Something is happening that almost certainly has never happened before. In the general election campaign (post-primary), the candidates for lieutenant governor have outspent the candidates for governor.
This is mainly because Republican Scott Milne continues to drop large amounts of cash for TV ads. In the past week, Milne has reported mass media buys totaling roughly $140,000, with all but $1,600 going for TV spots. (The remainder was for robo-calls.)
Campaigns filing mass media reports are required to list any candidates mentioned in the material. Milne’s October ads mention himself and Democrat Molly Gray. I’ll assume they don’t paint Gray in a flattering light… and I’ll assume we have heard the last of Milne’s whining about negative campaigning, since he’s gone ham on the whole attack thing.
Since the August primary, Milne has spent a total of $102,000 on TV ads alone. He’s spent nothing on radio, and hardly anything on newspaper ads.
Gray hasn’t reported any mass media buys since 10/15, and has spent $52,000 since the August primary. Her media buys are widely distributed among TV, online and mailing, and she spends a lot more than Milne on staffing, organization and events. As I wrote earlier, Milne has adopted the Disembodied Head style of campaigning.
The race for governor, meanwhile, has been running on the cheap. Gov. Phil Scott has spent $11,000 for online advertising since 10/15, while Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman’s most recent mass media buy was on the 16th — $25,000 for TV ads. Nothing since.
Let’s compare total spending from September 1 onward. (The primary came in the middle of a reporting period, so I’m adding up expenditures between 9/1 and 10/15.) Scott and Zuckerman together spent $314,000, with Zuckerman accounting for $234,000 of that. Milne and Gray combined to spend $340,000. Milne spent $237,000, while Gray laid out $103,000.
For the entire cycle, Milne has spent $283,000, while Gray has spent $309,000. She spent far more than Milne during the primary campaign, since she was up against three credible candidates and Milne was competing with Meg Hansen and The Pips. Milne has quickened the pace in recent weeks, and should soon overtake Gray in total spending.
Between the two of them, as of 10/15, Milne and Gray have spent a total of $592,000. That’s $150,000 more than Zuckerman and Don Turner spent for the entire 2018 campaign, and $74,000 more than Zuckerman and Randy Brock spent in 2016, the last time the LG seat was open.
The last two governor’s races have been far more expensive, as you’d expect. Scott and Christine Hallquist put out a total of $1.2 million in a 2018 race that was never close. Scott and Sue Minter spent $3.7 million in 2016, Scott’s first run for the governorship. This year’s gubernatorial campaigns are peanuts by comparison.
And the LG race is breaking records, thanks to Gray’s consistent fundraising and Milne’s deep pockets. (He has footed the bill for more than half of his campaign’s expenditures.)
But wait, there’s more! This is almost certainly the first LG race in forever that attracted the attention of Super PACs. The Alliance for a Better Vermont Action Fund has made two mass media buys totaling $67,000 for anti-Milne ads. RSLC Vermont, the creation of the Republican State Leadership Committee, made one big ad buy of $210,000 for Milne on September 24. They haven’t spent a dime since. But that’s another $277,000 spent for the Vermont equivalent of John Nance Garner’s bucket of warm piss. Add it all together and you’ve got $869,000 — and counting — spent to elect Zuckerman’s successor in the number-two spot.
Not that the office itself is worth that much, but it’s the opportunity to move up the ladder. The winner will be positioned for a future run for governor or Congress. Those are the real stakes, not the chance to bang the Senatorial gavel.