A lot of cash may be in play in races for Vermont House seats on both sides of Smugglers Notch this election year.
According to campaign reports filed with the Vermont Secretary of State’s office, as of July 15, the races for the Stowe seat in the House of Representatives — the Lamoille-1 district — and for the Cambridge-Waterville seat — Lamoille-3 — have each brought in more than $10,000 in campaign contributions.
So far, the two candidates for the Stowe seat have raised over $15,000. That is crumbs compared to statewide or national contests, but a significant lump of dough for a Vermont legislative race.
The Stowe seat
Incumbent Republican Heidi Scheuermann, a property manager who is facing competition for the first time since she was elected to the House in 2006, has raised $10,030. About a third of that came from 58 donors who gave $100 or less. Those small donations don’t have to be listed individually, under Vermont campaign finance laws.
Larger donations come from 18 people (including herself), totaling $6,910.
“We haven’t had a campaign in a number of years, so we got the team back together,” Scheuermann said. “We certainly encourage people to support us if they can, financially or otherwise. It’s clear the people who support me want to see me re-elected, and that entails raising some money.”
Most of her expenses have gone to local businesses such as XPress printing and Image Outfitters, but she’s had the luxury of serving uncontested for a decade, and in a one-town district, that means a lot of built-in name recognition. But it’s also a different media landscape than in 2006.
“Social media wasn’t quite the entity it is now,” Scheuermann said. “We’re going to do what we need to do to get our message out there, and make sure it resonates with those in Stowe.”
Her challenger, Democrat Marina Meerburg, owner of a translation business and a long-time ski instructor, has raised $5,190 since she announced her candidacy in mid-June. But she might as well be holding her nose while she does it.
“I’m just kind of lamenting the influence of money in politics,” she said. Vermont has largely been spared the mega-money campaigns in states like New York and California, Meerburg said, “but it is the game we’ve got to play, so we play it.”
Meerburg’s largest single donor is Jake Carpenter, co-founder of Burton, probably the world’s most popular snowboarding company. Carpenter donated $1,000 to Meerburg’s fledgling campaign.
A half-dozen Stowe women also backed Meerburg with donations ranging from $200 to $500. That includes $250 from Stowe Select Board chair Lisa Hagerty, who has organized events for Democrats such as former gubernatorial nominee Sue Minter.
Meerburg said she wants to take money only from like-minded donors, so she doesn’t feel obliged to someone just because they donated to her campaign.
“I’d be very careful taking money from somebody I disagree with,” she said. “Somebody gives you money, you’re more likely to pick up the phone.”
The rest of Meerburg’s contributions, $1,940, came from donations of $100 or less.
As of July 15, the only spending Meerburg had done was $100 for campaign software through the state Democratic Party. But as anyone driving into town along Route 100 can see, she’s bought some lawn signs since then.
That’s to get her name out there early, because since she was a latecomer to the race, she has to be written in as the Democratic nominee in the Aug. 14 primary. It takes only 25 write-in votes, and the local Democratic Party has endorsed her, but she’s taking no chances.
“I don’t need everybody to agree with me, just enough,” she said.
The competition for the Cambridge-Waterville seat has also attracted donors.
Incumbent Bernie Juskiewicz, a Republican from Cambridge, decided not to run for re-election.
Competing to succeed him are Zac Mayo, a Republican from Cambridge, and Lucy Rogers, a Democrat from Waterville.
Mayo, a former Navy man, has raised $9,534.79, about half of it in loans to himself. Much of the rest came from big Cambridge businesses, including $1,000 each from Greg Tatro, Jack Corse, and Corse’s fuel company, Jack F. Corse.
Mayo has spent about half of his total contributions, $5,446, mainly in an effort to get his name in front of the voters — yard signs, buttons, T-shirts, bumper stickers and the like. Mayo didn’t return an email seeking comment.
Rogers, a recent college graduate, has raised $1,774, but the real story behind her nascent campaign is the $157 she raised from 11 small donations, an average of $14 per person.
Rogers’ larger donations, $500 each, came from her father and from Mark Woodward, a former Democratic legislator from Johnson who is in charge of the re-election campaign for state Rep. Matt Hill, D-Wolcott.
“I am running a grassroots campaign that is focused on connecting with people through smaller donations,” Rogers said. “I don’t believe that it should cost tens of thousands of dollars to run for local office, and I have not accepted any PAC money so far.”
Typha Marketing — a company run by Justin Marsh, a Cambridge man who is also known by his drag-queen moniker, Emoji Nightmare — has donated nearly $500 of in-kind marketing and design work.
Rogers said her “great team of volunteers” has political expertise and has helped keep costs low, and she’s buying local.
The Lamoille-Washington House race (Morristown, Elmore, Worcester and Woodbury) features three well-known candidates —the incumbents, Republican Gary Nolan and Democrat David Yacovone, both of Morristown, and Avram Patt, a Democrat from Worcester, who held one of the House seats until unseated in the 2016 election in a five-person race.
Patt, the former head of Washington Electric Co-op, has been spending money to get his name before the voters again. He’s raised $2,676 this year and has spent all of it, from website development and Facebook and Front Porch Forum ads to yard sign materials at the Montpelier Aubuchon Hardware.
Nolan, a longtime employee of H.A. Manosh in Morrisville, has raised $1,108 so far, and has a $2,848 surplus from his 2016 campaign. He has spent half what he’s raised this year, with $204 going to Weebly for website development and $350 to Common Sense Leadership PAC, a Vermont group that backs conservative candidates.
Yacovone, former head of the Department for Children and Families, has raised $5,510 this year, and hasn’t spent a dime of it yet.
In the Lamoille-2 district (Belvidere, Hyde Park, Johnson and Wolcott), incumbent Democrats Matt Hill, a contractor, and Dan Noyes, a nonprofit executive, hadn’t listed any campaign donations or spending as of July 15, nor had their opponent, Mike King, I-Johnson.
Likewise, incumbent Lamoille County Sen. Rich Westman, a Republican from Cambridge who works at Vermont Student Assistance Corporation when he’s not in session, had not raised or spent any money, and had a $735 surplus from his 2016 campaign.
And in the Orleans-Lamoille district, which runs from Eden north to the Canadian border, Rep. Mark Higley, a Republican general contractor from Lowell, did not file a statement. He is unopposed.