Donors shell out dollars to West Virginia candidates as election nears

(Photo Illustration)

CHARLESTON — As the 2020 general election comes to a close in just over a week, political donors are placing their bets on candidates they believe can make it over the finish line.

Candidates for office were required to turn in their 2020 General campaign finance reports by Friday. The 2020 General Report covers campaign donations between Oct. 1 and Oct. 18 and is the last report due until after the Tuesday, Nov. 3 election.

The West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office is responsible for electronic campaign finance reports for statewide, legislative, and judicial races for state Supreme Court of Appeals, circuit court judges and family court judges. Offices up for election on the Board of Public works include governor, attorney general, secretary of state, state treasurer, state auditor, and commissioner of agriculture.

The 2020 General Report provides a snapshot into the financial condition of campaigns and their support going into the final month before Election Day. The report also shows how much campaigns have during the last two weeks candidates have to influence voters before casting absentee ballots, early voting, or casting a ballot on Nov. 3.


Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango, the Democratic challenger to Republican Gov. Jim Justice, only raised 36 percent of the amount Justice brought in during the 18-day reporting period. Justice raised $208,467 during the period compared to $75,643 raised by Salango.

Total contributions year-to-date for Justice were $1.8 million with $2.2 million in personal loans and outstanding debts, many of which included money owed to businesses owned by Justice. Total expenditures by the Justice campaign were $3.8 million, leaving Justice with $125,296.

Despite not bring in as much campaign donations as Justice, Salango has 82-percent more cash-on-hand. Total contributions year-to-date for the Salango campaign was $1.6 million with a $500,000 personal loan. Salango spent $1.8 million so far, leaving him with $228,561 with cash-on-hand.


Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey was not only able to outraise his Democratic opponent, attorney Sam Brown Petsonk, but Morrissey also has a substantial amount of cash-on-hand for any last-minute ad buys or mailers.

Morrisey raised $82,441 during the reporting period, while Petsonk raised $32,387. Morrisey raised a total of $1.1 million year-to-date and only has $25,261 in campaign debt mostly from outstanding loans. The Morrisey campaign spent $310,512 so far this election, leaving him with $850,512 in cash-on-hand.

Petsonk raised $501,961 election year-to-date and has $141,206 in outstanding loans. After spending $563,343 to keep Morrisey from winning a third term as the state’s top attorney, the Petsonk campaign has $21,673 in cash-on-hand.


In what has become a particularly negative campaign, donors have clocked to Republican Secretary of State Mac Warner over former two-term Democratic secretary of state Natalie Tennant.

Warner brought in $33,102 in donations during the reporting period, while Tennant only raised $19,974. Year-to-date, Warner raised $313,532 with no campaign debt or loans. The Warner campaign spent $282,315 to date, leaving the campaign with $25,916. Tennant raised $227,977 year-to-date with no debts. Her campaign spent $173,487, leaving Tennant with 49,867 in cash-on-hand.


Donors are once again putting their trust in Democratic State Treasurer John Perdue as he seeks a historic seventh term as the state’s top banker. Perdue raised $39,945 during the reporting period, while former Republican lawmaker Riley Moore raised $12,902.

Perdue raised $430,399 year-to-date with no campaign debts or loans. The Perdue campaign spent $179,609 during the campaign to date, leaving him with $246,465. Moore raised $240,499 since starting his campaign nearly two years ago after his defeat for re-election to the House of Delegates with only $20,000 in outstanding loans. Moore spent $210,545 during the election cycle so far, leaving him with $40,699 in cash-on-hand.


Democratic candidates Mary Ann Claytor, a former employee of the State Auditor’s Office, and current Republican State Auditor J.B. McCuskey faced off in 2016 with McCuskey winning that race. In the 2020 rematch, McCuskey has a substantial edge in fundraising.

McCuskey raised $51,900 during the reporting period, while Claytor raised $8,438. Year-to-date donations for McCuskey were $176,530 with no debts or loans. McCuskey has only spent $52,784, leaving him with $123,747 in cash-on-hand. Claytor raised $42,008 year-to-date with only $10 in unpaid bills. Claytor spent $23,247, leaving her with $18,634 in cash-on-hand.


Despite an aggressive campaign, state Sen. Bob Beach, D-Monongalia, has not been able to match Republican first-term Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leonhardt in donations. Leonhardt raised $10,375 during the reporting period, while Beach raised $2,200.

Leonhardt raised $249,581 election year-to-date, spent $186,733, and has $62,152 in cash-on-hand. Beach raised $54,026 year-to-date, spent $42,980, and have $7,403 in cash-on-hand.

The next campaign finance deadline — covering donations between Oct. 19 and Dec. 31 — is due no later than Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021.

Steven Allen Adams can be reached at sadams@newsandsentinel.com


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