One to beam up

Well, that was brief and uneventful.

Marlboro Democrat Brandon Riker, the first announced candidate for lieutenant governor in the 2016 election, bowed out of the race Wednesday after acknowledging his campaign had failed to fire up Vermonters.

Call it The Curse of The VPO. Riker was the only Democratic candidate for Lite-Guv I’d actually met. So keep your distance, David Zuckerman and Kesha Ram.

Riker acknowledged that he “made a lot of mistakes as a first-time candidate,” mentioning prominently his decision to “jump-start” his campaign with a massive infusion of his own (and his family’s) money. He says “it created a picture that I was trying to buy the seat.”

Well, yeah, you come from a family of wealthy hedge-fund operators and on Day One you throw more than 65,000 RikerBucks into the kitty, and you can see how people might get the wrong impression.

I’d start the “mistakes” even earlier — specifically, the decision by a little-known first-time candidate to launch his political career with a bid for statewide office. That was the fatal mistake.

Now, a deep-pocketed newbie would be welcomed with open arms in the VTGOP, but that’s because it’s perpetually begging for candidates. The Democrats have a deep bench of talented politicos who’ve been bumping up against a glass ceiling for several years.

Riker apparently invested generously in a campaign infrastructure, spending “nearly $80,000” (VTDigger) or “nearly $71,000” (Seven Days), either of which is substantial money. And he traveled all over the state, seeking to build grassroots support. I have to say, from this vantage point, his campaign was pretty much invisible. In fact, sad to say, when I wrote up the March 15 campaign finance filings, I didn’t even think to check on Young Mr. Riker.

My bad. He did manage to raise a respectable amount of money, even without the family bankbook. But it wasn’t getting him anywhere in a field that included a prominent Progressive Senator and a well-connected, energetic State Representative.

So now he’s endorsing the former. I don’t know how much that will aid Zuckerman, because I really don’t know how many Riker-backers there are. It might help in southeast Vermont, where Riker lives and works. That’d be a feather in Zuckerman’s cap, since both he and Ram are from Chittenden County.

Otherwise, hail and farewell to the Number One entry into the Lite-Guv sweepstakes, and the Number One departure. And apparently we won’t have Number One to kick around any more.

“I’m not seeking another, smaller seat,” he said. “I got in this because I believe the state needs better leadership, so I’m not going to go run for the state Senate or the state House. I’m going to return the money and close the bank account.”

That’s kind of a shame. He’s young and smart and ambitious enough to have a future in Vermont politics. And southern Vermont needs strong voices. But if he isn’t willing to start nearer the bottom and work his way up, then maybe he isn’t cut out for the political game.


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