Candidates helped by family donations (7/23/09)

Secretary of state race off to early start

July 23, 2009

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

Secretary of state candidates started a long campaign with modest bankrolls that include contributions from family members, according to finance disclosures filed last week.


Charlie Merriman


Chris Roy

Republican Chris Roy of Williston and Democrat Charlie Merriman of Middlebury are the two declared candidates in the race. Both seek the position held by longtime Secretary of State Deb Markowitz, a Democrat who is running for governor.

The financial disclosures are the first to be filed in the long run-up to the November 2010 election. They show Merriman taking the early lead in fundraising by about a 3-1 margin.

Merriman has raised $6,610 and spent $1,512. Of the money raised, $3,419 was contributed by relatives or came out of his own pocket.

Roy has raised $2,260 and spent $2,388. Of the contributions, $1,500 came from family members.

Roy said the early, unsolicited contributions from his sister and his in-laws have allowed him to get the campaign off the ground without using his own money.

Merriman, who detailed $1,319 in out-of-pocket expenses, said he won’t continue to spend a lot of his own money. He said his commitment to financial disclosure meant many expenditures are listed as his own.

“I don’t expect to spend an inordinate amount of my own money on the campaign,” said Merriman, who also received a total of $750 from his mother and father.

Roy’s largest expense was $1,540 for Web site design and hosting. He also spent money on dinners, postage and mileage. Merriman lists dozens of small expenses, including several lunch meetings with advisors and mileage to numerous functions.

Roy is a partner with the Burlington law firm Downs Rachlin Martin. He was elected to a two-year term on the Williston Selectboard in March 2008.

Merriman is also a lawyer, a partner at the Montpelier law firm Tarrant, Marks & Gillies. Before working for the firm, he served as a Vermont assistant attorney general and worked for the state Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration.

Merriman said he expects to spend about $100,000 during the campaign; Roy puts the number at around $200,000.

The amount they’ve raised to date is paltry compared to the higher-profile governor’s race, where Markowitz and two other Democrats reported about $300,000 in contributions between them in the new campaign disclosures. Gov. Jim Douglas raised $1.2 million during his 2008 re-election campaign.

Roy said he’s not concerned that his presumptive opponent has raised more money because the election is still more than a year away. And he feels optimistic he will not face a primary, while there have been rumors of other Democrats interested in the secretary of state post.

“There may be a primary on the Democratic side, so he needs to raise and spend money earlier,” Roy said of Merriman.

Merriman said he does expect a primary. But he thinks he will prevail because he plans to campaign harder then any future foe.

Merriman said he needs enough money to conduct a credible run for statewide office, but he’s not trying to outspend opponents.

“That certainly isn’t my goal,” Merriman said. “But I want to win the election.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.