This week brought the first glimpse of the money race for the Congressional seat being vacated by Senator-in-Waiting Peter Welch, as candidates were required to report fundraising and spending for the fourth quarter of 2021. The headlines predictably focused on the bottom line: “Gray Outpaces Balint in Early Fundraising,” said Seven Days. VTDigger, which threw in Welch’s total for good measure, topped its story with “Welch led 2021 fundraising in Senate race, Gray in House campaign.”
The accompanying reports were the usual surface-scratch that follows filing deadlines. Lead with the totals, list corporate contributions if any, tick off a few notable donors, and call it a day. Not blaming any reporters for this; it’s part of the job, and nobody in the political press has enough knowledge (or time) to dig deep into the numbers.
Including myself, I hasten to add. I’ve been following this game for more than a decade, and I’m still largely ignorant about the backstage world of state politics. But I can tell you what I think I think.
First, while Gray did raise substantially more than Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint, the latter raised more than enough to be competitive. Plus, we won’t have a marker for Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale’s campaign until April because she didn’t launch her campaign until after the close of the fourth quarter. So the real headline, the politically meaningful headline, is that it’s too soon to tell much of anything. But that doesn’t exactly drive the ol’ SEO, does it?
Bear in mind also that fundraising is only one indicator of a healthy campaign. If Balint’s got more volunteers or a stronger staff or a deeper statewide network, then she’s the true early leader. But campaign finance is the factor that’s visible from the outside, so it becomes the standard measure of a campaign’s success.Continue reading