by Steve Haner
Prince William Democrat Hala Ayala, who had pledged not to accept campaign contributions from Dominion Energy Virginia and took money instead from its opponents, has now accepted $100,000 from the regulated monopoly. Heads are exploding.
The anti-Dominion activist group Clean Virginia had given her $25,000 in her bid for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. Now is has announced it will dump $125,000 into a last-ditch digital campaign to defeat her in the June 8 primary. Early voting in the primary has been underway for weeks, however. Early voters upset by this cannot call their ballots back.
Final pre-primary finance reports were released early in the week and word of the contribution quickly hit the Twitterverse, then sparked stories in today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch and Virginia Mercury.
Ayala is not seeking another term in the House to run for this office. There are six candidates seeking the nomination and in a traditional Virginia primary a plurality will be sufficient for victory. There will be none of the ranked choice voting the GOP just used. Ayala’s strongest competitor appears to be Roanoke Delegate Sam Rasoul, also a Dominion critic and beneficiary of Clean Virginia financial support.
Clean Virginia’s full statement, from Executive Director Brennan Gilmore, is here:
“Del. Ayala’s actions are uniquely disappointing and deceptive – she has campaigned for statewide office on a promise to Virginians that she would hold polluting utility monopolies accountable and then accepted a massive contribution from Dominion Energy. That is not leadership — it is desperation,” Gilmore wrote.
Clean Virginia released an image from her candidate questionnaire, reproduced above, with her pledge not to accept Dominion funds. She signed another pledge for a group called Activate Virginia.
We therefore pledge never to accept campaign contributions from either Dominion or Appalachian Power. This small step towards a Democratic Party of Virginia free from Dominion and Appalachian influence is, we feel, the absolute least we can do. We hope our fellow Democratic politicians in Virginia will join us. Because it’s only together, as a unified progressive force, that we’ll be able to reinstate a government dedicated to preserving and protecting our beautiful – yet fragile – environment.
The folks at Blue Virginia are pointing on Twitter to the PredictIt vote projection website that treats votes like stock values, with Ayala’s chances dropping yesterday and Rasoul’s rising (with some recovery for her this morning).
Without doubt, June 8 will now be analyzed for signs of whether Dominion has lost its grip. Is the battle for political dominance between Clean Virginia and the state’s powerful utility over, won by Dominion? The House Democratic Caucus has already attacked the Charlottesville power couple that funds Clean Virginia as “dark-money billionaires” for the sin of backing two challengers to incumbent Democratic House members, and even (shocking) some Republicans who are Dominion skeptics.
The problem, of course, is that any donor – utility or environmental activist or shameless rent-seeker – can give such huge amounts to any Virginia candidate. Neither political party can muster the political will to impose reasonable limits on donations because both parties are happy with the situation at hand. Donations of this size will always be interpreted as an effort to buy favor, because without any question that is exactly what they are.