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Candidates raise big bucks for 2016 election

ADDISON COUNTY — Local candidates vying in contested elections for Addison County’s seats in the Vermont House and Senate have accumulated some healthy campaign war chests — particularly in the Addison-4 House district, where Progressive/Democrat Mari Cordes of Lincoln has raised a whopping $19,037.
The Addison Independent reviewed the most recent campaign finance documents (through Oct. 1) filed by area candidates with the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office. Those documents show active fundraising by House and Senate hopefuls in what has become the most active election biennium in Addison County in a half-dozen years. In addition to this being a presidential election year, the Vermont Republican Party has successfully recruited a full slate of challengers for the county’s two state Senate seats and in some the hotly contested House district. The GOP has had some trouble fielding candidates in key Addison County races during the past decade.
Eric Davis, a political analyst and professor emeritus of political science at Middlebury College, believes Vermont Republican and Democratic leaders are specifically targeting the Addison-3 and Addison-4 districts for potential gains in the House. Both are two-seat districts. Addison-3 includes the towns of Addison, Ferrisburgh, Panton, Vergennes and Waltham. Addison-4 includes Bristol, Lincoln, Monkton and Starksboro.
It was two years ago that Bristol Republican Fred Baser won an Addison-4 seat, knocking off then-incumbent Rep. Mike Fisher, a Lincoln Democrat. Baser became Addison-4’s first Republican representative in more than a decade. Now the GOP is hoping that Baser will prevail again and Monkton Republican Valerie Mullin can oust another longtime Addison-4 incumbent — Rep. Dave Sharpe, D-Bristol — and the party will likely direct a lot of party resources in that effort, Davis believes.
“I think Dave Sharpe is their top target,” Davis said. “Fred Baser and Valerie Mullin will get a lot of (GOP financial) support.”
Sharpe is chairman of the House Education Committee and has expressed interest in running for House speaker if re-elected on Nov. 8.
It remains to be seen whether polarizing politicians at the top of the ballot — presidential candidates Donald Trump (R) and Hilary Clinton (D) — will affect voter decisions in Vermont races.
The following is a district-by-district rundown of how much the local House and Senate candidates (in alphabetical order) had raised by the Oct. 1 campaign finance reporting deadline:
Addison-1, the two-seat House district that represents Middlebury: Progressive candidate Jill Charbonneau had raised a total of $4,117, of which she had spent $2,569. Democrat Robin Scheu had raised $7,540 and spent $7,815. Incumbent Rep. Amy Sheldon, D-Middlebury, had raised $6,955, of which she had spent $3,657.
Charbonneau’s contributions of more than $100 include a $300 donation from the Vermont National Education Association.
Scheu’s larger contributors include $100 from former Addison-1 Rep. Betty Nuovo, D-Middlebury, who is not seeking re-election. Scheu had, as of Oct. 1, received a combined total of $2,780 of her campaign funding from herself or her family.
Sheldon also received $100 from Nuovo. She has also received $400 from Vermont Realtors and $1,000 from Warren and Barry King of Ripton.
Addison-3. Ferrisburgh Democrat Fritz Langrock had raised $5,383, of which he had spent $584. Rep. Diane Lanpher, D-Vergennes, had raised $5,131, of which she had spent $1,591. Ferrisburgh Republican Monique Thurston had raised $6,677, of which she had spent $3,886. And incumbent Rep. Warren Van Wyck, R-Ferrisburgh, had raised $7,600 and spent $3,833.
Langrock’s larger donations include $700 from the Vermont NEA.
Lanpher’s contributions include $1,000 from Peak View Eye Care and $700 from Vermont NEA for Children and Public Education.
Thurston and her family have bankrolled $901 of her campaign to date. Her larger contributors this far include the Addison County GOP ($300) and former Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Lisman ($200).
Of the larger contributions Van Wyck received, $750 came from Dock Doctors, a Ferrisburgh business, and $350 from the Campaign Research Center in Montpelier.
Addison-4. Baser had raised $6,660, of which he had spent $3,513. Cordes had spent $4,097 of the $19,037 she had raised up to Oct. 1. Valerie Mullin had raised $9,541 and spent $1,580. Sharpe had raised $9,235, of which he had spent $3,162.
Baser’s larger contributions include $350 from the Montpelier-based Campaign Research Center; $125 from KSE Partners LLP; and a combined total of $2,550 from himself and his family.
Cordes, during a Tuesday phone interview, acknowledged that her campaign has benefitted significantly from small contributions derived from an online fundraising effort, and thanks to a mass-email identifying her as one of 10 candidates nationwide to have earned an endorsement from Sen. Bernie Sanders. That email was engineered by the “Our Revolution” organization established by Sanders supporters.
It is extremely unusual for a Vermont House candidate to raise and/or spend more than $10,000 to win a House seat in Addison County.
Cordes added she had received a lot of support from Addison County residents aware of her unionizing efforts, and her work on behalf of health care issues. Cordes is a longtime nurse at the University of Vermont Medical Center.
“It’s been very exciting,” Cordes said of the pace of donations, which she said has given her more time to chat with district voters, rather than having to raise funds.
Almost $14,000 of the $19,000 Cordes has raised thus far has come through around 3,000 contributions of less than $100, according to her campaign finance forms. Most of those contributions have come in increments of around $4, she said. Cordes is receiving many of the small contributions through ActBlue, a national online fundraising tool for Democratic candidates. She compared ActBlue to a political “gofundme” website.
“My message is resonating with the people I am speaking with,” Cordes said. “Whether I win or lose, I have already won in a huge way with the incredible warmth and engagement I have experienced as I go door to door.”
Her contributions of more than $100 include $200 from Christine Curtis of Tucson, Ariz.
Mullin’s larger contributions include $1,000 from Winthrop Smith of Warren; $1,000 from Rudolph Vallee of Shelburne; and $400 from Daniel Cunningham of Burlington.
Sharpe has received some of his larger donations from Gun Sense VT Victory Fund ($200); the Addison County Democratic Committee ($450); and $200 from the Sarah Copeland Hanzas Committee.
Addison-5, the single-seat district that includes the towns of Bridport, New Haven and Weybridge. New Haven Democrat Taborri Bruhl had raised $6,156, of which he had spent $3,635. Bruhl and his family have funded $2,461 of his campaign.
Incumbent Rep. Harvey Smith, R-New Haven, had raised $1,750 and spent $944. Smith’s largest donations have included $500 from Phoenix Feeds & Nutrition Inc., and $250 from John Christiano of New Haven.
State Senate, which includes Addison County, Huntington and Buel’s Gore. Incumbent Sen. Claire Ayer, a Democrat living in Addison, had raised $1,350, of which she had spent $1,702. Addison Republican Peter Briggs had raised $8,880, of which he had spent $4,666. Incumbent Sen. Chris Bray, D-New Haven, had raised $3,300 and spent $864. Bristol Republican Lynn Dike’s most recent campaign disclosure forms on file with the state dated Sept. 1, at which time she had raised $2,138 and spent $1,670.
Ayer’s larger contributions include $500 from Vermont Realtors PAC; $300 from GunSenseVT Victory Fund; $250 from Patient Choices Victory Fund; and $200 from Vermont Education and Dental PAC.
Bray’s largest contributions have included $800 from Vermont Realtor PAC; $500 from Chris Dayton of Cornwall; $500 from Crea Lintilhac of Shelburne; $250 from Vermont Credit Union PAC; and $200 from GunSenseVT.
Briggs and his family have thus far subsidized his campaign to the tune of $4,000. His larger contributions include $500 from the Addison County GOP and $250 from Bruce Lisman.
The Addison-2 and Addison-Rutland House districts feature candidates running unopposed, Peter Conlon and Alyson Eastman, respectively, and did not raise enough money to warrant report contributions.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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