 140 seats up in Virginia's General Assembly, both parties are using November's election as a proving ground to test competing messages on abortion.

State of play: National Democratic groups have transferred more than $3 million into state races in the last two months to convince voters that Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin will use full control of the legislature to limit access to abortion.

  • Youngkin isn't shying away from a debate over abortion, seeking to shift the conversation toward his proposed 15-week abortion limit, which includes exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.
  • Big GOP donors — not to mention Republicans smarting from losing statewide votes on abortion in Kansas, Wisconsin and Ohio — are closely watching Youngkin's approach to see if it can offer a safe lane for Republicans trying to appeal to independent and suburban voters.
  • A clean GOP sweep of the House and Senate will also allow Youngkin to enact other elements of his conservative agenda — and use his potential legislative successes in Richmond as a stepping stone to higher office.

Driving the news: Republicans responded to Monday's announcement of more Democratic cash — $2 million from the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee — by questioning whether national help was on the way.

  • "It's just us. There's nothing coming from the RNC," said a Republican consultant working on races in Virginia. "They haven't invested a dime."

The big picture: Virginia, with its off-year elections, can provide a snapshot of voter attitudes a year out from either presidential contests or a midterm election.

  • Youngkin's upset win in 2021, in a state Biden won by 10 points, raised his profile as a potential national candidate.
  • Some Republican donors are looking to him as a potential Trump alternative in 2024, but Youngkin has insisted that his priority is winning majorities in both legislative chambers.
  • Both sides say the races are too close to call, with the two parties fighting over seven Senate seats and about 10 House races.

By the numbers: Youngkin's own super PAC, the Spirit of Virginia, raised record amounts last quarter, including a $500,000 contribution from the wealthy governor himself.

  • Since March of this year, they have raised $15.5 million.
  • With roughly one month left before Election Day on Nov. 7, the PAC has $7 million in cash on hand. Early voting started Sept. 22.

Between the lines: The Republican State Leadership Committee has spent roughly $5.5 million this cycle, according to Republican aide, meaning Virginia Republicans haven't been totally left without national support.

  • The Clean Virginia Fund, which largely supports Democrats, raised $6.8 million in the first half of the year from a single donor.
  • Planned Parenthood plans to spend $1.5 million in the commonwealth, according to The Messenger, which also reported on some of the Virginia GOP's frustrations with the RNC.
  • The RNC offered to help this summer but was told they weren't needed, according to another Republican aide.
  • The RNC also provides Virginia Republicans with absentee data and other resources to help them target voters.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to say the Clean Virginia Fund largely supports Democrats. It is not a Democratic super PAC.

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