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Parsing the Purses


Published July 16, 2009 at 8:09 a.m.

Vermont's candidates for governor filed their official campaign finance reports today in Montpelier, and to no surprise Secretary of State Deb Markowitz had a very strong showing — easily besting her Democratic challengers, as well as incumbent Republican Gov. Jim Douglas.

Markowitz raised $190,736 dollars from 1,046 contributors, for an average of $168, from all corners of the state. After expenses, she has a total of $128,635 on hand. That's nearly as much as both Douglas and her chief Democratic rival Sen. Doug Racine (Chittenden).

"Although we are pleased with the financial support for our campaign, we are even more thrilled by the number of volunteers, email-signups, and contributors," said Markowitz in a statement. "We are going to take this campaign to every corner of Vermont, because we know that ultimately, the campaign is not about money, but about change and new leadership to revitalize our great state, build a strong economy, with great public education, strong towns and rural areas, and a pristine environment.”

Markowitz said she's only been officially a candidate for a few months and the early, strong showing is a signal that Vermonters hungry for change are receptive to her campaign.

Racine reported contributions of $102,000, with more than three-quarters of that cash coming in since the close of the legislative session in May. The average contribution was $198. After expenses, Racine reported having roughly $82,000 in the bank.

"I am very pleased and gratified by the response I have received from Vermonters from all over the state," Racine said, in releasing his totals. "The fundraising totals show that Vermonters are not just responding to this campaign and its message, they are investing in it."

"Vermonters are hungry for real leadership," Racine said. "This fundraising success proves that they want change and are ready to invest in a brighter future."

Like Markowitz, Racine said fundraising is just one aspect of a winning campaign. Quite true.

"This report is about money, but my campaign is about the future of our great state, its economy and its people," Racine said. "The financial support we have received is energizing. But I am even more excited about creating new jobs, reforming our health care system, and investing in the future of our children and communities."

Then there's GOP incumbent Gov. Douglas.

Douglas raised less than each of his Democratic challengers, and had less cash in the bank than either, too.

In all, Douglas reported raising $104,000 so far this year — $13,000 of that was carried over from the end of the 2008 campaign. That means he raised $91,000 since January 1. After expenses, Douglas has $48,000 in the bank.

Compare that to 2007, the last off-election year campaign finance filing on record. At that time, no Democratic challenger had raised money. And, Douglas had raised about $209,000 — $55,000 of that was carried over from the 2006 election. After expenses of about $56,000, the guv had about $150,000 in the bank.

If you look closer, these numbers aren't as dramatic a difference as they first appear. In 2009, Douglas spent about $55,000 to raise $91,000, and padded his nest with about $13,000 left over from the previous campaign.

In 2007, Douglas spent about $56,000 to raise $96,000, and he had $55,000 leftover from the previous campaign.

The big difference is that Douglas carried over more money from 2006 than in 2008, and raised about $5,000 more in the first half of 2007.

In 2005, his totals were even lower—Douglas spent $46,000 to raise a total of $80,000, rolling over about $8500 from the 2004 election.

In other words, don't read too much into these early numbers.

The broader message is clear — Democrats want Douglas out of office and are willing to put their money where their mouths are. But, that's not a surprise. That's been a Democratic aim during the past several election cycles. What's different this time is they have candidates to back — thought this early strength may simply be a case of finding the low-hanging donor fruit.

I'll be reviewing the campaign documents more closely today, and will post any findings. Any cracks this early in the campaign for 2010 may be easily patched by the governor, but I'll be interested to see how well he's holding those "Democrats for Douglas" donors.

Or, more importantly if those Democrats are showing up as donors to Markowitz and/or Racine.

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