Democrats already collecting contributions for 2010 gubernatorial race

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(Host) Political analysts believe that the 2010 gubernatorial campaign will be much more competitive than last year’s race.

A key factor is the ability of two Democratic challengers to raise significant funds, more than 15 months before the election.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Secretary of State Deb Markowitz is the early fundraising leader for the Democratic nomination.  She raised roughly $190,000 dollars from over 1000 contributors through the reporting period that ended this weekend.

Markowitz says she’s encouraged that so many people are getting involved in the political process at such an early date:       

(Markowitz) "There’s an energy I haven’t seen before. There’s a sense that we’re facing really serious issues in the state of Vermont and we need a governor who can show real leadership."

(Kinzel) Chittenden senator Doug Racine has raised just over $100,000 dollars.  Racine was the party’s nominee in 2002 when he lost a very close race to Governor Jim Douglas.

In 2008, the Democratic Party searched for a gubernatorial candidate until former House Speaker Gaye Symington jumped into the race.

Racine says Symington’s unsuccessful campaign serves as a key lesson for the Democrats:

(Racine) "There’s also a lesson learned last year that a late start was not good enough to build a foundation needed for a stronger campaign and that’s why I’m starting early."

(Kinzel) Do the fundraising totals mean much at this point in the campaign?  Middlebury College political science professor emeritus Eric Davis says the answer is ‘not really’:

(Davis) "It is a lot of money but one has to be careful about over interpreting the results of early financial reports. There are several instances in American politics in just the last two years of candidates who raised a lot of money in early reporting periods who ended up not winning the nomination."

(Kinzel) But Davis says the fact that the two Democratic candidates have raised almost 300 thousand dollars between them is a clear message to Governor Douglas that the Democrats are going to have a competitive candidate in this race:

(Davis) "That would be quite a contrast to the situation in 2008 where Douglas was far ahead of his challengers at every campaign finance reporting stage."

(Kinzel) Douglas hasn’t formally announced that he’ll seek re-election but he has sent out fund raising letters soliciting money for another race.

A third Democratic candidate, Lamoille senator Susan Bartlett, has another day to file her campaign report. It’s expected to be considerably smaller than her challengers because she entered the race at a later date.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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