The race for lieutenant governor is shaping up to become one of the most expensive contests for that office in Vermont history. And Republican incumbent Phil Scott and Progressive Party challenger Dean Corren are raising their money in very different ways.
Among the more onerous tasks of any political campaign is raising the cash needed to fund the effort. On this count at least, Progressive Party candidate Dean Corren is enjoying an operational advantage over the Republican incumbent.
By raising $17,500 from 750 separate Vermonters, Corren earlier this year qualified for public financing. And as a result, he’ll have $200,000 at his disposal without having to dial for one more dollar.
It’s about as much money as any candidate for lieutenant governor has raised in the past. And Corren says it’s freed him up to engage in more productive campaign endeavors, like meeting with prospective voters and going to state fairs.
“And it’s been very intense just doing that. I can’t imagine what it would be like if I was busy calling people asking for money,” Corren said Monday.
But Republican incumbent Phil Scott is closing the financial gap quickly. Scott raised more than $50,000 during the last month, according to disclosures filed Monday, bringing his total for this cycle to $113,000.
“Our target has been $50,000 per cycle, with a goal of at least $200,000 by the end of the campaign,” Scott said.
And in a race with so much money, by Vermont standards at least, the sources of those funds have become campaign issue in and of itself.
Corren says more than 40 percent of Scott’s funds have come from businesses and political action committees. And he says Scott’s decisions will be inevitably colored by the influence of the corporate powers that bankrolled his candidacy.
Corren says a recent donation of $2,000 to Scott from the insurance company MVP offers a case in point.
“If you want a candidate who’s funded by MVP, then there is one. If you want a candidate who’s pursuing health care reform … without any influence from big money… then you’ve got a clear candidate – myself, obviously,” Corren said.
Scott said money doesn’t buy access to his office, let alone influence over it. And Scott says support from businesses reflects their confidence in his approach to economic reform.
“I think that I can share some of the pain that some are going through. I think that small businesses are the backbone of Vermont’s economy, and I believe that we need to do better in that regard,” Scott said.
Corren is seeking to win the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor by winning write-in vote in that party’s primary next week.
Gov. Peter Shumlin raised more than $60,000 toward his reelection effort over the last month, and now has more than $1.1 million for his campaign. Shumlin’s best-known challenger, Republican Scott Milne, raised about $22,000 over the past month, for a total of about $42,000 for the campaign so far.
“We’re on track with what we think we need to do to be a viable contender,” Milne said.
Milne faces a gubernatorial primary contest next week featuring two other Republicans – Steve Berry and Emily Peyton – as well as an insurgent write-in candidacy from Libertarian Dan Feliciano, who, according to Monday’s filings, donated $10,000 to his own campaign. Most of that money has gone to radio advertisements promoting his write-in campaign.
Eric Davis, professor emeritus of political science at Middlebury College, says the down-ticket contest between Scott and Corren is shaping up to be “the most competitive race in Vermont this fall.”
Davis says Corren’s prospects hinge not only on his ability to connect with voters on the issues, but on the firmness of his embrace by the Vermont Democratic Party. Corren needs at least 250 write-in votes next week to win that party’s primary. If he does, then members of the Vermont Democratic Party’s state committee will meet later this summer to decide whether to offer the organization’s endorsement, and put their considerable campaign apparatus to work for his candidacy.
“I’m interested to see to what extent the Democratic Party’s organization, field operation and so forth will end up supporting Corren this November, if he gets enough write-in votes on the ballot to be listed as a Democrat as well as a Progressive,” Davis says.