Scott behind 2016 fundraising pace; competitors trail far behind

Phil Scott

Phil Scott at the launch event for his first campaign for governor on Dec. 1, 2015. File photo by Jasper Craven/VTDigger

[G]ov. Phil Scott continues to easily eclipse his opponents for the office in fundraising efforts with about four months to go until the general election, the latest campaign finance disclosure forms show.

But Scott has brought in far less money this election cycle than in 2016, when his campaign had amassed almost four times as much in donations by mid-July. That race two years ago ended up being the most expensive in Vermont’s history, with almost $13 million in combined candidate spending.

Scott has raised nearly $214,000 in this year's race so far. He had raised more than $764,000 by the mid-July filing deadline in 2016, according to filings.

Brittney Wilson, Scott's campaign manager, said that up until this point the governor "has been focused on governing," noting that this year's legislative session dragged on until late June.

"We'll begin to ramp up our efforts this month. It's important to remember the campaign in 2016 started in the Fall of 2015, and we were nearly a year in by July 15, 2016," she wrote in an email.

"The 2018 campaign started less than two months ago and this is a very different campaign than an open seat in 2016."

The latest filing shows that many of Scott's larger donations come from corporations including Johnson & Johnson, Monsanto, Vermont-based GW Plastics, and pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly’s political action committee, which have each given the governor $2,000 or more.

"Businesses across the state and region know Governor Scott is a leader and former business owner who is focused on growing the economy and making Vermont more affordable, so it's no surprise to me their donations are going to Governor Scott and not to his opponents," Wilson wrote

While Scott isn't seeing as much money this cycle, his opponents still trail far behind in donations.

Keith Stern, a grocery store owner from North Springfield who is challenging Scott in the Republican primary on a pro-gun platform, has $58,880 in his campaign coffers -- about $30,000 of which is his own money, according to filings.

Christine Hallquist at UVM nurses strike

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Christine Hallquist talks to union organizers on the UVM nurses strike picket line Thursday. Photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger

On the Democratic side, Christine Hallquist, the former CEO of the Vermont Electric Cooperative, has received about $132,000 in total campaign contributions, coming closest to Scott in fundraising. Since the last filing deadline in March, she's raised more than $89,000.

Hallquist's campaign said Monday that 45 percent of the money the campaign has raised comes from small donations of under $100.

“In my travels across Vermont, I have been overwhelmed by the support from everyday Vermonters," Hallquist said in a statement. "I am truly moved by the small dollar donations and the hundreds of letters of support from Vermonters from across the state."

In addition to receiving small donations, a few companies have contributed large donations to her campaign, including Springfield-based broadband company VTel and Green Mountain Animal LLC, an animal food processor in South Burlington.

James Ehlers, another Democratic gubernatorial candidate and longtime environmental advocate, has raised just under $50,000 so far. Since the last filing period in March, he's raised more than $29,000.

Ehlers' money comes both from small and large donations from individuals. None appear to come from corporations.

"I am confident that whatever the dollar amount is, we will make it work to reach voters," Ehlers said Monday.

James Ehlers 2

James Ehlers speaks at a launch event for his campaign for governor at the Socialist Labor Party Hall in Barre. Photo by Mike Polhamus/VTDigger

Ehlers noted his campaign isn't interested in running television ads, a large expense for many who run for office.

"Most people are sick and tired of politics as usual, bought and paid for candidates being packaged for television," he said.

Democratic candidate Brenda Siegel, an arts administrator who announced her bid for governor in May, has raised about $9,000 and received about $8,000 in in-kind contributions.

The final Democratic candidate, 14-year-old Ethan Sonneborn, has raised $1,726 -- more than $1,000 since the last filing period.

In the race for lieutenant governor, outgoing House Majority Leader Don Turner, who announced his candidacy in May and remains the Milton town manager, has acted swiftly to raise more than $48,000.

The incumbent, Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, a Progressive who also runs an organic farm, has raised just about as much: $49,998 so far, according to the latest filings. Zuckerman also got the public backing of Sen. Bernie Sanders just last week.

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Xander Landen

About Xander

Xander Landen is VTDigger's political reporter. He previously worked at the Keene Sentinel covering crime, courts and local government. Xander got his start in public radio, writing and producing stories for NPR affiliates including WBUR in Boston and WNYC in New York. While at WNYC, he contributed to an award-winning investigation of how police departments shield misconduct records from the public. He is a graduate of Tufts University and his work has also appeared in PBS NewsHour and The Christian Science Monitor.

Email: [email protected]

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