COVID-19, extended session pinch campaign warchests

ADDISON COUNTY — Local candidates vying for state and county offices this fall are off to a slow start in fundraising this year, and it’s pretty obvious why. 
The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically curtailed conventional campaigning — including door-to-door stumping and fundraising socials. And it’s also extended the 2020 legislative session, and several incumbents have pledged not to actively ask for cash until the final gavel falls on the state’s business in Montpelier.
Candidates for statewide, legislative and local office who spend or raise $500 or more in an election cycle must register and file campaign finance reports with the Vermont Secretary of State on several specified filing deadlines. The most recent filing deadline was Aug. 1.
In 2018, Addison County candidates raised a combined total of $225,404 in their respective efforts to win positions ranging from assistant judge to state senator. That was an all-time record for the county. With only one contested primary race, in addition to coronavirus, the amount raised so far this year is far below that.

It’s no surprise that the lone contested primary in the county would be the most active, in terms of campaign fundraising. It is somewhat of a surprise when one considers the office in question: High bailiff, whose very limited responsibilities are to serve papers the sheriff is legally incapable of serving, arresting the sheriff if necessary, and acting as sheriff if that person’s office is vacant.
Middlebury Democrat Dave Silberman reported contributions totaling $7,245 to date, of which he had spent $5,371. Records show he had received a combined total of $5,340 in contributions of $100 or more, and $1,895 in the form of contributions in increments of less than $100. His most recent contribution of more than $100 came in the form of $1,000 from Robert B. Steinert of San Francisco, Calif., according to information on file with the Vermont Secretary of State’s office.
Silberman’s primary opponent, Ron Holmes of Middlebury, doesn’t have a campaign finance form on file with the secretary of state, indicating he hadn’t raised or spent the requisite $500 minimum to trigger a filing. He’s apparently been able to recycle the signs he used when he successfully ran for the position in 2016.

•  Addison-1, the two seat district representing Middlebury.
Incumbent Rep. Amy Sheldon, D-Middlebury, has a $1,087 carry-over from her previous campaign. She hasn’t raised or spent any money thus far this election cycle, according to her finance form.
Incumbent Rep. Robin Scheu, D-Middlebury, reported a $505 carry-over from her previous campaign and contributions totaling $100 thus far.
Thomas Hughes, a Middlebury Republican, has not reported any contributions or expenditures thus far.
•  Addison-2, the single-seat district representing Cornwall, Hancock, Goshen, Ripton, Salisbury and Leicester.
Incumbent Rep. Peter Conlon, D-Cornwall, faces no competition and has not spent/raised more that $500.
•  Addison-3, the two-seat district that includes Ferrisburgh, Panton, Addison, Waltham and Vergennes.
Addison Republican Tim Buskey showed a combined total of $1,400 raised through Aug. 1 — all in donations of $100 or more. The largest — $500 — came on July 29 from Ferrisburgh resident William G. Houston. Records show Buskey has spent $36.73 thus far.
Incumbent Rep. Matt Birong, D-Vergennes, raised $1,485, of which he had spent $445. Birong had garnered $650 of his total in contributions of more than $100, including $200 from Daniel Lello of Dupont, Pa.
Incumbent Rep. Diane Lanpher, D-Vergennes, showed total contributions of $1,200, of which she had spent $1,146. She reported $650 in increments of $100 or more, including $400 from spouse James Lanpher.
•  Addison-4, the two-seat district that includes Bristol, Lincoln, Monkton and Starksboro.
Incumbent Rep. Mari Cordes, D-Lincoln, reported a $1,994 carry-over from her previous campaign, along with new contributions of $795. That includes $380 in donations of $100 or more including $250 from Richard Butz of Bristol. Records show Cordes has spent $2,127 on her 2020 campaign.
Bristol Republican Lynn Dike reported donations totaling $1,904, of which $850 has come in contributions of $100 or more. One of her larger contributions — $500 — came from Monique Thurston of Ferrisburgh.
Neither incumbent Rep. Caleb Elder, D-Starksboro, nor Monkton Republican Valerie Mullin have reported contributions or expenditures in excess of $500, according to the secretary of state’s website.
•  Addison-5, the single-seat district that includes New Haven, Bridport and Weybridge.
Incumbent Rep. Harvey Smith, R-New Haven, showed a $656 carry-over from his previous campaign. Records show he has thus far not raised any new money, and has spent $221.
Challenger Jubilee McGill, a Bridport Democrat, has thus far raised $1,674, or which $315 has come in increments of $100 or more. She showed that Laura Mistretta of Burlington has given a total of $115 to her campaign.
•  Addison-Rutland-1, the single-seat district that includes Benson, Shoreham, Orwell and Whiting.
Records show that Rep. Terry Norris, I-Shoreham, has not reported contributions or expenditures exceeding $500. Opponent, Shoreham Democrat Barbara Wilson, has suspended her campaign, citing health reasons.

There are two seats in the Vermont Senate representing Addison County, Huntington and Buel’s Gore.
Records show incumbent Sen. Ruth Hardy, D-Middlebury, has a $3,297 carry-over from her previous campaign. She reported contributions totaling $2,275 thus far in this election cycle, of which $620 has come in donations of $100 or more. One of those recent larger donations, for $250, came from Usama Soltan of Middlebury, according to the secretary of state’s office.
Hardy has thus far spent $841 on her 2020 campaign.
The other two candidates in the race — incumbent Sen. Chris Bray of Bristol and Addison Republican Peter Briggs — haven’t yet reported donations or expenditures exceeding $500.
“I have consciously chosen not to engage in fundraising and campaigning because we are still in session,” Bray said through a text to the Independent. “I continue to be very busy doing legislative work and have three major bills still in process: plastics and solid waste reduction, Act 250 reform, and climate change.”
He added he looks “forward to reaching out to voters this fall and asking them to ‘hire me’ once again in November’s General Election.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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