Walters: Hallquist Exits Primary in the Red, Scott Kickstarts Fundraising | Off Message

Walters: Hallquist Exits Primary in the Red, Scott Kickstarts Fundraising


Christine Hallquist greets supporters on primary night. - FILE: JAMES BUCK
  • File: James Buck
  • Christine Hallquist greets supporters on primary night.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Christine Hallquist emerged from Vermont's primary Tuesday with her party's nomination — but with no money in her campaign fund. Republican Gov. Phil Scott, who'd been fundraising and spending at a rather leisurely rate through mid-July, began shaking the money tree in earnest during the run-up to primary day.

Wednesday night marked a deadline for filing campaign finance reports. Hallquist, the former CEO of the Vermont Electric Coop, reported raising $40,000 in the past month, and a total of $157,000 for the entire cycle — including $18,000 in loans to her own campaign. At the same period in the 2016 election cycle, Democratic nominee Sue Minter had raised more than $1 million.

Hallquist has spent $159,000, which leaves her about $2,000 underwater. She is hoping to get a big boost in donations following a flood of national news coverage of her primary win, which made her the first openly transgender major-party candidate for governor in U.S. history. She will need it.

Scott faced a primary challenge from little-known Keith Stern — and a rising tide of conservative disaffection over his support for gun legislation, his attacks on President Donald Trump and his relatively moderate brand of Republicanism.

In the past month, the Scott campaign raised $101,000 and spent $86,000. For the entire campaign cycle before July 15, Scott had raised a little over $200,000. He's now raised a total of $313,000 and spent $263,000. He also has a $19,000 surplus from his 2016 campaign, which leaves him with roughly $71,000 in the bank.

That's not a lot, but he's in better shape than Hallquist.
Scott raised the bulk of his money in large donations, mainly from Vermont businesses and individuals. Among those giving $4,000 to Scott: Rutland-based Casella Associates, Stowe realtor John Biondolillo, Jost Investments (a firm owned by Burlington developer Ernie Pomerleau) and Boston-based pharmaceutical firm Vertex. One generous Vermont conservative, Lenore Broughton, forsook Scott and instead gave a maximum $4,080 contribution to Stern.

Scott received a total of 32 donations of $1,000 or more. Hallquist reported only eight. Her largest gifts came from St. Albans realtor Keeli Metz ($4,000), New York philanthropist Henry van Ameringen ($2,080) and Barrett and Sandy Singer of Palm Beach, Fla. ($2,000 each). Singer had originally donated $4,000 from a corporate account; when Hallquist returned all corporate donations, he and his wife re-donated the money themselves.

Outgoing Vermont House Minority Leader Don Turner (R-Milton), Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, continued to fundraise at a brisk pace. He took in $61,000 in the past month, bringing his campaign total to $109,000. His contribution list is full of familiar conservative moneybags. Broughton donated $4,000. Fuel dealer Skip Vallee donated $4,000, as did his wife Denise and his company. Businesses and individuals named Casella kicked in $8,000. State Rep. Eileen Dickinson (R-St. Albans) and her husband Richard each donated $2,500 to Turner. Blackfin Vermont, an LLC linked to 2016 Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Lisman, gave Turner $4,000. Lisman personally contributed $4,000 to Turner's campaign in June.

Turner has spent $32,000, leaving him with roughly $77,000 in the bank.

Progressive/Democratic incumbent Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman continues to trail Turner in the money game. He raised $25,000 in the past month, bringing his campaign total to $75,000. He has spent $41,000. Including $12,000 in surplus from his 2016 campaign, Zuckerman has about $46,000 in cash on hand.

Turner reported a total of 21 gifts of $1,000 or more; Zuckerman received only two. The DRIVE Committee, an arm of the Teamsters union, donated $2,000, and Zuckerman's cousin Steve gave $1,000.

The Addison County Senate race is showing signs of serious competitiveness. In late July, two well-known independents entered the race: Vermont Coffee Company founder and former state representative Paul Ralston and Bridport farmer Marie Audet. Ralston made an initial donation of $4,900 to his campaign; Audet donated an even $5,000 to hers.
Their candidacies appear to have sparked a sense of urgency from incumbent Sen. Chris Bray (D-Addison), who hadn't raised any money for his reelection bid as of July 15. He put on a fundraising burst after the two independents made their entrance. He raised more than $6,000 in the past week, and has a campaign fund of $8,000.

The other incumbent, Democrat Claire Ayer, is retiring. The Democrat hoping to replace her, Ruth Hardy, has been raising money at a brisk pace all along. Her total fundraising is just below $15,000, and she has a little under $10,000 in cash on hand. The only Republican on the primary ballot was Peter Briggs of Addison, who finished third in a bid for the Senate in 2016.
Another incumbent inspired by competition is Rep. Heidi Scheuermann (R-Stowe). Democrat Marina Meerburg won her party's nomination Tuesday as a write-in candidate; she is the first Democrat to challenge Scheuermann since 2006.

Scheuermann has tossed her line into Stowe's rich donor pool and reeled in some whoppers. She has raised a total of $24,000 for the campaign including $13,000 in the past month — massive amounts for a House candidate. She received large checks from the Trapp Family Lodge, the Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa, and members of the Baraw family, which owns Stoweflake. In 2016, when she had no Democratic opponent, Scheuermann raised less than $3,000 for the entire campaign.

The biggest surprise among state Senate primaries was in Rutland County, where appointed incumbent Sen. Dave Soucy (R-Rutland) finished fifth in a five-man field for three Republican nominations. Soucy raised a total of $2,600 for the entire campaign, all from himself; he spent only $810. But this was a low-dollar race. Sen. Brian Collamore (R-Rutland) raised and spent roughly $2,000 and finished first. Former state representative Jim McNeil finished second, in spite of raising only $2,300 and spending $1,500.
Ed Larson, who clings to a five-vote lead for the third nomination, had yet to file a finance report as of midday Thursday. Terry Williams, who trails Larson by those five votes, had the most robust campaign operation of them all. He raised $6,600 and spent $5,600.

In the most dramatic House race of the night, incumbent Rep. Valerie Stuart (D-Brattleboro) lost badly to Emilie Kornheiser. The challenger raised $16,000 through the entire campaign and spent $12,000. Stuart has yet to file her report; as of July 15, she had raised $3,700 and spent $1,900.