Big bucks spent in county elections

MIDDLEBURY — Addison County candidates running in contested races on Nov. 6 raised a combined total of $225,404 in their respective efforts to win positions ranging from assistant judge to state senator, according to the latest campaign finance records on file with the Vermont Secretary of State’s office.
It’s by far the most ever raised during a general election cycle here in Addison County. And the majority of the total — $118,352 — was associated with a six-person race for the two state Senate seats representing Addison County, Huntington and Buel’s Gore.
What follows is a brief overview of the fundraising/spending totals for candidates involved in Addison County’s contested races for state Senate, Vermont House, sheriff, state’s attorney and assistant judge. Candidates who raised or spent more than $500 in their campaigns were mandated to file finance reports with the secretary of state, most recently on Nov. 20. The two-week, post-election filing reveals the magnitude of candidates’ 2018 general election donations and expenditures, though they’ll file paperwork one last time next spring.
Middlebury Democrat Ruth Hardy raised a total of $35,450, of which she spent $27,913. She reported $20,767 of her campaign contributions came in increments of $100 or more, with the rest coming in smaller donations.
Hardy, in her first bid for state Senate, raised substantially more than any other Addison County candidate who competed for office on Nov. 6. And it paid off. Hardy was the top vote getter in her race, garnering 9,040 tallies. She ended up spending around $2.29 per vote.
Finishing second in the race with 8,898 tallies— and second in total campaign fundraising — was three-term incumbent Sen. Chris Bray, D-New Haven.
Bray, chairman of the Senate Natural Resources & Energy Committee, reported campaign contributions totaling $26,777, of which he spent $22,007.
He reported that $21,756 of his yield came in donations of $100 or more.
Like Hardy and other local Democrats involved in contested races for the Statehouse, Bray received good support from the Addison County Democratic Party Committee. He reported a combined total of $3,543 in assistance (both in-kind and direct financial) from the county Democrats.
Cost per vote to the Bray campaign: $2.47.
Addison Republican Peter Briggs finished third in the state Senate race, with 5,290 votes, and reported total campaign contributions of $8,267 as of Nov. 2, according to the Vermont Secretary of State’s website. Briggs reported election expenditures of $5,007, meaning he can carry over approximately $3,000 to the next election cycle should he run for a legislative post in 2020.
Briggs reported $6,907 of his fundraising total came in increments of $100 or more.
He spent $1.56 per vote.
Bridport independent Marie Audet finished fourth in the race with 5,169 tallies in what was her first run for office. She reported raising a total of $23,999, of which she spent $20,999.
Audet reported raising $21,397 of her total in increments of $100 or more.
The cost per vote for the Audet campaign: $4.06.
New Haven independent Paul Ralston, CEO of Vermont Coffee Company, garnered 3,100 tallies on Election Day and reported $23,859 in campaign contributions as of Nov. 20. He spent $20,979 during the race, translating to $6.76 per vote.
Ralston loaned a total of $9,900 to his own campaign, according to campaign finance records.
As independents, neither Ralston nor Audet could lean on major party backing for financing or campaign organizing.
Ralston reported $22,547 of his campaign contributions came in increments of $100 or more.
New Haven Libertarian Archie Flower, who rounded out the Senate field with 583 votes, didn’t have any campaign finance records on file with the secretary of state’s office as the Independent went to press on Wednesday.
Competitors for the two seats representing the Addison-3 district of Addison, Ferrisburgh, Panton, Vergennes and Waltham raised a combined total of $30,339. Results in the three-person race demonstrated that raising the most money doesn’t always translate into electoral success.
Incumbent Rep. Warren Van Wyck of Ferrisburgh raised $13,350 and spent $11,577 — the most of the three candidates — but finished last in polling with 1,763 tallies. He ended up spending $6.56 per vote.
First-time candidate and top vote getter Matt Birong of Vergennes raised $12,093, of which he spent $9,755. He received 2,201 votes on Nov. 6 and thus ended up spending $4.43 per tally.
Longtime incumbent Rep. Diane Lanpher raised $4,896 in her successful re-election effort, and ended up spending $4,450. The Vergennes Democrat received 2,122 votes on Election Day. Her cost per vote: $2.09.
All three candidates received the vast majority of their contributions in amounts of $100 of more.
The four candidates vying for the two seats representing Bristol, Lincoln, Monkton and Starksboro raised a combined total of $34,962.
Lincoln Democrat Mari Cordes raised a total of $12,498 in her successful run, of which she spent $11,418. She earned 2,077 votes on Nov. 6, and thus ended up spending $5.49 per tally.
Cordes raised $5,843 (around 45 percent) of her total through contributions or less than $100, which gave her a larger proportion of small donations than any Addison County candidate in the November election.
Starksboro Democrat Caleb Elder was the top Addison-4 vote getter (2,278 tallies) on Nov. 6, raising $9,375 in his effort. He spent $7,831 in the race, translating to $3.43 per vote.
Elder raised $8,232 of his total from contributions of $100 or more.
Incumbent Rep. Fred Baser, R-Bristol, finished a close third with 2,018 votes, raised $4,914 and spend $4,503. That amounted to $2.13 per tally. He raised $3,150 of his donations in sums of $100 or more and contributed $500 to his own campaign.
Monkton Republican Valerie Mullin raised $8,175 and spent $7,936 in the contest in which she placed fourth, with 1,466 tallies. That translated to $5.41 per vote. She received $7,390 in donations of $100 or more.
Incumbent Rep. Terry Norris, I-Shoreham, received the most votes but spent the least in the two-person race to represent the Addison-Rutland-1 House district that includes Benson, Orwell, Shoreham and Whiting.
Norris raised $1,374 and spent $1,774 in a race that saw him defeat Shoreham Democrat Barbara Wilson, 1,009 to 735. Norris and his family funded $1,074 of his campaign total.
He ended up spending $1.75 per vote he received on Election Day.
Wilson, making her first bid for a House seat, raised $6,077 and spent $4,408. Each vote ended up costing her campaign $5.99.
Wilson and her family ended up financing her campaign to the tune of $1,125, and $4,442 of her total came in increments of $100 or more.
Middlebury Democrat Peter Newton was the top vote getter and spender in his first race for county sheriff. He raised $14,694 and spent $15,356 in his race against Bristol independent Kevin Gibbs.
Newton, who will succeed Sheriff Don Keeler, prevailed over Gibbs by a 10,795 to 5,166 tally on Election Day. He ended up spending 70 cents per vote. He raised $14,264 in increments of $100 or more.
Gibbs’ most recent (Nov. 2) fundraising information shows expenditures of $5,920, with much of that his own money. He ended up spending $1.14 per vote.
The fundraising margin was much larger than the vote difference in the race for Addison County State’s Attorney, which required a recount that concluded on Tuesday evening (click here to read related story). On Wednesday a judge certified the recount of votes cast in the race between incumbent county Prosecutor Dennis Wygmans and independent challenger Peter Bevere of Middlebury. The pair had been separated by only 10 votes (7,803 Wygmans to 7,793 Bevere) following an initial count on Election Day. Bevere, the chief deputy state’s attorney in Rutland County, requested the recount.
Bevere raised a total of $8,335 in his first-ever bid for state’s attorney, and spent $8,266. Records show $7,175 of his donations came in amounts of $100 or more.
He ended up spending $1.06 per vote.
Wygmans, making his first election defense, reported contributions totaling $2,950 and expenditures amounting to $3,075. So he ended up spending 39 cents per tally.
All of Wygmans’ contributions came in amounts of $100 more.
He was candid on Tuesday in expressing his concern about the increasing amounts of money being spent on elections at all levels of state and federal government.
“I think we should be spending less on campaigns, not more,” said Wygmans, who had hoped to limit his fundraising to $2,000.
“I did not actively pursue contributions and was trying to keep (funding) as low as possible,” he added.
But Wygmans felt he needed to respond to Bevere’s active campaign that built momentum right up to Election Day.
New Haven Republican Doug Tolles and Middlebury Democrat Jacqueline McLean raised $1,725 and $676, respectively, in the four-way race for two assistant judge positions. McLean and fellow Democrat Patricia Ross were elected; Tolles and fellow Republican (and incumbent) Alice George didn’t make the cut.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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