“Cha-Ching” Goes the Race for Chittenden County State’s Attorney

Wow. Sarah Fair George and Ted Kenney are running what has to be the costliest race for state’s attorney in Vermont history. George, the incumbent, entered the race with $14,444 left over from previous campaigns and she’s raised another $34,623 this year from 182 separate donors. Challenger “Dead Eyes” Kenney has raised $33,331 from 129 donors.

Has this ever happened before? I can’t imagine it has.

(Side note: This may explain the relative absence of money in Chittenden County Senate races. The state’s attorney contest is attracting a lot of cash, presumably drawing funds away from other campaigns.)

Did anyone notice? The campaign finance reports were filed on July 1, and for the life of me I can’t find any reportage on this remarkable development.

Well, maybe not so remarkable. We knew this was going to be a red-hot contest between George’s progressive record and Kenney’s vaguely-defined combo platter of reform and crime reduction, but still. A combined $68,000 raised by July 1?

Kenney has dipped into his war chest (obligatory “war chest” reference, check) much more freely than George. As a result, George heads into the primary home stretch (obligatory “home stretch” reference, check) with a substantial edge in cash on hand.

How much? Kenney has spent $17,787, George “only” $8,772. Kenney has $15,594 left. George, between the surplus and fresh fundraising, has $40,295. That’s a hell of a gap.

Caveat: These figures are almost three weeks old. We don’t know how much has been raised and spent since then. We’ll get one more pre-primary set of filings on August 1.

Kenney’s already dumped a bunch of cash into TV and print ads: $2,350 to WCAX, $1,998 to WPTZ, $1,233 to Seven Days, $805 to the North Avenue News. He’s also spent a buttload on yard signs: $4,812 in all.

Big-ticket items on George’s filing: $2,000 to campaign manager Sam Donnelly (who has since moved on to helm Vermont for Reproductive Liberty, the pro-Proposition 5 Super PAC*), $1,693 for a fundraiser at the Hotel Vermont, and $1,225 in yard signs. She’s got some catching up to do in cluttering up the landscape. And our TV screens.

*Psst, don’t tell Molly Gray

Turning to Kenney’s donor list, it’s a mix of exactly the people you’d suspect and some relative surprises. The former include developer Ernie Pomerleau, who donated $1,000, and attorney and former city councilor Ed Adrian. who gave $518. Former city councilor Jane Knodell gave a cool $1,500 as did her partner Ted Wimpey, former lieutenant governor Doug Racine donated $250, and former senator Debbie Ingram donated $200. Financial advisor Dan Cunningham and his wife Alicia each gave $1,530. Retired attorney Bradley Stephenson donated $1,530, and not-retired attorney Daniel O’Rourke gave $1,000.

Kenney gave himself $2,025, and he got $1,000 from Timothy and Jennifer Kenney as well.

George has some noteworthy names among her benefactors. Would it surprise you to learn that Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s each gave her $1,000? Lynn Novick, documentarian and Ken Burns collaborator, gave $750. Alyssa Schuren, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation under Peter Shumlin, donated $350. Former Windsor County state’s attorney Robert Sand gave $250, as did Chloe White, former lobbyist for the Vermont ACLU. State Rep. Tiff Bluemle, who seems to be a donor in every race this year, gave $175.

It’s a lot of money, and I have to think the two have been working the phones since July 1. Total spending may come close to $100,000 which, again, is remarkable for a state’s attorney race. But it is our very own referendum on prosecutorial reform. These kinds of contests have drawn national attention in the past. Is it any wonder that this race has attracted a lot of donors on both sides of the issue?

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