RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms, a Republican, is set to endorse Democrat Terry McAuliffe for governor.
It marks the first time Sessoms has crossed party boundaries to publicly endorse a Democrat for governor in his 20 years in politics in Virginia's oceanfront haven, which is the state's largest city. He has, however, contributed marginally to three Democrats years ago.
Sessoms is to make the announcement official Tuesday while touring the Virginia Beach Advanced Technology Center with McAuliffe and Norfolk's mayor, Paul Fraim, McAuliffe's campaign announced Monday afternoon.
It comes after one of northern Virginia's most influential business groups, the Northern Virginia Technology Council's political action committee, endorsed Republican Ken Cuccinelli over McAuliffe on Monday, giving the Republican campaign that had been struggling a timely boost.
Cuccinelli's campaign contested characterizations of Sessoms as a Republican, noting that municipal elections in Virginia Beach are nonpartisan. Ken Longo, chairman of the Virginia Beach GOP Committee, wrote in an email to The Associated Press that Sessoms isn't a Republican because he did not renew his local party membership in April.
Longo acknowledged, however, that Sessoms was a member when he was re-elected mayor last year. And his photo and a short bio appear on the Virginia Beach GOP Committee's Web site under elected city officials.
There was no immediate reply Monday afternoon to a telephone message seeking comment from Sessoms.
Sessoms' partisan leanings over time, however, are reflected through his pattern of political giving.
Since 1993, he has given more than $19,000 to Republicans in races for state offices, accounting for 71 percent of his $26,520 of state donations, according to the nonprofit and independent tracker of Virginia political money, the Virginia Public Access Project. He contributed a total of $2,150 to a total of three Democrats — only one of them, former Norfolk Del. Paula Miller, more recently than 1999.
In addition, $6,500 — or 84 percent — of the $7,700 he has contributed in federal elections since 2001 has gone to Republicans, including $1,000 to Rep. J. Randy Forbes, R-Va., last September, according to the Federal Election Commission. The remaining 16 percent went to a nonpartisan federal political action committee for Virginia banks.
McAuliffe is a former Democratic National Committee chairman who helped raise money for the presidential races of Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Virginia Beach GOP Web site: http://rpvb.org/virginia-beach-city-council/