The big money in the campaign for attorney general belongs to the guy who’s not in office anymore. TJ Donovan, recently departed for a sweet corporate gig that somehow advances his commitment to consumer protection, still has nearly $300,000 in his campaign treasury, most of it surplus from 2020. Unlike Treasurer Beth Pearce, Donovan has yet to disperse his money to other candidates or the Vermont Democratic Party or anyone else. I’m sure he’ll get around to it sometime. Or maybe he’s saving it for……
Regarding the people who want the job — former Donovan chief of staff Charity Clark and Washington County State’s Attorney Rory Thibault — they’re in a competitive money race that leaves neither in a dominant position, although Clark has some advantages.
This race got off to a late start thanks to Donovan’s sudden decision to go corporate. The July 1 campaign finance reports include all of Clark and Thibault’s campaigns. Clark reported raising almost $80,000, while Thibault took in $74,000. But… Thibault donated $12,000 to his own campaign while Clark gave herself $4,000.
On the other hand, Clark raised $12K from people named Clark while Thibault only netted $4K from others sharing his last name, so those two factors are a collective wash.
Clark has a significant advantage in unique donors. Thibault has 67, Clark 190. That means Clark has a much larger pool of potential repeat donors who’ve made a financial commitment to her campaign. Most of her edge is in small-dollar donors. 101 people have given Clark gifts of $100 or less; only 35 have done so for Thibault. If that’s the “candidate of the people” contest, Clark is your winner.
On the expenditure side, both candidates are in the same ballpark. Thibault has spent $19K, Clark $17K. That gives Clark the edge in cash on hand, 63K to 54K. Nice, but not decisive.
On Thibault’s donor list, we find some relatively conservative names on law ‘n order issues. Barre city councilor (and former mayor) Thom Lauzon and his wife Karen each gave $4,080. Lauzon kicked in another $4,080 through his company, Edgewood Development LLC. Former Montpelier police chief Tony Facos gave $2,000. (Must be a nice pension plan.) Ed Adrian, Burlington Democrat who’s supporting centist Ted Kenney against progressive Chittenden County SA Sarah Fair George, donated $536 to Thibault. John Campbell, former Senate president pro tem and now executive director of the Vermont Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs, gave $500.
Two people were equally generous to both candidates: $250 to each campaign from Innocent-until-proven-guilty car dealer Abel Toll and outgoing Rep. (and LG candidate) Kitty Toll.
Clark’s list is more of an ideological mixed bag than Thibault’s. Centrist thought leader and pension scold David Coates gave Clark $1,000, and trash haulers Casella Associates donated $4,000. Her list includes more known Democrats than Thibault’s. Democratic megadonor Jane Stetson checks in with $1,000; former governor Howard Dean gave $500; outgoing Rep. Kate Webb donated $300; former Rep. Joan Lenes gave $250; former Burlington mayor Peter Clavelle $200; and Rep. Tiff Bluemle $150.
A reading of the tea leaves says that Thibault is the moderate candidate in the race. In terms of money, Clark has measurable advantages.
How does that translate into primary votes? I have no idea. Both candidates need to introduce themselves to the electorate. Clark had a high post under Donovan and benefits from whatever recognition that engenders, but she’s never run for office before. Thibault has run successfully, but only in Washington County.
In the Machiavellian view, Clark is better positioned for success. She’s to Thibault’s left on some issues, but not so red-flaggy that she risks alienating centrist voters.
At this point, it’s all about getting your name out there and boosting your profile. Neither candidate has enough money to buy a big shiny media barrage. The winner will be the one with a better internal organization and volunteer base; there’s no real way to measure those factors. Which is why we fall back on analyzing the money; it’s the thing with numbers attached.
Up next: Secretary of State.