Campaign funds top $115 million becoming most expensive governor’s race in Virginia

McAuliffe spent $30.8 million while Youngkin spent $27.7 million on political ads

You’ve seen them on TV and heard them on the radio: Political ads are taking over the airways ahead of November’s election.

This election season is breaking records for the gubernatorial candidates, topping $115 million in combined campaign funding.

Virginia Tech Professor of Political Science Karen Hult said this is the most expensive Virginia governor’s race on record, crushing 2017′s previous record-holding price tag of about $60 million.

“It tells us a couple of things. One is clearly this is an important race, both in Virginia and nationally,” said Hult. “It also is often what happens when there are two very competitive candidates and it’s a close race.”

According to the nonpartisan nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project, Democrat Terry McAuliffe leads Republican Glenn Youngkin in political ad spending: $30.8 million to $27.7 million.

“What we don’t know is what pops up on people’s TikTok pages or Instagram accounts or Facebook pages and all of those things. That’s a little bit harder to track,” said Hult.

Both candidates raised individual donations. Nearly 20% of their fundraising has come from outside political groups, labor unions or single-interest organizations.

So far, Youngkin has spent more than $20 million of his own money on his campaign.

“It’s very difficult to say that spending more money automatically wins a race. It does not,” said Hult.

Hult added that we’ve seen more negative ads, which typically drive voter turnout.

“People say they don’t like it, but it gets people to turn out to vote,” said Hult.

After a certain threshold, she said money doesn’t really matter, but everything adds up.

“Anything makes a difference in a close race. Any expenditure of money, any particular campaign ad, any particular visit could, in fact, give just the margin of victory to one of the candidates over the other,” said Hult.

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