Finance Filings Show High Spending Gubernatorial Contest

Mar 15, 2016

All four declared candidates for governor posted big fundraising hauls Tuesday, the first reporting deadline since last July, in what is likely to be the most expensive gubernatorial race in state history.

On the Democratic side, Matt Dunne, a former senator from Windsor County, reported raising $452,436 and spending $134,668 during the eight-month reporting period. That brings his total contributions for the campaign to $567,469, and his total spending to $136,314. Dunne now has more than $430,000 in cash-on-hand — the most of any gubernatorial candidate — for the remainder of the primary season and into the general election, if he wins the nomination.

Sue Minter, the former secretary of the Agency of Transportation Secretary and Dunne’s primary opponent, reported raising $487,557 and spending $159,044, leaving her with about $328,500 cash on hand.

Minter entered the race months after Dunne began fundraising and trails his tally by about $80,000. Minter could not begin campaigning or raising money until stepping down from her government post, which she did in September. Dunne, meanwhile, had already raised more than $100,000 by last July 15 — the most recent reporting deadline prior to Tuesday.

Both Democrats outpaced Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, the GOP frontrunner who is seeking the state’s top office after six years as the understudy. Scott reported raising $414,345 since last July 15, and carried over about $95,000 from his 2014 campaign for lieutenant governor for a total of $509,000. During that time, Scott spent $216,531, leaving him with about $287,000 cash-on-hand.

Scott’s primary opponent, former Wall Street executive Bruce Lisman, reported raising $625,345 and spending $571,298 — leaving him with $54,000 cash-on-hand. However, Lisman is largely self-funding his campaign. His report showed he has given himself more than $450,000, including $275,000 in loans to the campaign, $160,927 in cash and $17,916 in in-kind contributions.

Democratic House Speaker Shap Smith, who announced his candidacy for governor last summer before suspending his campaign a few months later as his wife battled breast cancer, reported raising $92,360 and spending $66,513. Smith has about $27,000 in his coffers if he decides to return to the race.

Dunne’s campaign manager Nick Charyk said he is “proud of the effort” the Dunne campaign put into fundraising and its outcome.

“There’s a wide mix, including a great deal of in-state Vermonters who have made small dollar contributions,” Charyk said. “We have contributions from Vermonters in every county in the state and a lot of Vermonters who have never made a contribution before who have said, ‘My first contribution was to Bernie [Sanders] and now I’m donating to Matt.’”

Minter’s campaign noted that 72 percent of her 1,780 contributions came from Vermonters.

“This campaign is about making Vermont work. Too many Vermonters are struggling to make ends meet; we need to make sure wages keep up with the cost of living; we need to help all of our young people receive a quality education, and we need to protect our environment and grow our clean energy economy,” Minter said in a statement. “I am honored that nearly 1,300 people have joined my campaign to help make this vision a reality.”

Shawn Shouldice, who is running Lisman’s campaign, said she is “thrilled with the financial support we’ve received.” Lisman has not set a limit on how much of his own money he is willing to spend. But, he is “running against a 15-year incumbent who’s won three statewide campaigns,” she said.

“We’re taking a very thoughtful and disciplined approach to the campaign,” she said. “We have a long road to hoe before November. We feel really good where we’re at. We’re going to continue doing what we’re doing to get Bruce’s message out.”

Burlington Rep. Kesha Ram is leading the money contest in the Democratic primary race for lieutenant governor. She reported raising $103,151 and spending $37,363. That tops Chittenden County Sen. David Zuckerman, who serves as a Democrat and Progressive in the Senate. Zuckerman reported raising $64,535 and spending $26,010. He said more than half of his fundraising total came in the two days before the deadline.

“I am humbled by the deep support for my campaign,” Zuckerman said. “We are working hard to follow Sen. Bernie Sanders’ model of engaging many donors, bringing people together, and creating a people-powered campaign. It’s been an exciting few months.”

The third Democratic in the race, Marlboro businessman Brandon Riker, reported raising $85,428, bringing his contributions for the campaign to $188,057. Riker reported another $5,900 in contributions from himself or immediate family members, adding to the $65,819 in such contributions he reported last July. Most of his contributions were from out-of-state donors.

Randy Brock, the former state auditor and Franklin County senator, is the only announced Republican candidate for lieutenant governor. Brock raised $30,892 and spent $22,062. Independent candidate Louis Meyers raised $2,925 and spent $685.

Chittenden County State’s Attorney TJ Donovan, a Democratic running for attorney general, reported raising $$221,921 in cash from 762 donors. With in-kind contributions included, his total money raised rises to $228,348 for his — so far — uncontested bid. Incumbent Democratic Attorney General Bill Sorrell is not seeking re-election. Donovan also reported spending $45,851. He carried over about $27,000 from his previous campaign for state’s attorney.

Democratic state Treasurer Beth Pearce raised $4,025, including $500 in in-kind contributions. Pearce spent $982. State Auditor Doug Hoffer, a Progressive and Democrat, and Democratic Secretary of State Jim Condos did not raise any money. Both are so far running unopposed.

The Vermont Republican Party reported raising the most cash among the state’s three major political parties. According to the GOP’s report, it raised $49,533 and spent $44,812. The Vermont Democratic Party, which reported raising $32,852 and spending $32,068. The Vermont Progressive Party, the smallest of the three, reported raising $36,152 and spending $38,843.

VDP Executive Director Conor Casey said most of the the Democratic fundraising happens through its federal organization.

“These are small reports for us compared to the (Federal Elections Commission) ones,” he said.

The next reporting deadline is July 15.