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2015-05-13 / News

Gecker holds fundraising advantage entering debate

By Jim McConnell
STAFF WRITER

Unless something changed dramatically over the past month, Dan Gecker was expected to enter the May 13 forum for 10th District Senate candidates with a significant fundraising advantage over fellow Democrats Emily Francis and Alex McMurtrie Jr.

Gecker, who represents the Midlothian magisterial district on the Board of Supervisors, raised $230,000 between Jan. 1 and March 31, according to the most recent campaign disclosure documents filed with the State Board of Elections.

Gecker’s first-quarter fundraising was third-best among General Assembly candidates from either party and exceeded the contributions received by Francis ($61,811), McMurtrie ($50,000) and 10th District Republican nominee Glen Sturtevant ($102,865) combined.

It was an impressive opening salvo by a candidate who has made no secret that fundraising is not exactly his favorite part of running for elected office.

It also showcased one of the strengths that made Gecker an intriguing possibility to Democratic leaders before he had even decided to pursue the Senate seat being vacated by Republican John Watkins: his ability to bring in big money through personal and professional connections across the commonwealth.

But Francis, a nonprofit lobbyist and first-time political candidate, was undeterred by the numbers and insisted that “there’s more to an election than money.”

“I’m extremely proud and grateful for my people-powered campaign,” she said. “There are a lot of people who are excited about the campaign and are happy to pitch in what they can.”

Indeed, while Gecker built his first-quarter war chest on the strength of just 55 donors – 39 of whom contributed more than $100 – Francis is relying on her ability to connect with the district’s rank-and-file Democrats.

As of March 31, 184 of Francis’ 280 donors (66 percent) had contributed less than $100 apiece.

“The people I’m talking to in the district are happy to have someone who is willing to stand up for progressive values,” she said. “I’m the only progressive in this race.”

Neither Gecker nor McMurtrie returned calls seeking comment by press time Monday.

Gecker predicted during an April interview that he’d have “the best environmental record of anyone in the race,” seemingly a direct challenge to Francis’ background.

Francis moved to Richmond in 2007 to take a job with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. An independent consultant, she has worked extensively on behalf of environmental, public health and consumer rights organizations.

A longtime Democrat, McMurtrie sounded like a progressive in his initial campaign mailer, labeling himself “the education candidate” and agreeing with President Barack Obama that “a high-quality education is the birthright of every American.”

McMurtrie didn’t enter the race until just prior to the March filing deadline, so it came as no shock that the entire $50,000 he raised in the first quarter came from his own donation to the campaign.

McMurtrie is independently wealthy, meaning he could conceivably finance the entire campaign without taking a dime of outside money. But he’s going to be hard-pressed to outspend Gecker, who received 10 separate donations of $10,000 or more in addition to the $20,000 he personally contributed to his campaign.

Six of the 10 came from people or companies with ties to the real estate industry – including a $25,000 contribution from the Midlothian-based Rebkee Co., Gecker’s partner in a plan to build a new ballpark on the Boulevard for the Richmond Flying Squirrels.

Even without taking any PAC money, Gecker has the cash on hand to effectively communicate his message to the 10th District’s voters between now and the June 9 primary.

While nobody would talk about it on the record, several leading Democrats have suggested that Gecker still has to answer some lingering questions – among them, why he decided to twice run for the Board of Supervisors as an independent while governing as a self-described fiscal conservative.

Swift Creek Middle School was scheduled to host the May 13 candidate forum, sponsored jointly by the Chesterfield and Richmond Democratic committees, at 6:30 p.m.

Craig Carper, the capital reporter for WCVE Public Broadcasting, was selected as moderator.

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