RICHMOND — A competitive race in District 12, which covers Henrico and Hanover counties, has become the first Senate race in Virginia to spend more than $1 million in broadcast TV ads.
Democratic candidate Del. Debra Rodman is running against Republican incumbent Siobhan Dunnavant, both representing Henrico.
A total of $1,240,125 has been spent on media buys for District 12, according to an analysis by the Virginia Public Access Project. That includes ad space purchased through Nov. 4. Advertisements that are pro-Rodman or anti-Dunnavant have totaled $659,920, while ads that are pro-Dunnavant or anti-Rodman have totaled $580,205.
Rodman’s media buys for two political commercials will account for 997 on-air plays while Dunnavant will have 626 media plays, according to VPAP, which compiled Federal Communications Commission public disclosure files. Dunnavant has raised $1,104,094 to Rodman’s $812,329, as of Aug. 31 campaign reports. The next reports will be released in mid-October.
Media buys in the District 10 race between incumbent Glen Sturtevant, R-Richmond, and Democratic challenger Ghazala Hashmi tally at $581,235, according to VPAP. That’s $658,890 less than the total media buys for the District 12 race.
“All indications are that things are still quite close in a lot of these districts and that means that there’s going to be more and more money poured into these races this last month before the election,” said Stephen Farnsworth, professor of political science and director of the University of Mary Washington's Center for Leadership and Media Studies.
District 12 will be a tight race leading up to the election Nov. 5. Rodman hopes to flip the district blue. Constituents voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election and Gov. Ralph Northam in the 2017 gubernatorial election — both Democrats — but Republicans have held this legislative district since 1999.
Whichever party controls the General Assembly after the upcoming election will have an impact on redistricting after the 2020 census.
“The people who are elected in November may end up drawing the lines after the 2020 census,” Farnsworth said. “And so having partisan control this cycle matters a great deal.”
Virginia is also considering a constitutional amendment that will take the line-drawing authority away from legislatures. The proposed amendment cleared the General Assembly in the 2019 session but will again have to pass both chambers next session and then be approved by voters in November 2020 before it takes effect.
The other top media buys go to Senate races in the 7th, 8th and 17th districts.
Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.