Vermont Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint (D-Windham) raised $125,000 in the 24 hours after she announced her run for U.S. House, her campaign announced Tuesday.
The haul capped off a busy first day on the trail for Balint and signaled the race to replace U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) may be a fierce one.
“This was an absolute groundswell for Becca,” said Julia Barnes, a campaign adviser and former head of the Vermont Democratic Party.
Lt. Governor Molly Gray, an assistant attorney general who once worked for Welch, launched her campaign last week. She reported raising $50,000 in the first day and $111,000 during the first week.
The first two candidates in the race are women, a significant development as Vermont is the only state to have never elected, or appointed, a woman to serve in Congress. Balint would also be the first openly gay Vermonter elected to serve in Washington, D.C.
Balint released her campaign announcement and video at 6 a.m. Monday, drove from her home in Brattleboro to Montpelier for a press conference, and then drove back home for a virtual campaign kickoff at 6:30 p.m.
The latter event alone raised $10,302 and was attended by 281 people, far more than the campaign had expected, Barnes said.
Barnes declined to discuss how Balint’s donations compare to current or past candidates, but she called the first-day figure “historic.”
Like Gray, Balint revealed that her donations came from all 14 counties in Vermont. Both have vowed not to take campaign contributions from corporate donors or corporate political action committees.
Balint said she would, however, accept funds from PACs and "organizations whose values align with mine," such as reproductive rights, those that fight climate change or unions.
"What's important for me is making sure the money that I'm taking is from real people who want to have their voices heard," Balint said Monday.
In a statement, Balint’s camp said the cash was “all from individual, grassroots donations.”
"Anyone who doubts Becca is capable of putting together a strong people-powered movement are dead wrong," Barnes is quoted saying in the statement. "This is what real momentum and excitement about a candidate looks like."
Gray’s campaign has not characterized its contributions beyond an “outpouring of support” that would help fuel a “truly inclusive campaign that reaches every Vermont community.”
Reached Tuesday about Balint's fundraising figures, Gray's campaign spokesperson, Samantha Sheehan, had no immediate comment.
The first public reporting of such donations — including their size and name of donors — won’t be available until January. But early fundraising prowess is often used as a measure of broader interest in a particular campaign. Neither campaign released the total number of donors.
Gray's campaign video stresses the work ethic she gained growing up on a farm in Newbury and how it shaped her drive to help Vermont tackle its workforce, affordable housing, childcare and broadband challenges.
Balint's campaign has highlighted her work as a teacher and legislator, her experiences as a gay woman, and her Jewish faith. Her grandfather was murdered during the Holocaust when he fell behind on a march to help a fellow prisoner, she said.
"This family story has both haunted me and guided me," she said Monday.
In the fundraising press release, Balint expressed gratitude for her donors and focused on the grassroots nature of the campaign she hopes to run.
“I am astonished and overwhelmed with the level of support we received yesterday," she said in the release. "This is a hard time for so many families and the fact that people chipped in where they could means so much to me. This is going to be a campaign powered by people and yesterday showed me just how many people that is."