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Walters: Campaign Donations Are Light in Race for Governor

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Gov. Phil Scott - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Gov. Phil Scott
The campaign for governor of Vermont is looking like a bargain-basement affair. Sunday night was a campaign-finance filing deadline for state candidates — the first such deadline since March 15, and the last one before the August 14 primary. In short, it's a notable milestone on the campaign trail. And none of the gubernatorial candidates set themselves apart financially.

Perhaps the most surprising development was a poor showing by incumbent Republican Phil Scott. He took in $93,000 in the past three months, bringing his total campaign haul to $214,000. He has already spent $177,000, so his cash on hand was less than $40,000. (He also had $19,000 in surplus funds from his 2016 campaign.) On the same date two years ago, Scott's campaign had raised $764,000, so he was well behind his 2016 pace.

His GOP challenger, Keith Stern, had not filed an update as of late Sunday.



Turning to the Democrats, former utility executive Christine Hallquist reported a three-month total of $89,000 in donations, and $132,000 for her campaign to date. She has spent most of her take and had about $23,000 on hand.

Hallquist campaign manager Cameron Russell was prepared for a bad night Sunday until he saw Scott's report. Then he was feeling more confident. "It's shocking that [Scott] doesn't have more on hand," Russell said. "Do we wish we could have raised more? Of course. But Christine just got into the race in March."

Water quality advocate James Ehlers had even less, raising $29,000 for the three-month period and just short of $50,000 overall. Campaign expenses left him with less than $10,000 in cash.

Arts administrator and antipoverty activist Brenda Siegel raised less than $9,000; her campaign also received in-kind donations of more than $8,000. After expenses, Siegel's campaign had roughly $1,000. Fourteen-year-old Ethan Sonneborn raised $1,093, and had yet to spend any of it.

The three Democrats running for governor in 2016 were miles ahead of this year's group. Former state representative and transportation secretary Sue Minter, who won the primary and lost to Republican Phil Scott in November, had raised nearly $900,000 by July 15. Her unsuccessful challengers, Matt Dunne and Peter Galbraith, both former state senators, had raised $820,000 and $328,000 respectively.

What's caused the financial power failure in the gubernatorial race? Scott is considered a big favorite for reelection, and the four Democratic candidates have no political track records and few connections. Would-be Republican donors may believe the election is in the bag; Democratic donors may be waiting to see if one of their candidates catches fire.

Whatever the reason, there's not much money in the campaign so far. And Scott has missed an opportunity to take command; his would-be challengers are — financially, at least — still within striking distance.

Corrected July 16 at 9:31 a.m. to include 2016 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Galbraith’s fundraising numbers.

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