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Candidates in Competitive Virginia House of Delegates Races Who Left Lots of $$$ On the Table

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The general rule of thumb for a competitive political campaign should be, based on everyone I’ve talked to about this subject, to “leave it all on the field.” When it comes to money, that almost always should mean ending up with close to a zero balance in the campaign accounts, if not going into debt, in an attempt to…ya know, WIN!  Yet in perusing the final campaign finance numbers (through November 30) for the 2017 campaign, posted by VPAP yesterday, it’s striking how many Virginia House of Delegates candidates in competitive races ended up with significant chunks o’ change on hand. For instance:

Del. David Yancey (R-94), currently leading by just 10 votes over Democratic challenger Shelly Simonds and heading into a recount, had a $127,600 cash-on-hand balance as of 11/30. And no, just in case you were thinking a significant percentage of that money might have come in after election day on 11/7, I checked and am not seeing any indication of that. So, bottom line: Yancey was apparently so overconfident that he didn’t spend all/part of his $127,600 stash, and may very well end up losing the election because of that (I mean, could part/all of that $127,600 have guaranteed Yancy a solid win? seems like it to me). Sad!

Soon-to-be-former Del. Rich Anderson (R-51), who lost to Democrat Hala Ayala by a narrow 53%-47%, ended up with $61,684 cash on hand. If Anderson had spent that $61,684 on canvassers, etc., could he have made up a deficit of around 1,800 votes?  Maybe, maybe not, but clearly he should have tried. I mean, why not?  Again, apparently Anderson was overconfident, didn’t see what happened on election night coming. In fairness, who did?  But still…

Del. Tim Hugo (R-40), currently in a recount with Democrat Donte Tanner in which Hugo leads by just 106 votes, ended up with a whopping $50,962 cash on hand. Massive overconfidence in this case, apparently, and it almost led to Hugo’s defeat. Gee, wouldn’t that have been sad! LOL  By the way, it’s worth noting that Tanner also ended up with a large amount ($56,640) cash on hand, the question being whether that money could have bought enough paid canvassers, digital ads, etc. to make up a 106-vote deficit. Of course, nobody knew heading into election day 2017 that Democrats would pick up 15 (or 16) seats, but personally I’m of the “leave it all on the field”/”no regrets” school.

Del. Roxann Robinson (R-27), who BARELY edged out Democrat Larry Barnett (14,461- 14,333) ended up with $45,556 cash on hand. Talk about overconfident, and nearly with disastrous results for the incumbent in this case.

Soon-to-be-former Del. Tag Greason (R-32), who lost to Democrat David Reid 58%-41%, would almost certainly still not have won if he had spent the $33,447 he had left, but still…can’t take it with you, right? What’s Greason going to do with that money now?

Soon-to-be-former Del. Jackson Miller (R-50), who lost to Democrat Lee Carter 54%-45%, also almost certainly would NOT have won if he had spent his remaining $32,277, but why keep it? My guess is Miller was overconfident, although he certainly shouldn’t have been after he lost the special election a few months earlier to Jackie Smith for PW County Clerk of the Circuit Court.

Soon-to-be-former Del. Rocky Holcomb (R-85), who lost to Democrat Cheryl Turpin by just under 400 votes, left $27,802 on the table. Not smart.

Soon-to-be-former Del. Joseph Yost (R-12), who lost to Democrat Chris Hurst 54%-45%, still probably wouldn’t have won if he had spent his remaining $23,574, but…but again, ditto to previous comments.

Soon-to-be-former Del. Randy Minchew (R-10), who lost to Democrat Wendy Gooditis 52%-48%, also might not have made up his narrow margin if he had spent his remaining $23,301 to hire canvassers, run digital ads, etc, but…you know.

Soon-to-be-former Del. Jim LeMunyon (R-67), who lost to Democrat Karrie Delaney by a whopping 58%-42% margin, still would have lost if he had spent his remaining $20,905, but again, why keep it? For a rainy day? What?

Again, it might be a bit unfair to criticize these folks too harshly, since nobody saw the massive Democratic wave for Virginia House of Delegates coming. Still, I just don’t get why you’d leave money on the table in a competitive race, where your political future is on the line. Do you want to keep the job?  If so, then spend it all, even go into debt!

Finally, I’d note that there are a bunch of incumbents who did NOT face serious challenges and who ended up with tons of money on hand – money that theoretically could have gone to their party’s incumbents or challengers. For instance, Del. Chris Jones (R) had $333k cash on hand as of 11/30; Del. Barry Knight (R) had $273k; Del. Israel O’Quinn (R) had $195k; Del. Kathy Byron (R) had $173k; Del. Robert Orrock (R) had $159k; Del. Margaret Ransone (R) had $122k; Del. Scott Garrett (R) had $115k; etc. A few Dems in safe districts (e.g., Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, Del. Mark Keam, Del. Sam Rasoul) also ended up with significant cash on hand, but most of them also gave a bunch to Democratic challengers as well. Again, election day 2017 here in Virginia was a huge surprise, so I’d cut folks some slack here, but still, the way I see politics, sports, etc. is that you always “run through the tape,” “leave it all on the field,” and every other cliche you can think of — and then not have to second guess the day. What do you think?