Northam Steps Up Contributions to Dems After Virginia Primaries

Va. governor has given over $200k to Dem candidates since yearbook photo

Virginia governor Ralph Northam / Getty Images
July 16, 2019

Virginia's Democratic governor Ralph Northam stepped up his political contributions in June following the state's legislative primary elections, donating an additional $117,500 to 11 Democratic candidates, according to campaign finance reports released Monday.

The Washington Free Beacon previously reported that Northam had resumed doling out political contributions to state legislative Democratic incumbents and candidates, many of whom called on him to resign after a racist collegiate yearbook photo of the governor became public. Those earlier reported contributions combined with the recent donations add up to over $200,000 in contributions to Democratic candidates since the yearbook photo surfaced.

Two state Senate candidates, Cheryl Turpin and Ghazala Hashmi, received a $25,000 donation from Northam's Way Ahead PAC shortly after the state's legislative primary elections in mid-June.

Turpin, who currently represents the state's 85th House of Delegates district, and Hashmi are running in two of the state's most competitive Senate districts—both are held by Republicans.

Both candidates had previously called on Northam to resign.

"Though he has issued an apology, I do not believe it goes far enough," Turpin said in a short statement after the photos of Northam emerged. "I join my fellow legislators in calling for Governor Northam's resignation."

Hashmi meanwhile said she stood in solidarity with resignation calls from the Legislative Black Caucus and said Northam should resign in a tweet on June 2.

The $25,000 contribution is the second-largest contribution Turpin and Hashmi reported on their midyear campaign-finance reports.

Josh Cole, running for Virginia's 28th House of Delegates district, received a $10,000 check from the governor two days after the June legislative primary. Cole, who barely lost the 2017 contest for the same district, initially released a statement saying Northam "must step down" and, noting the state's long history of racial conflicts, said political leaders "must not equivocate on this issue."

The earlier report from the Free Beacon showed Sheila Bynum Coleman, Clint Jenkins, Karen Mallard, and Delegate Kelly Fowler received $5,000 contributions in the period preceding the legislative primaries. Northam's campaign finance filing from Monday shows these four candidates received an additional $10,000 contribution shortly after they won their respective primaries.

The Free Beacon contacted the original 11 candidates who received donations from Northam before the primary. None of them responded to questions about why they accepted contributions from the scandal-plagued governor.

Democratic legislative candidates Martha Mugler, Don Scott, Phil Hernandez, and Amy Laufer also reported smaller four-figure contributions from Northam's PAC after the June primary.

With slim margins in the state Senate and House of Delegates, Democrats are enthusiastic about their chances to take over all three branches of state government this fall for the first time in 26 years.

Republicans hold a one-seat majority in both legislative chambers. In 2017, Republicans lost 15 seats in the House of Delegates and held on to the majority by winning a tiebreaker.

A conglomeration of Democratic groups that had called on Northam to resign, including the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee and both of the state's legislative campaign committees, recently announced a partnership with Northam's PAC pledging the "largest coordinated field campaign in the Commonwealth's history to win Democratic majorities."

Northam's PAC raised slightly more than $300,000 from April 1 to June 30, a significant uptick from his PAC's last campaign finance report, which showed the governor struggling to raise money after the yearbook scandal occurred.

The Governor's Way Ahead PAC also reported two payments totaling $150,000 to Alston and Bird, the law firm representing Northam's PAC. The firm helped assist with conducting a facial recognition test on the yearbook photo from Northam's page featuring an individual in a KKK robe and another in blackface.

Northam originally apologized for the photo and said he did not recall which individual in the picture was him. He later stated he did not believe he was in the photo and asked for facial recognition experts to review it.

A report released by law firm McGuire Woods "found the image of the photograph was not of sufficient quality to conduct a comparison with other photographs."