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June 07, 2012

Vermont Dems (and a Republican) to Raise Money Over Nachos and Cervezas

If you're looking to schmooze with Vermont politicos over nachos and margaritas, Tortilla Coast's your place tonight.

If you haven't heard of it, that's because it ain't in Montpelier. Just two blocks from the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., Tortilla Coast is a popular watering hole for Beltway types looking to cool off with a Dos Equis.

Coincidentally, the Capitol Hill restaurant is playing host to two Vermont fundraisers tonight: one for a Republican state senate candidate from Franklin County and one for the Vermont Democratic House Campaign, which works to elect Dems to the Statehouse.

If you're planning your social calendar, here's the deal:

  • At 4 p.m., Congressman Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) will host a fundraiser for Joe Sinagra — a St. Albans resident and former executive director of the Vermont Homebuilders and Remodelers Association — who is running in the Republican primary for state senate.
  • At 6 p.m., House Speaker Shap Smith (D-Morrisville) and outgoing Majority Leader Lucy Leriche (D-Hardwick) will host a fundraiser organized by Rep. Sarah Buxton (D-Tunbridge) and featuring — if their schedules permit — Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.).

What's a North Carolina congressman doing raising cash for a Franklin County office seeker? According to McHenry chief of staff Parker Poling, all three — Sinagra, McHenry and Poling — got to know each other in the late 1990s when they were involved in the College Republican National Committee. Poling and Sinagra say they expect most attendees to be old friends from their College Republican days — as well as Sinagra's former colleagues from the Homebuilders.

"It's not this massive, $20,000 event I'm raising all this money at. I guess I wish it was! It's not. It's just a very small event where friends of mine are giving money," Sinagra says. "It's not different, frankly, than having a house party in St. Albans or somewhere else and raising some money."

As for the House Dems fundraiser, Buxton says she offered to organize the event to coincide with Smith's and Leriche's visit to the capital for a meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures. Hosts include a number of Vermont expats, including Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee executive director Robby Mook, former Vermont Democratic Party spokeswoman Liz Saxe, both Leahy's and Welch's chiefs of staff, as well as Montpelier lobbyist Todd Bailey, of KSE Partners.

Buxton says that while she expects some D.C. lobbyists and political action committee representatives to make appearances, most of the attendees will be Vermont expats and alums of former governor Howard Dean's presidential campaign, for which she worked. An invitation lists three suggested giving levels: $1000, $500 and $100.

Asked whether he might stick around the Mexican joint after his fundraiser wraps up to hang with his friends from across the aisle, Sinagra said, "Absolutely!"

"They're probably gonna raise a lot more money than I will," he said. "Maybe someone will walk into the wrong room and give me one of the big checks!"

(Disclosure: Paul Heintz used to work for Welch and has eaten more than a few tacos at Tortilla Coast.)

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