Cost Per Vote: Which Chittenden County Candidates Got the Biggest Bang for Their Bucks? | Off Message

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cost Per Vote: Which Chittenden County Candidates Got the Biggest Bang for Their Bucks?

Posted By on Tue, Nov 20, 2012 at 2:16 PM

The top vote-getter in the Chittenden County state Senate race also finished near the front of the 14-candidate field in terms of cost effectiveness of individual campaign expenditures. Democrat-Progressive Tim Ashe was elected to a third term with 37,357 votes on reported spending of $10,250 — which works out to 27 cents per vote.

Democrat Ginny Lyons was the No. 2 finisher in the race for six available seats, corralling 34,957 votes. But she was No. 1 in bang for buck. In winning a seventh term, Lyons spent only $5668, according to a November 15 campaign report — or 16 cents per vote.

Patrick Brown didn't gain entree to the charmed circle of six, but among candidates filing campaign finance reports, Brown stretched his money further than anyone in the race except Lyons. The Burlington-based civil rights activist and restaurant owner received 12,217 votes and spent $2150 — a productive investment of 18 cents per vote.

The bottom — or least cost-effective — spot is occupied by Robert Letovsky, a St. Michael's College business professor running as an Independent. He spent $15,402 and got 8321 votes, which earned him an 11th place finish and cost him $1.85 per vote.

Votes also proved an expensive commodity for David Zuckerman, a Hinesburg farmer and former state representative. The Progressive-Democrat did win a Senate seat, finishing fourth (behind Ashe, Lyons and Democrat Sally Fox). But Zuckerman's return ticket to Montpelier cost him $1.04 per vote. He reported expenditures of $33,550 — by far the most of any candidate who filed on November 15.

Zuckerman may have felt compelled to raise and spend more than his rivals in part because the Democratic Party campaign machine didn't supply much juice to a candidate it viewed as more of a moose than a donkey. The Dems did spend significantly on behalf of many others running on their ticket. And this analysis of return on investment does not take account of those independent expenditures.

Fox proved comparatively cost-efficient in winning her second Senate term. It cost her campaign 34 cents for each of the 34,909 votes she pocketed.



Diane Snelling will remain the only Republican member of the Chittenden County Senate contingent, partly thanks to a last name that still resonates with many Vermont voters. The former governor's daughter spent $18,590 as she sought shelter from the Dem-Prog cyclone in Chittenden County. Her fifth-place finish was achieved at a cost of 59 cents per vote. 

Phil(ip) Baruth, the sixth victor, laid out $20,589 to acquire 30,909 votes. That's 67 cents per vote for the University of Vermont English literature professor. Baruth was a major contributor to his own campaign, writing checks for $4550.

Finishing out of the money — figuratively speaking — was Democrat Debbie Ingram, who came in seventh place. The Williston select board member got 23,441 votes and spent $10,155, or 43 cents per ballot received.

Not filing reports were Green candidate Larkin Forney; Progressive Richard "Terry" Jeroloman; Tea Partier Shelley Palmer; and Independent Sean Shelby. But these undisclosing types won't need to go on the lam; the state's campaign reporting law exempts candidates who have raised or spent less than $500, which was probably the case for most, if not all, of those who didn't submit reports.

Former Burlington mayor Bob Kiss did manage to keep his campaign finance house in order. He reported $9752 in expenditures in edging out Brown for eighth place. But Kiss' per vote cost of 79 cents was four times greater than Brown's. And $4000 of Kiss' contributions took the form of personal loans the candidate made to his campaign. 

The most cost-ineffective result in Vermont's 2012 election cycle may be that of Gene Bergman, a Progressive who ran for one of two House seats in a Burlington district. Bergman spent $8180 to obtain 940 votes, working out to $8.70 per vote. Kit Andrews, the other Prog in the race, also didn't get a big return on investment. She shelled out $5094 and picked up 838 votes, which works out to $6.08 per ballot.

Jill Krowinski, a Democrat who captured one of the two House seats, likewise spent a lot for relatively little. Her expenditures totaled $8004, and she garnered 1837 votes (a $4.35 ratio). Fellow Dem Curt McCormack, the winner of the other seat in the Chittenden 6-3 district, had a per vote expenditure of $3.30 — $4785 for 1450 votes.

In other campaign news, the Partnership for Burlington's Future, an ad hoc group backing Mayor Miro Weinberger's bond proposals on the November 6 ballot, reported contributions from a few of the Queen City's chief rainmakers. Ernie and Antonio Pomerleau kicked in a total of $5000 — about a fifth of the money reported raised. donated $2000. The local Chamber of Commerce and Investors Corp. of Vermont each handed over $1000, as did something called Ya Dude! LLC, a restaurant reservation service situated at 188 Main Street.

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About The Author

Kevin J. Kelley

Kevin J. Kelley

Kevin J. Kelley is a contributing writer for Seven Days, Vermont Business Magazine and the daily Nation of Kenya.


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