As the 2020 election season comes to an end and Virginia’s congressional candidates are making their last pushes to secure a better chance at winning, millions of dollars have already been poured into races by political action committees (PAC) and other organizations looking to influence the elections one way or another.
Those types of campaign funds are known as independent expenditures, meaning money that is spent without the coordination of a campaign or candidate and often result in attack ads primarily seen on social media or TV.
Independent expenditures can also provide insight into which races PACs and other groups believe are the most or least competitive, however. In Virginia, the vast majority of independent expenditures this election has been spent on three specific races: the 7th, 5th and 2nd Congressional Districts.
According to data on independent expenditures from the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP), $12.7 million has been spent on the 7th District, $6.5 million has been spent on the 5th District and $6.2 million has been spent on the 2nd District.
In the 7th District race between Del. Nick Freitas (R-Culpepper) and Representative Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07), so far Spanberger has raised more than double her opponent. The vast majority of independent expenditures has been spent on anti-Freitas and anti-Spanberger ads ($10.86 million), according to VPAP.
Some of the groups donating the most money for those anti-candidate efforts are Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Club for Growth Action, according to VPAP.
In the 5th District, Democratic candidate Cameron Webb ($4.6 million) has out raised the Republican challenger Bob Good ($1.1 million) in the race for Virginia’s largest district. Similar to the 7th District, most of the independent expenditures are going to anti-candidate endeavors.
Out of the $6.5 million in independent expenditures for the 2nd District, $5.7 million has gone to those aforementioned efforts, according to VPAP.
The same can be said about the 2nd District race in which Incumbent Representative Elaine Luria (D-VA-02) has raised significantly more money than former Representative Scott Taylor (R). Just like the other districts, $4.7 out of $6.2 million has been spent on ads attacking the candidates, according to VPAP.
One of the larger PACs for Republican candidates is the Congressional Leadership Fund. Overall, the Congressional Leadership Fund has spent $3.3 million in the 2nd District, roughly $700,000 in the 5th and over $500,000 in the 7th.
Despite most of the spending going into one race, that trend has shifted over the course of October.
VPAP analysis on the Congressional Leadership Fund’s weekly TV spending showed a significant drop off for the 2nd District, going down to $0 spent on October 20 and remaining there since, leaving Taylor with a weak TV presence. That drop off coincided with large increases in weekly spending for 7th and 5th Districts.
The Cook Political Report 2020 House race ratings consider both the 7th and 2nd districts as leaning Democrat, while the historically conservative 5th district is considered a Republican toss-up.
With less than a week until November 3, independent expenditures and overall political campaign spending are likely to continue all the way up until Election Day, but most of the money has already been spent.
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