The Great VDP Reboot of 2022

When you add up a number of things previously reported in this space — new leadership at the Vermont Democratic Party that seems to know what it’s doing for a change, the emergence of Becca Balint and Mike Pieciak as formidable political forces — plus a few more, a clear picture emerges. The Vermont Democratic Party has risen from a long dismal period and is now moving from strength to strength. If the Republicans thought they might be closing the gap in any meaningful way, well, they are sadly mistaken.

The party’s internal organization is stronger than it’s been for years. Fundraising has improved greatly. And now there’s an impressively deep bench with numerous officeholders capable of climbing the ladder. In addition to Balint and Pieciak, there’s also Attorney General-in-Waiting Charity Clark and All But Secretary of State Sarah Copeland Hanzas. And we should not forget House Speaker Jill Krowinski, no sirree.

(Say, has the Vermont Republican Party found some patsies to run statewide yet? No? Yes? Does it matter?)

(UPDATE! They found guys for auditor and attorney general, still looking for treasurer. And no, it doesn’t matter.)

This is a stark change from the stasis of the past decade, when some really good people with no political upside held these offices. Plus TJ Donovan. (Well, Beth Pearce had political upside but she didn’t want it.)

The latest fundraising figures, studiously ignored by the tattered remnants of the political press, show the VDP continuing its upward trajectory. In July, the party took in $84,121 and spent $56,833, improving its cash balance to $267,095. At the beginning of 2022, the VDP had a mere $43,238 in the bank. And boosting their reserves is a real accomplishment when simultaneously gearing up for an election campaign.

There are three sources of Democratic fundraising strength. First, they’ve put together a sizeable contingent of monthly donors. That’s the financial backbone of a healthy party, and the Dems had struggled on that front for a long time. Perhaps because potential donors saw a party that likely wouldn’t spend the money in productive ways. Now? In July, the Dems received 72 individual donations from folks who are giving on the regular. They also took in $10,000 donations from Michael Desanto, owner of Phoenix Books, and gray-area auto dealer Abel “Mr. Kitty” Toll.

Second, national Democrats are stepping up big time to support state parties. The Democratic Grassroots Victory Fund gave the VDP $18,100 in July, bringing its 2022 total to $110,200. The Democratic National Committee donated $2,941 in July and $27,1087 this year.

Third, the VDP’s vaunted voter file, which helps candidates target likely Dem voters. This is a resource they simply can’t do without, and they happily pay for access. In July, candidates paid $20,250 for the use of the VDP’s voter file. It’s an expensive item to maintain, but it more than pays for itself in revenue and wins at the polls.

So now, just for shits and giggles, let’s see how a robust party compares to its feeble counterpart. While the Dems had more than enough strong candidates to fill out a statewide ticket, the Republicans are still — nearly two weeks after its primary — scrabbling together a ticket, having been rejected by an unknown number of folks.

On the money front, the Vermont Republican Party took in $8,572 in July — yes, just a bit more than 10% of the VDP’s takings — and spent $12,587. Its cash balance fell from $67,168 to $63,153. The VDP has more than four times as much cash on hand, despite far higher expenses.

The Republicans don’t earn any money from a voter file because they don’t have one. Instead, they pay outside contractors to provide databases that aren’t as good as the VDP’s. (That was a $2,340 line item in July.)

Oh, and its second biggest expense in July was $2,313 for direct mail fundraising. My, how quaint.

Now, you’d expect the national Republican Party to be eagerly sharing its Billionaire Bucks with state parties. Nope. Not nearly as much as the national Democrats, anyway. The Republican National Committee gave the VTGOP $2,350 in July, bringing its 2022 total to $65,100. That’s nice, but it’s peanuts compared to what national Dems are giving the Vermont party.

Which brings us to individual contributions. Remember how the VDP took in 72 recurring individual donations in July? The VTGOP received only 19 such gifts.

This fiscal imbalance leaves the Republicans with no paid staff, just volunteer chair Paul Dame running around making bad YouTube videos*. The VDP has six staffers. They can provide ample support for their candidates, while Republican hopefuls are left to fend for themselves. And they wonder why nobody wants to run on the VTGOP ticket.

*viz:

(That’s not me taking an unflattering screenshot; that’s the image you see on the YouTube page itself. Hide the kids, Mildred, the scary man is back.)

So yeah, the VTGOP sinks ever deeper into the mire and the VDP is suddenly and comprehensively en fuego. You think there’s a partisan imbalance in Vermont politics now? Just wait a little. It’s going to get worse.

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