WAMU 88.5 : Morning Edition

Virginia's Senate Candidates Build Up Campaign Fortunes

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Former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, shown here at the Virginia Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in February 2011, has already compiled millions of dollars for his run for U.S. Senate in 2012.
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Former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, shown here at the Virginia Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in February 2011, has already compiled millions of dollars for his run for U.S. Senate in 2012.

The GOP presidential race is getting most of the attention these days, but in another campaign expected to heat up this year, Virginia candidates for the U.S. Senate are amassing campaign war chests for this year's hotly contested race.

At the end of last year, former Virginia Sen. George Allen R brought in more than $1 million to his campaign. He's now raised more than $4.5 million and is leading the GOP primary.

Allen is expected to face former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine (D) who, as of September, had more than $2.5 million on hand. George Mason University Professor Tony Michelle Travis says the cash shows the race is being closely watched.

"Virginia can flip flop easily, as you know, so I think it's saying Virginia is important at the state level and at the national level," Travis says.

This may just be the beginning. Bob Edgar, president of the watchdog group Common Cause, is expecting each Virginia Senate candidate to rake in more than $15 million by Election Day 2012.

"If you add the many millions of dollars that will also be spent by independent -- so-called independent -- Super PACs and special interests, it could be $60 or $70 million for a Senate seat," Edgar says.

All the outside spending in this year's campaigns in Virginia and elsewhere may sour public opinion and force lawmakers to change campaign finance laws, Edgar adds. In the meantime, he expects an inundation of negative ads.

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