An explosion of small donations powered Democratic wins in Virginia House


A historic jump in small donations drove a wave of Democratic victories in Virginia’s House of Delegates in November, according to a new analysis. 

Democratic House candidates received 153,422 contributions of $100 or less in the 2017 elections, compared to 7,332 such gifts for Republicans, the nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project found by analyzing official data.

Danica Roem, delegate-elect in Virginia’s 13th House district and the state’s first openly transgender lawmaker, picked up nearly 18,000 small donations ― more than the entire Republican total of such contributions. 

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Danica Roem, first openly trans legislator in the United States
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Danica Roem, first openly trans legislator in the United States
MANASSAS, VA - NOVEMBER 7: Danica Roem, who is running for house of delegates against GOP incumbent Robert Marshall, twirls her umbrella in the rain as she campaigns at Spring Hill Elementary School on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, in Manassas, VA. If Roem wins, she would be the first transgender legislator elected in the USA. (photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
GAINESVILLE, VA - NOVEMBER 7: Danica Roem, who is running for house of delegates against GOP incumbent Robert Marshall, rejoices the end of a 10-month campaign when polls closed at Tyler Elementary School on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, in Gainesville, VA. If Roem wins, she would be the first transgender legislator elected in the USA. (photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
MANASSAS, VA - NOVEMBER 7: Danica Roem, C, who ran for house of delegates against GOP incumbent Robert Marshall, is greeted by supporters as she prepares to give her victory speech with Prince William County Democratic Committee at Water's End Brewery on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, in Manassas, VA. Roem is the first transgender legislator elected in the USA. (photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
MANASSAS, VA - NOVEMBER 7: Danica Roem, C, who is running for house of delegates against GOP incumbent Robert Marshall, chats with poll workers after casting her own vote at Buckhall Volunteer Fire Department on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, in Manassas, VA. If Roem wins, she would be the first transgender legislator elected in the USA. (photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
MANASSAS, VA - NOVEMBER 7: Danica Roem, C, who ran for house of delegates against GOP incumbent Robert Marshall, is greeted by supporters as she prepares to give her victory speech with Prince William County Democratic Committee at Water's End Brewery on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, in Manassas, VA. Roem is the first transgender legislator elected in the USA. (photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Danica Roem, a Democrat for Delegate in Virginia's district 13, and who is transgender, sits in her campaign office on September 22, 2017, in Manassas, Virginia. 'Look at the inside of my shoe, ok?' replies Danica Roem when asked how many voters she has already approached in her bid to win a Virginia statehouse seat.The Democratic candidate has no time for subtleties as she races to become the first openly transgender person elected to office in this Republican US state. Whether spitting in the trashcan during a recent interview with Cosmopolitan magazine or whipping off her ballerina flat to show its worn insole to AFP, this young woman does not shy from flaunting her working-class roots. / AFP PHOTO / Paul J. RICHARDS / TO GO WITH AFP STORY -'Transgender metalhead makes historic political office bid' (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Danica Roem, a Democrat for Delegate in Virginia's district 13, and who is transgender, sits in her campaign office on September 22, 2017, in Manassas, Virginia. 'Look at the inside of my shoe, ok?' replies Danica Roem when asked how many voters she has already approached in her bid to win a Virginia statehouse seat.The Democratic candidate has no time for subtleties as she races to become the first openly transgender person elected to office in this Republican US state. Whether spitting in the trashcan during a recent interview with Cosmopolitan magazine or whipping off her ballerina flat to show its worn insole to AFP, this young woman does not shy from flaunting her working-class roots. / AFP PHOTO / Paul J. RICHARDS / TO GO WITH AFP STORY -'Transgender metalhead makes historic political office bid' (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
MANASSAS, VA - November, 7: Bob Marshall, GOP incumbent who runs for his seat in the Virginia House of Delegates, smiles while voting at Signal Hill Elementary School in Manassas, VA, on election day November 7, 2017. Marshalls opponent, Danica Roem, would be the states first elected official who is openly transgender. (Astrid Riecken For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
GAINESVILLE, VA - NOVEMBER 7: Danica Roem, who is running for house of delegates against GOP incumbent Robert Marshall, campaigns as voters take to the ballot boxes at Gainesville Middle School on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, in Gainesville, VA. If Roem wins, she would be the first transgender legislator elected in the USA. (photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Danica Roem, a Democrat for Delegate in Virginia's district 13, and who is transgender, sits in her campaign office on September 22, 2017, in Manassas, Virginia. 'Look at the inside of my shoe, ok?' replies Danica Roem when asked how many voters she has already approached in her bid to win a Virginia statehouse seat.The Democratic candidate has no time for subtleties as she races to become the first openly transgender person elected to office in this Republican US state. Whether spitting in the trashcan during a recent interview with Cosmopolitan magazine or whipping off her ballerina flat to show its worn insole to AFP, this young woman does not shy from flaunting her working-class roots. / AFP PHOTO / Paul J. RICHARDS / TO GO WITH AFP STORY -'Transgender metalhead makes historic political office bid' (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
MANASSAS, VA - JUNE 2: Democratic primary candidate Danica Roem makes her pitch to voters at the Bull Run Swim & Raquet Club while debating three fellow Democrats vying to unseat Republican State Delegate Bob Marshall in Manassas, Virginia Friday June 2, 2017. (Photo by J. Lawler Duggan/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
MANASSAS, VA - JUNE 2: Democratic primary candidate Danica Roem makes her pitch to voters at the Bull Run Swim & Raquet Club while debating three fellow Democrats vying to unseat Republican State Delegate Bob Marshall in Manassas, Virginia Friday June 2, 2017. (Photo by J. Lawler Duggan/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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The record-breaking small-donor haul dramatically widened a gap between Democrats and Republicans that had been growing in the past few elections. For example, Democratic House candidates received 14,351 small donations in 2009, compared with 12,918 for Republicans, according to VPAP.

Of course, both major parties remain heavily dependent on larger contributions. Donations of $100 or less made up 12.2 percent of Democratic House candidates’ fundraising total, and 2.5 percent of the total for Republican candidates.

VPAP’s findings, which were published Dec. 15, provide new insight into the way that grassroots liberal excitement and anger at the policies of President Donald Trump propelled Democrats to surprisingly large wins in Virginia’s elections.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defeated Trump in Virginia by 5 percentage points, giving Democrat Ralph Northam favorable odds in the state’s gubernatorial race. Northam indeed won by a comfortable margin. But Democrats’ success in the House of Delegates, where the GOP previously held a 66-34 majority, exceeded all expectations.

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Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam
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Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam
ALEXANDRIA, VA - May 21: Democratic candidate for Governor of Virginia, Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam takes part in a candidate forum put on by Americans for Responsible Solutions at the Hilton Alexandria Old Town on Sunday May 21, 2017 in Alexandria, VA. (Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Former U.S. President Barack Obama campaigns in support of Virginia Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, Democratic candidate for governor, at a rally with supporters in Richmond, Virginia, U.S. October 19, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Virginia Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, who is campaigning to be elected as the state's governor, and his wife Pam, cast their ballots at the East Ocean View Community Center in Norfolk, Virginia, U.S. November 7, 2017. REUTERS/Julia Rendleman
FAIRFAX, VA - APRIL 29: Tom Perriello, left, shakes hands with Ralph Northam at the start of the event. Virginia Democratic Gubernatorial Candidates, Ralph Northam and Tom Perriello held their first debate on Saturday, April 29, 2017 at Lanier Middle School in Fairfax, VA. (Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, VA - MARCH 08: Virginia Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam visits Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport to visit with airport workers on Wednesday March 08, 2017 in Arlington, VA. (Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 25: Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, left, and Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, cheer on the floor of the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa., on the first day of the Democratic National Convention, July 25, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Ralph Northam (R) is sworn in as Virginia's lieutenant governor by retired Judge Glen Tyler in Richmond, Virginia, January 11, 2014. The ceremony marks the first time in a quarter century that Democrats will hold all three of the state's top elective posts: governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. REUTERS/Mike Theiler (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
FALLS CHURCH, VA - OCTOBER 19: Hillary Rodham Clinton, center right in red, stands with the Democratic ticket as she endorses Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, far right, at a Women for Terry rallyon October, 19, 2013 in Falls Church, VA. Pictured from left, Sen Mark Herring, Sen. Ralph Northam, Clinton, and McAuliffe. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 25: Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, left, and Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, take a selfie on the floor of the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa., on the first day of the Democratic National Convention, July 25, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
ARLINGTON, VA - MAY 2: Ralph Northam greets supporters in front of the venue as progressive and labor groups from across the Commonwealth host a forum for him and fellow candidate Tom Perriello to discuss Virginia's 2017 Governor's race on May, 02, 2017 in Arlington, VA. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Virginia Democratic governor-elect Terry McAuliffe (R) celebrates with lieutenant governor-elect Ralph Northam (L) at their election night victory rally in Tyson's Corner, Virginia November 5, 2013. McAuliffe defeated Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli in today's governor's election in Virginia. REUTERS/Gary Cameron (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)
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The Democratic Party flipped at least 15 GOP-controlled Virginia House seats. A recount in a 16th race resulted in a tie that could soon be resolved by the drawing of straws. The House will be split 50-50 if Democrats win that seat, prompting a power-sharing agreement. 

In addition to Roem, new Democrats in the Virginia House are Chris Hurst, a former TV anchor whose girlfriend was killed on air in August 2015; the state’s first Latina delegates Elizabeth Guzman and Hala Ayala; the state’s first Asian-American female delegate Kathy Tran; and Lee Carter, a former Marine and self-described democratic socialist.

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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