Matt Dunne lays down a marker

There are still many reports yet to be filed, but it looks like the big news from today’s midyear campaign finance deadline will be Matt Dunne’s hefty, and heavy-hitting, finance report. The former State Senator and onetime gubernatorial candidate reports $115,000 in fundraising — but since the report was prepared, he says, he’s added another 20K to the total, bringing his tally to $135,000.

Which is particularly impressive when you consider that he’s done almost all of that work in the last ten days. “Governor Shumlin made his announcement [of non-candidacy] only four or five weeks ago,” he said. After that, Dunne deferred to his political mentor, Congressman Peter Welch, who announced he would not run for governor on June 26 — the very day that Dunne was going out of town for “a long-planned family vacation.”

And yes, if you scan his list of contributions, the earliest date you’ll see is July 6. And the first names on the list: the heavy Dem donors Jay and Caroline Canning. Jay owns the upscale Hotel Vermont. Dunne kept his virtual rolodex* spinning as he contacted well-heeled Vermonters and his many acquaintances in Silicon Valley; Paul Heintz has many of the details in his “Fair Game” column. Suffice it to say that he’s cut a swath through the roster of deep-pocketed Democrats. (A couple names not mentioned by Heintz: Will Raap of Gardeners Supply, the Growald family of Woodstock, and from across the river, former Democratic Party National Committeeman Peter Burling and members of the Taylor family. Dunne’s wife is the author Sarah Stewart Taylor [hi, Sarah]; it’s always nice when you can marry well.)

*Come on, you don’t think a Google executive has an actual Rolodex, do you?

It’s hard to interpret this as anything but a strong marker — a sign to other potential candidates that Dunne is dead serious and has a lot of support, in spite of his nearly five-year absence from statewide politics. Absence, at least as a visible part of the process; he says he’s been heavily involved in various endeavors in Vermont that have kept him very much in circulation.

Dunne won’t assign any importance to his robust warchest other than to say “We feel good about the response we’ve received so far.” But he did go out of his way to make sure his report got noticed, by placing pre-filing calls to Heintz and myself (and presumably others in the political media).

The obvious question: if he’s raised $135,000 for a campaign, he’s pretty much committed to being a candidate, right? Dunne was just as coy as you’d expect, while making it clear that he’s all but certain to run. “We’re committed to continuing to reach out to Vermonters across the state,” he said. “If we take this leap, we will have people in places to make a truly grassroots campaign happen.”

Note the use of the definite future tense in discussing a campaign announcement: “We will make a formal announcement when the time is right,” probably sometime after Labor Day.

Matt Dunne is, in the parlance of no-limit poker, “pot committed.” It’d be pretty embarrassing to return all those checks.

If Sue Minter and Shap Smith (and perhaps others) step up to the challenge, this could be a damn interesting race for the Democratic nomination. And the Democrats have already shown, in 2010, that they can have a vibrant multi-candidate primary without hurting their nominee in the general election. Fun times, kids.

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