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July 17, 2009

Gubernatorial Campaign Money Report Redux

As promised, here are some additional thoughts on the campaign finance filings from the three candidates who filed reports for the 2010 governor's race.

After spending some time with each candidate's paperwork, I can say that Secretary of State Deb Markowitz's financial support appears to be pretty wide. She's got plenty of donors she can go back to repeatedly for money.

I think the media has lost sight, to some extent, of just how much money she's raised. To put it in perspective: Since the beginning of the year she's raised as much as Republican Gov. Jim Douglas and her Democratic rival Chittenden Senator Doug Racine — combined. She also has nearly twice as many donors as Racine, and has almost as much cash in the bank as her two main competitors. Impressive.

While some in the media may brush off Markowitz's early fundraising as a fluke, or believe it's too early to determine if these numbers will indicate strength at the polls, I think credit needs to be given where credit is due. No candidate raises $190,000 in less than six months from more than 1000 people by just calling friends and family. It took time, effort, and a solid organizational infrastructure. And we're talking about 16 months out of the election — 14 months from the primary.

Sure, anything can happen between now and then. But, this type of early support for challengers is practically unprecedented in recent memory.

The only other time a candidate had a sizeable bankroll a year before an election was Republican Ruth Dwyer in 1999. She nearly ousted Democrat Gov. Howard Dean in 2000, too. In 1999, Dwyer had almost $80,000 in the bank from more than 700 donors. That was seen as impressive back then, and Markowitz has easily eclipsed that amount.

Back then it was opposition to civil unions that helped fuel her donors, and this year Democrats successfully passed same-sex marriage over the governor's veto. What a difference a decade makes.

Jane Stetson, the finance chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, and her husband Bill Stetson both maxed out at $2000 apiece to Markowitz, as did Donna & Jake Carpenter of Burton Snowboards fame.

Big name donors aside, what is most impressive is that two Democrats raised at least six figures from more than 1500 people — most of whom can keep giving through next November. Only a handful of donors have hit the Vermont campaign limit of $2000 ($1000 for the primary and $1000 for the general). In total, these two Dems alone outraised Douglas three-to-one.

To me, this shows that the Vermont Democrats who opened up their wallets for candidate Barack Obama are now willing to do the same for gubernatorial candidates in the upcoming election cycle. They are clearly enthusiastic about Markowitz, as well as Racine, as candidates. To wit, they must find something in them electable that they didn't see in past candidates.

This is also a huge turnaround from even a year ago, when Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gaye Symington was unable to lure many of these donors to back her campaign.

That lack of enthusiasm has, in part, been key to the winning strategy of Gov. Douglas. But, there are signs that strategy may be cracking.

Racine can certainly point to a few key donors who have, in the past, supported Douglas — particularly folks from the Burlington business community. Mary Alice McKenzie, of McKenzie Meats fame (and now the executive director of the Burlington Boys & Girls Club) is backing Racine. Same goes for Ed Colodny, the former airline exec and interim leader at both Fletcher Allen Health Care and the University of Vermont. Finally, Robert Clarke, the former head of the state colleges, and Don Vickers, the head of the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation, are so far backing Racine.

Racine also bested Markowitz in raising money from elected officials — a large number of legislators and Treasurer Jeb Spaulding all kicked in money to Racine.

As for Douglas, he seems to have received a large chunk of his money from Vermont's garbage haulers. He netted $2000 apiece from the "Moretown Landfill" and the "Burlington Transfer Station", as well as two transfer stations from Massachusetts — one in Oxford and the other in South Hadley.

These operations are owned and operated by Interstate Waste Services out of Ramsey, NJ, according to information from the company and incorporation papers on file with the secretary of state's office.

Somehow, cornering the political contributions of the waste industry isn't likely to give voters the kind of mental images a politician seeks.

Douglas did reimburse two people for campaign work — Dave Coriell and Dennise Casey. Both Correill and Casey work for Douglas as state employees. Casey is his deputy chief of staff and spokeswoman, while Coriell is an assistant who works out of the governor's office, but is technically assigned to the Agency of Transportation. Casey received more than $3700 this year from the Douglas campaign, while Coriell was reimbursed just $164.

As readers may recall from last year, "Fair Game" caught Casey blurring the lines between her campaign and official state duties.

Douglas also spent a whopping $23,000 on polls, largely around the time of key legislative debates. One $5000 poll was conducted in January, while another $10,000 poll was conducted in late April — after the override of the same-sex marriage veto. A third $8000 outlay was made in early June, just after a veto override of the budget.

Two years ago, Douglas did not spend any money on polling, according to campaign finance records.

In the 2008 general election Deb Markowitz got 214,197 votes. Jim Douglas got 170,492 votes and Doug Racine got 44,850. I think it's pretty obvious who the next governor is. Time to turn on the 7D pun machine. You could do a piece called 'witz and wisdom or keeping our 'witz. or puttin' on the 'witz.

Oh boo yourself. Get a sense of humor.

Douglas got 170K+ votes against two well-funded candidates in a year when voters turned out in droves to vote party-line Dem. Markowitz only got 40K more running against... well, basically no one, and benefited from the D phenomenon.

What a surprise, 7D predicting a Douglas loss. Lots of good it did the last few elections.

The arrogant, delusional Left in Vt. has been "predicting" Douglas' loss every single election since his first election in 2002.

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