Politics

Weeks away from Democratic US House primary, Balint is closing in on Gray’s fundraising lead

Becca Balint in June 2021, left, and Molly Gray in May 2022. File photos by Mike Dougherty and Natalie Williams/VTDigger

Updated at 2:26 p.m. on July 16.

With just 25 days before the highly anticipated Democratic primary election for Vermont’s lone seat in the U.S. House, state Sen. Becca Balint outraised Lt. Gov. Molly Gray in the most recent  quarter by nearly $43,000, closing in on Gray’s fundraising lead she’s held since December.

According to quarterly campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, Balint hauled in $403,123 between April 1 and July 1. In that same time period, Gray received $360,274.

Balint, Gray and numerous other Democrats and Republicans are jockeying for Vermont’s lone seat in the U.S. House, which is being vacated by U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., as he makes his bid for the U.S. Senate. This is the first election since 2006 in which Vermont has seen open congressional races.

Balint also outspent Gray in the latest quarter, racking up $473,431 in expenses to Gray’s $261,723. 

But when it comes to remaining cash on hand at the close of the quarter, Gray has Balint beat, with $502,920 left in the bank to Balint’s $362,000. That’s a key figure, especially in the final runup to primary day, a time when spending can pack a punch.

And Gray still has Balint beat on cumulative donations from the start of their campaigns, though that lead is narrowing. Since launching her campaign in December, Gray has raised a total of $988,158. Balint launched her campaign one week later than Gray, and has since raised a total of $972,168.

On Friday, the day the filings were due to the feds, Gray’s campaign had its attention fixated not on its rival’s own campaign filings, but on money being spent on Balint’s behalf: The LGBTQ Victory Fund PAC, a Washington, D.C.-based political action committee that bolsters LGBTQ+ political candidates nationwide, has spent six figures to purchase significant time on Vermont’s airwaves to run an ad supporting Balint.

The revelation came amid a weeks-long war of words between the Gray and Balint campaigns on outside groups’ spending in the Democratic House primary. On Friday, Gray said in a campaign statement that, “Unlimited spending coming in from outside Vermont is bad for our democracy, period.”

“It doesn’t matter who these outside groups support, this spending gets in the way of candidates talking directly to voters,” Gray said. “Vermonters decide who represents them, no one else.”

Gray has repeatedly called on Balint to publicly denounce outside groups spending in Vermont, which Balint has done. In a written statement on Friday, Balint said she “did not invite this'' advertisement, and doesn’t approve of it. In the country’s campaign finance system, she said she is “in a position where I cannot do anything more than say that out loud and publicly.”

Balint then went after Gray’s campaign for its chastising of an outside group that promotes LGBTQ+ representation in politics.

“At a time when the word ‘gay’ is being banned in schools, LGBTQ history is being erased in classrooms, when gay and trans people are being violently attacked and killed, I will not entertain this political stunt from the Gray campaign,” Balint said. “Should the Gray Campaign, or anyone else, try and smear LGBTQ people for supporting me and my campaign, I will call that out for what it is: craven, callous political opportunism.”

Gray’s campaign said Friday that the LGBTQ Victory Fund PAC spent approximately $160,000 on the advertisements. VTDigger confirmed advertising contracts with WCAX, WPTZ and WFFF that totaled about $115,000, but was unable to confirm the remaining amount.

Also vying for the Democratic nomination are Sianay Chase Clifford, a former staffer with U.S. Rep. Ayanna Presley, D-Mass., and Dr. Louis Meyers. Chase Clifford raised $12,497 between April and July, spent $18,128 and ended the quarter with $429 cash-on-hand. Meyers has loaned his campaign $257,976, and raised $925 in campaign contributions. He spent $18,260 in the second quarter, and ended with $240,641 cash on hand as of July 1.

No longer in contest for the congressional seat is Democratic state Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale, who dropped her bid in May and threw her support behind Balint. But Ram Hinsdale is continuing to fundraise, having raised $69,336 this quarter, to pay down her campaign’s debt. As of July 1, her campaign reported $50,757 in debts owed.

Across the aisle, three candidates are competing for the Republican nomination: Liam Madden, an anti-war Marine veteran who identifies as an independent; accountant and conservative YouTuber Ericka Redic; and former GOP congressional nominee Anya Tynio.

Madden raised more than $35,000, spent about $15,000 and finished with $19,736 cash on hand. Redic raised $8,757, spent $5,477 and finished with $3,707 cash on hand. Tynio’s filing was not available as of 10 p.m.

Vermont’s Senate race

While he swore off contributions from corporate donors at the start of his Senate campaign, Welch has benefited from them in the past — and started off his 2022 campaign with millions in the bank. Even without those big-money donations, he still brought in $970,980 this quarter, and has raised nearly $2.3 million this campaign cycle. According to his campaign, his most common donation amount this quarter was $5.

Between April and July, Welch spent more than $1.1 million — accounting for most of his total spending this cycle (nearly $1.7 million). He closed the quarter with nearly $2.8 million still left in the bank.

His top Republican challenger, Christina Nolan, has raised significantly less: $191,431 this quarter, and $348,274 to date. Having spent $108,106 between April and July, she closed the second quarter with $184,873 cash on hand.

Meanwhile, independent candidate, former First Kid star and crypto billionaire Brock Pierce’s campaign is in debt — to himself. While his campaign raised $93,033, it spent $251,875 this quarter, and received a $200,000 loan from Pierce. In total, the campaign is $240,000 in the hole.

Corrections: An earlier version of this story understated fundraising totals for Liam Madden and Rep. Peter Welch.

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Sarah Mearhoff

About Sarah

Sarah Mearhoff is one of VTDigger's political reporters, covering the Vermont statehouse, executive branch and congressional delegation. Prior to joining Digger, she covered Minnesota and South Dakota state politics for Forum Communications' newspapers across the Upper Midwest for three years. She has also covered politics in Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. Born and raised in Pennsylvania, she is a proud alumna of the Pennsylvania State University where she studied journalism.

Email: [email protected]

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