Fundraising roundup: Toll continues to lead in LG race; anti-abortion PAC enters the scene

Clockwise from top left: Charlie Kimbell, Patricia Preston, Kitty Toll and David Zuckerman. File photos by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

The candidates with early fundraising leads in the contested primaries for Vermont secretary of state, attorney general and lieutenant governor have all kept ahead of the pack. And political action committees preparing to fight for — and against — the passage of Proposal 5 are readying to spend big on the state’s November referendum on abortion rights.

That’s according to the latest batch of fundraising reports filed Aug. 1 with the Secretary of State’s Office. The reports cover raising and spending for state candidates and political action committees for the month of July.

Former state Rep. Kitty Toll continues to dominate fundraising in the four-way Democratic primary for lieutenant governor. The Danville Democrat, who once chaired the state’s powerful budget-writing House Appropriations Committee, took in $56,414 last month, for a total of $255,614 so far this race. Toll had spent $210,563 by the deadline — about half of that in the last month — and minus $6,616 in nonmonetary contributions, she had $38,435 available to spend in the closing days of the race.

Former Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, a Progressive/Democrat running to reclaim his old seat, took in $29,938 last month and has raised a total of $196,838 in this race. Minus $162,767 in expenditures and $1,909 of in-kind contributions, he had $32,161 left in the bank.

Nonprofit executive Patricia Preston, another candidate for lieutenant governor, raised $4,824 in the last month, bringing her total to $140,274. After spending $81,243 and subtracting $30,765 in noncash donations, she had $28,266 left on hand.

State Rep. Charlie Kimbell, a centrist from Woodstock, has raised the least of the four Democrats vying for the state’s No. 2 spot. He took in $13,345 last month and has brought in $76,307 to date. Minus $72,983 in spending and $1,117 in nonmonetary donations, he had $2,207 left to spend.

Toll continues to spend heavily on television, which could help her build name recognition and compete with Zuckerman, who has served statewide for four years and represented populous Chittenden County in the state Senate. She’s spent $40,000 on TV in July alone. 

All three of Toll’s competitors have also joined her on television. Zuckerman has spent $17,746 on the medium, Preston $18,000 and Kimbell $10,961. There has been scant public polling in the race, but a University of New Hampshire survey completed last month showed Zuckerman ahead of Toll by 15 percentage points. Preston and Kimbell were a distant third and fourth, respectively. Toll could catch up to Zuckerman as the poll also found a high number of undecided voters.

Gregory Thayer, left, and Joe Benning. File photos by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

On the other side of the aisle, state Sen. Joe Benning, a moderate Republican from Caledonia County who is running in a two-person primary for lieutenant governor, raised $11,346 in the last month. He’s taken in $25,477 so far this cycle, and had $10,738 left in cash-on-hand after expenditures.

His opponent, Gregory Thayer, a hardline conservative from Rutland, raised $352 this month and $2,380 to date. According to the UNH poll, Benning had a narrow lead over Thayer — but roughly half of all Republicans surveyed said they were undecided.

Big spending for and against Prop 5

The Vermont for Reproductive Liberty super PAC, which is supporting the passage of Proposal 5, filed a day late, but it didn’t have much to report. After collecting more than half a million dollars earlier this year, the PAC brought in only $14,381 over the last month. 

Prop 5, a constitutional amendment seeking to enshrine reproductive rights in the Vermont Constitution, won’t be on the ballot until November. But the constellation of progressive organizations backing it, including the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood, have amassed a massive war chest: $568,196 to date, according to the filings. Minus expenditures and in-kind contributions, the PAC still had $362,793 cash-on-hand.

Despite strong public support in Vermont for abortion rights, the Reproductive Liberty PAC may need at least some of that cash. A new political action committee seeking to defeat Prop 5 is also now on the scene — and it also has big money behind it. 

The Vermonters for Good Government Action Fund filed its first fundraising report with the Secretary of State’s Office on Aug. 1, and had already taken in $227,283. Minus expenditures and in-kind donations, it still had $224,111 sitting in the bank.

Top donors include GOP megadonor Lenore Broughton, who gave $100,000 to the effort, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington, which gave $50,000.

Secretary of state, attorney general and treasurer’s races

From left: John Odum, Sarah Copeland Hanzas and Chris Winters. VTDigger file photos

Deputy Secretary of State Chris Winters, who declared his candidacy for secretary of state within days of his boss, Jim Condos, announcing his retirement, has maintained his fundraising lead in the three-way Democratic primary. He took in $14,306 last month, for a total of $75,324 to date. Minus $48,416 in expenditures (about half of them in July) and in-kind donations, he had $25,347 left to spend.

State Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas, D-Bradford, brought in $12,004 last month and $51,115 to date. After $46,571 in expenses, she had only $4,544 left in the bank. Montpelier City Clerk John Odum brought in $375 last month and $16,693 so far during the primary. Minus $15,147 in expenses, he had $1,546 cash-on-hand.

Rory Thibault and Charity Clark. Photos by Natalie Williams/VTDigger and Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Charity Clark, who is running in a two-way Democratic primary for attorney general, raised $37,901 in July for a total of $120,700 thus far in the race. Taking out $49,126 in expenditures and $5,269 in nonmonetary contributions, Clark, who served as former Attorney General TJ Donovan’s chief of staff, had $66,305 left to spend. 

Clark’s competition in the primary, Washington County State’s Attorney Rory Thibault, raised $12,247 in the most recent period and $88,823 so far this cycle. But while Clark has outraised Thibault, he’s outspent her: minus $58,830 in expenditures and $4,671 in nonmonetary donations, he had $25,322 cash-on-hand.

Mike Pieciak, who is unopposed in the Democratic primary for state treasurer, raised $12,276 in the last month, bringing his total tally to date this cycle to $125,707. Subtracting $49,126 in expenditures and $7,453 in non-monetary, in-kind donations, Pieciak had $69,911 in actual cash-on-hand.

The gubernatorial election

Money-wise, one of the sleepiest races remains the gubernatorial contest.

Anti-poverty activist Brenda Siegel, the presumptive Democratic nominee for governor, took in $18,340 from 191 individual donors in the last month, and has raised $58,936 so far in the primary. Minus $26,759 in expenditures and $2,464 in non-monetary donations, she had $29,712 cash-on-hand.

Republican Gov. Phil Scott, whose reelection campaign is basically on autopilot for the time being, raised $13,011 in the last month from 16 contributors and $53,052 so far this cycle. He also had $272,274 sitting in his campaign coffers, leftover from his last campaign. Scott has spent $31,589 so far in the primary. 

The popular incumbent has two primary challengers: Peter Duval of Underhill and Stephen Bellows of Grand Isle. Duval has not filed campaign finance reports; Bellows reported raising $1,321 thus far this cycle.

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Lola Duffort

About Lola

Lola Duffort is a political reporter for VTDigger, covering Vermont state government, the congressional delegation and elections. She previously covered education for Digger, the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire and the Rutland Herald. She has also freelanced for the Miami Herald in Florida, where she grew up. She is a graduate of McGill University in Canada.

Email: [email protected]

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