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New Campaign Finance Reports Reveal Incumbents Currently Unchallenged

American flag with cash
Steve Johnson/Flickr

Campaign finance reports were required to be filed this week at the Vermont Secretary of State’s office. The March filing shows that there are no Republican challengers to any of the Democratically-held statewide elected officers.

There are five statewide elected officers in Vermont: governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, auditor and treasurer. Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott is the only Republican among those officials.
A new campaign finance law requires candidates submit finance reports to the secretary of state’s office for a reporting period from July 15, 2013 to March 17, 2014.
The Shumlin for Governor campaign filing shows the incumbent Democrat has more than $1 million in the bank heading into the fall election season. Shumlin was first elected in 2010 and was re-elected in 2012. Although he has not formally announced, he is expected to run again this fall.
No major party candidate has yet emerged to challenge him.
Vermont Republican Party Chair David Sunderland says it’s still early in the campaign cycle and challengers will announce campaigns soon. He’s not surprised the Democratic governor has accumulated such a huge war chest.  “What worries me particularly about a million dollars in our governor’s campaign checking account is what it’s taken to build that. I’m not surprised that he was able to raise that much money as the chair of the Democratic Governors’ Association, given his extensive travel schedule out of state. While all that’s happening, Vermont’s economy has continued to sour. So I think the most interesting and alarming news about the Governor’s million dollar account is what has not been happening while he’s been raising that money.”

All of the statewide incumbents filed campaign finance reports.  Lieutenant Governor Scott, the sole Republican, reported $8,500 in contributions.
State Auditor Doug Hoffer carried forward $296.42, and has received no donations during the reporting period. Secretary of State Jim Condos received and has just over a hundred dollars.  Treasurer Beth Pierce has nearly $17,000 available for a campaign.

The Ethan Allen Institute is a conservative-leaning public policy research organization in Vermont. President Rob Roper says more than anything, the reports show the tremendous advantage incumbents have in fund raising..  “They like to say, oh we don’t campaigning until after the legislative bienium is over. But in reality they’re campaigning the whole time. Raising money the whole time. Whereas a challenger, who is deciding right now whether or not to get in the race, is starting at zero. And that’s a big problem with anyone’s ability to take down an incumbent.”

Middlebury College Professor Emeritus of Political Science Eric Davis notes that the financial reports, especially the governor’s, reflect a tradition of incumbent advantage in the state.  “Incumbent governors in Vermont haven’t lost in over 50 years. They have huge name recognition advantages. They have substantial incumbency advantages and they have big financial advantages. Shumlin has all that, so it’s no surprise that there is no Republican candidate for governor yet. As for the lower statewide offices, those races typically do not get going in Vermont until the summer before the election.”

A link to the campaign finance reports is available here.

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