MONTPELIER – Governor James Douglas, who has not yet revealed if he will seek a fifth term next year, lags behind the top two Democrats vying for his position in raising funds, according to campaign filings Wednesday.
Douglas, a Republican, raised $91,203 in the past six months from a little more than 100 people and organizations, bringing his total campaign coffer to $104,565.68. But with 16 months before the 2010 general election, Douglas was not worried Wednesday.
"It seems like we just had an election," Douglas joked, referring to his election to a fourth term in November 2008.
Douglas repeated that he has not decided if he will seek re-election next year – if he does, that would be an announcement made in 2010, he said. He said he feels comfortable with the money he has raised so far.
When asked about the larger amounts raised by his probable Democratic opponents, Douglas said they may likely spend that money in the party's primary next year.
"They now have more money to beat each other up with," he said.
Vermont Secretary of State Deborah Markowitz, a Democrat, leads the pack in fund raising for next year's gubernatorial election. She raised $184,991.83 over the past six month. Including more than $5,000 of in-kind contributions, her total reaches more than $190,000.
Sen. Doug Racine, D-Chittenden, chairman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee and another top Democrat to announce plans to run for governor next year, raised $99,752.45 in the past six months. Including in-kind donations, Racine raised $102,415.69.
Sen. Susan Bartlett, D-Lamoille, chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has also expressed interest in running for governor. But on Wednesday, she filed only a report for her Vermont Senate seat, meaning if she raised money for her gubernatorial campaign recently, it was less than $500.
In press releases issued this week, Markowitz and Racine both declared this fund raising cycle a success for their individual campaigns.
Markowitz said, "This early success is a demonstration of a true movement for real change and new leadership for Vermont." Racine, who waited to raise money until after the Legislature ended for the year, said, "We're just getting started and the momentum is really building."
With the two Democrats announcing their campaign totals days before the filing deadline Wednesday, all political eyes were on Douglas' numbers. And almost immediately, people began reading the tea leaves, including if the third-place fund-raising showing is a sign that the incumbent does not plan to run next year.
Eric Davis, a retired political science professor at Middlebury College, doesn't buy that analysis. He said Douglas can raise money at the drop of a hat. What is telling from this week's campaign finance numbers is that state Democrats have already raised nearly $300,000 for a campaign that is more than a year away, he said.
"That's a lot of money to be raised at this stage of the game," Davis said. "This could be Douglas' toughest campaign since he was first elected to that office in 2002."
Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, a Republican who also has not announced re-election plans, raised only $350.27 in the past six months, bringing his total to $25,576, which includes more than $25,000 left over from the 2008 race.
Several Democrats are considering challenging Dubie next year, but none of them filed any campaign finance documents Wednesday.
Likewise, State Treasurer Jeb Spaulding, a Democrat, announced he had raised $50 for a total campaign coffer of $4,829.16. It is also not clear if Spaulding will seek re-election. State Auditor Thomas Salmon, a Democrat, raised $8,190 in the past six months and has indicated that he would likely seek a third term.
But with Markowitz leaving behind her position as secretary of state next year to pursue the governor's office, candidates are lining up to replace her. Charles Merriman, a Democrat, reported raising $6,610 for the race. Christopher Roy, a Republican, raised $2,260.
Charlotte Dennett, a Progressive who ran unsuccessfully for Vermont attorney general last year on a platform of prosecuting former President George W. Bush for alleged war crimes, reported having $2,337.06 on hand with only a $120 contribution in the past six months.
William Sorrell, the Democratic incumbent for that job, reported having $12,417.56 on hand, with zero dollars raised in the recent reporting cycle. Sorrell has also not said if he is seeking re-election.
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