Riker drops out and backs Zuckerman for lieutenant governor

Brandon Riker

Brandon Riker announces he is bowing out of the race for lieutenant governor Wednesday, endorsing David Zuckerman, right, as the best candidate for the job. Photo by Jasper Craven/VTDigger

Marlboro Democrat Brandon Riker, the first announced candidate for lieutenant governor in the 2016 election, bowed out of the race Wednesday after acknowledging his campaign had failed to fire up Vermonters.

Riker, 28, endorsed David Zuckerman and said he would donate $4,000 to the Chittenden County senator.

“Quite honestly I made a lot of mistakes as a first-time candidate,” Riker said, adding that his largely self-funded operation had alienated some voters. Riker and family members sunk more than $65,000 into the race, part of the $188,057 he raised throughout the campaign, according to campaign finance reports.

“I thought it was going to jump-start the campaign,” he said. “And instead it created a picture that I was trying to buy the seat, which wasn’t true. That was a hard one to get over.”

Most of the contributions from outside Riker’s family circle were from out-of-staters, and Riker said he didn’t want to run a campaign fueled by outside money.

Riker said he had spent nearly $80,000 on his campaign since announcing in May, on expenses ranging from rental space to campaign software. He said he had roughly $109,000 left and that he planned to return all of his donations and shut down his candidate account.

“I won’t be holding onto a war chest for the future. I’m not seeking another smaller seat,” he said.

Riker works at his family’s investment firm, called Teucrium, and said he plans to return to full-time work at the business. He has an extensive background working on political campaigns, including Barack Obama’s 2008 primary run for president.

“Having been a staffer for the president and two U.S. senators, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what it took to be a candidate,” Riker said. “But it’s a lot harder than people think.”

Riker said he visited all 14 Vermont counties and traveled over 15,000 miles delivering a message of economic reform and technological upgrades in the state.

He said Zuckerman’s platform closely matched his own, adding that he planned to hit the trail on behalf of the Hinesburg farmer as the race heats up. Burlington Rep. Kesha Ram is the other Democrat in the primary.

“The truth was we didn’t have the grass-roots support,” Riker said. “And the only candidate in the race that did was Dave. If you look at his filing numbers, his money came from Vermonters in small-dollar amounts.”

Zuckerman had raised about $65,000 from more than 1,055 donors at the time of the March 15 campaign finance report. He had initially hoped to run a publicly financed campaign but lost a legal battle earlier this month over whether he qualified.

Zuckerman said he had ramped up his fundraising operations since the ruling and brought in more than $10,000 since his March finance report was filed.

Jasper Craven

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