Daily Archives: July 11, 2022

The Money Race: Secretary of State

Fourth in a series on the July `1 campaign finance reports. Yes, it’s still relevant because the general media coverage of the filings was disgracefully thin. Previously: Lieutenant Governor, Governor, Attorney General. Final installment pending: a look at select legislative races.

The Democratic primary for Secretary of State attracted three very qualified candidates after incumbent Jim Condos decided it was time to retire. One has a clear lead thanks to being the first candidate to declare; the second is catching up in a hurry; the third is lagging far behind.

The first is Deputy Secretary of State Chris Winters. He’s been a candidate the longest, plus he had to know long before Condos’ announcement that the position would be vacant. Condos has been thumbing the scale with gusto even before he stepped out of the race, and recently he flouted tradition by formally endorsing Winters.

That should be a substantial intangible factor in Winters’ favor. He also leads in the tangibles, having raised $39,000 in the reporting period and a total of $61,000 for the campaign to date. He has spent $23K so far, which leaves him with $38K in the bank. $5,500 of his spends went to the Vermont Democratic Party: $1,500 for placement at the party’s Curtis-Hoff fundraiser, and $4,000 for access to the VDP’s extortionately priced and indispensable voter database. He also spent $1,500 on yard signs from the Texas-based firm Super Cheap Signs. Union shop, I trust.

Notable donors on Winters’ list: $4175 from Martha Allen, former head of the VT-NEA; $4,210 from the Vermont Association of Realtors; $4,000 from Ernie Pomerleau, Burlington developer and friend of moderate Democrats everywhere; $500 from outgoing Treasurer Beth Pearce; and $101 from former governor Howard Dean.

Second place in the money race is Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas, who didn’t announce until late April. She’s done well since then, receiving $39K in donations in a month and a half. She has spent $22K, so she has $17K in cash on hand.

Topping her donor list are a bunch of people named Copeland, presumably family, who gave a combined $11K. She got $1,000 apiece from renewable energy developer David Blittersdorf and former ANR deputy secretary Peter Walke. There’s a gaggle of current and former lawmakers including Shap Smith, John Gannon, Carol Ode, Leslie Goldman, Becca White, Sarita Austin, Amy Sheldon, Maxine Grad, Don Hooper, Mary Sullivan, Janet Ancel, Tony Klein, and Mike Yantachka.

Other notable names: $1,050 from Lisa Senecal, co-host of “We’re Speaking,” a podcast produced by The Lincoln Project; $500 from Democratic donor Billi Gosh and $300 from progressive donor Crea Lintilhac; $500 from Will Raap, founder of Gardeners’ Supply; $300 from former lobbyist turned bluesman Bob Stannard; $500 from the Leonine lobbying firm and $250 from lobbyist Heidi Tringe; and $150 from attorney general candidate Charity Clark. Her expenditure list is topped by $13,463 for postcards (and presumably mailing) from the Print & Mailing Center of Barre.

Finishing a distant third in fundraising is Montpelier City Clerk John Odum, who entered the race shortly before the March 15 filing deadline. He raised $13K during the latest reporting period and a total of $20K for the campaign to date. He’s spent $14,494, which leaves him with $5K and some change.

But wait, it gets worse. Odum received $8,400 from Elizabeth Shayne, partner of state Rep. Tiff Bluemle. Now, a donor can’t give a candidate more than $4,210 for the primary. I have to assume that half of Shayne’s money is earmarked for the general election campaign and can’t be spent until after the primary. If that’s true, then Odum only has about $1,000 in cash on hand. He’d better have one crackerjack of a grassroots/field operation, is all I can say.

(Update! The $8,400 was a clerical error. Shayne donated a total of $4,200. Odum’s financial report has been corrected. His amended report indicates that his campaign has about $1,900 in cash on hand.)

Overall, Copeland Hanzas has a clear advantage among Democratic officeholders and party mainstays. Winters has outraised the field and has more cash on hand plus Condos’ imprimatur, but his donor list is short on Democratic stalwarts. Odum is far behind in fundraising and cash on hand; unless he’s got hidden advantages, he’s looking like the third place finisher in the primary.

Otherwise, how do I see the race from here to Primary Day, now less than a month away? Hard to tell. Neither Winters nor Copeland Hanzas has a high profile outside of Montpelier. Winters has Condos behind him; Copeland Hanzas has a lot of lawmakers in her corner, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. Members of the House are very plugged in to their districts. Get enough of them in your corner, you’ve got a head start on a statewide network.

So. If anyone claims to know how this is going to turn out, they’re probably blowing smoke.

Exit the Quiet Man

I’m not the best person to eulogize Rep. Warren Kitzmiller, whose death was announced by the Vermont Democratic Party this evening. But I do have some things to say, because I always had a soft spot in my heart for him.

Which is a bit strange, because he is the epitome of the kind of lawmaker I have little patience for. He’d represented Montpelier in the Legislature for 21 years; he was appointed in 2001 to succeed his late wife Karen. (He’d announced his retirement from the Legislature, but didn’t quite make it to the finish line.) He was elected time after time in contests that were over before they began, such was the power of his name and his place in the community. He was the founder of Onion River Sports, and he served in a plethora of roles in Montpelier city government and civic life.

I didn’t get to experience him in all his glory. By the time I started hanging out at the Statehouse, he was a quiet, genial presence with little to no policy profile. He rarely initiated any legislation, and rarely spoke in committee or on the floor.

In other words, he kind of occupied the seat without much apparent purpose. His very progressive city could have benefited from more energetic representation.

He ticks off all the bad boxes. Never won the seat on his own. Didn’t seem to do much or have any ideas. Stayed in office well beyond his sell-by date.

But hell, I liked the guy.

He was unfailingly friendly. He didn’t take himself too seriously. He was always up for a chat, and usually had smart, insightful things to say. He was a legitimate pillar of his community. He earned his popularity through service. In my limited experience, I never saw him act or speak out of meanness. If everyone were more like Warren Kitzmiller, this world would be a much better place.

Whenever I drive into Montpelier, I pass by his house on North Street. I once visited him there, and had a very nice conversation on his back deck. Maybe that’s why I took note of his house every time I passed by, and hoped he was doing well.

The drive down the hill will be a little sadder from now on. Many people will have much more reason to miss the guy and have much more comprehensive things to say about him. But I didn’t want to let his passing go by without comment. He was one of the good ones.