Senate candidates on track for record campaign spending

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(Host) Vermont’s U.S. Senate candidates have now raised more than $12 million for their campaigns and some political observers think this number will grow to $20 million by Election Day.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) According to the latest Federal election reports, Republican Rich Tarrant has received $5.3 million – virtually all of it his own money. Independent Bernie Sanders has raised just over $5 million and Republican candidate Greg Parke has raised almost $1.7 million.

Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis says Vermont has never seen a Senate race like this one.

(Davis) “This will be by far the most expensive campaign in the history of Vermont. Rich Tarrant and Bernie Sanders together now have spent $12 million. This could easily be over $20 million, perhaps as much as $25 million by the time everything is counted on Election Day in November.”

(Kinzel) Does the record spending in this year’s Senate race signify that future U.S. Senate candidates in Vermont will have to raise this kind of money to get elected? Davis doesn’t think so.

(Davis) “The U.S. Senate race in Vermont is different because the high spending is largely being driven by Rich Tarrant deciding to run a self-financed campaign and putting multiple millions of his own money into this campaign. In the past, the high spending Vermont senate races involving senators Leahy and Jeffords tended to run total spending in the $2 to $3 million range. Ad we’ll see spending in this year’s U.S. Senate race 4 to 5 times that but we’re not going to heavily self financed candidates like Rich Tarrant in every cycle . So I would say the Senate race this year is an exception.”

(Kinzel) Much of Tarrant’s money has been spent running a series of TV ads since last winter. In recent spots, Tarrant has criticized Sanders voting record on several bills dealing with sex offenders. Davis questions the strategy of taking this approach.

(Davis) “The negative campaign that Tarrant has been running doesn’t seem to have moved the numbers. So I believe Tarrant’s going to have to consider does he want to continue putting several million of his own money into a campaign strategy that doesn’t appear to be working or does he want to re-launch the campaign and try a more positive message from now until election day, focusing on his views on issues like Iraq and the budget deficit that he hasn’t talked about all that much but which are actually different from those of the Bush Administration.”

(Kinzel) The FEC report shows that while Greg Parke has raised nearly $1.7 million, the cost of his national direct mail efforts have been very expensive. At this time, his campaign has roughly $141,000 in the bank.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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