The statewide Democratic apparatus has taken an interest in the race to determine who represents Stowe in the Vermont House of Representatives, a contest that has hit the $40,000 fundraising mark two months before the election.
“We’re really focusing on that seat because we haven’t had anyone run for it for 12 years,” Chris DiMezzo, communications director for the Vermont Democratic Party, said this week. “And we have someone who’s passionate about it.”
Democrat Marina Meerburg is on the Nov. 6 ballot opposite longtime incumbent Republican Heidi Scheuermann. Meerburg was late to the race, but ran a write-in campaign ahead of the Aug. 14 primary. Meerburg received 312 write-in votes in the primary, far more than the minimum 25 needed to qualify for November.
“I feel encouraged,” Meerburg said. “It’s no small feat taking on a 12-year incumbent.”
Scheuermann has been in the Legislature since 2006. That’s the last year she faced competition for the seat, which was in Republican hands long before that — both as a one-seat district following the redrawing of the House map in 2000 and when it was a two-member district with Morristown.
She said she has known for more than a year that the Democrats really want to wrest control of Republicans’ long hold on the seat.
“It’s been clear to me since this last biennium that they think the winds of change are blowing through Stowe,” Scheuermann said. “We’re campaigning against a big, very well-funded apparatus.”
That may be so, and money may play a key role in the Stowe race, but Scheuermann has outraised Meerburg nearly three to one.
As of Sept. 1, the two candidates had raised roughly $40,000 between them. Scheuermann has raised $28,965 this campaign cycle, $2,775 since the last filing deadline, Aug. 15.
Meerburg has raised $10,459, almost a third of that since the primary. That includes $2,000 from Jen and John Kimmich, husband and wife owners of The Alchemist brewery.
The brewery is hosting a campaign kickoff Sept. 17, and Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls past and present — Sue Minter, who ran in 2016, and Christine Hallquist, on this year’s ballot — are expected to rally support for Meerburg at the event.
Digging into roadwork
Democrats have also done a little opposition research into Scheuermann, following up on an inquiry the Stowe Reporter did into a Route 108 paving project earlier this summer.
The $1.3 million resurfacing project came as a surprise, since it wasn’t on the Vermont Transportation Agency’s work schedule until at least 2020.
Jason Gibbs, chief of staff for Gov. Phil Scott, said the governor had nothing to do with the paving project. Rather, it came from the bottom up — Stowe voters at town meeting asked Scheuermann and Lamoille County Sen. Rich Westman to see if they could exert some influence.
Burlington resident Jo Sabel Courtney, who lived in Stowe for decades and served as a statewide delegate at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, sent a public records request to the governor’s office shortly after the Stowe Reporter story, asking for correspondence between Scheuermann and the administration and VTrans regarding Route 108.
Courtney didn’t respond to a request for comment on her public records request, but DiMezzo, of the Vermont Democratic Party, did. He said while Courtney wasn’t acting on behalf of the party, “our interests aligned with hers.”
“We don’t suspect any undue political influence” on Scheuermann’s part, DiMezzo said this week. “But we wanted to check up on it and make sure it wasn’t part of her campaign.”
Both Meerburg and her campaign manager, Leo Clark — head of the Stowe Democratic Party — said the campaign didn’t have anything to do with looking into Scheuermann’s role in getting Route 108 paved.
Scheuermann said she’s fine with any role she and Westman may have played in convincing the state to fast-track the project. She said she finds it “interesting, yet a bit troubling” that people would try to find fault in getting “six and a half miles of the most important road in Stowe paved.”
“I’m not going to apologize for doing everything I can to serve the best interests of Stowe,” she said.