Freilich has charged Leahy with being “out of touch” and “an elitist” for what he said was a refusal to engage in public debate on the issues. In responding, Leahy’s campaign has said that his work in the Senate, particularly as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee during hearings for Supreme Court Justice nominee Elena Kagan, will dominate his schedule this summer. And Dwyer says Leahy has agreed to at least one public debate before the primary on August 24. “Senator Leahy is participating in a primary election debate hosted by Vermont Public Radio,” she said. “This debate will be live, will include questions from the audience, and will be heard statewide.” Dwyer said VPR plans to rerun the debate to reach more listeners.
Financially, Leahy’s campaign is hard to beat. According to recent reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, Leahy raised $458,508 in the last quarter and has a total of $3.2 million in his war chest. Although the amount may seem like a lot for a campaign in a state as small as Vermont, it’s still short of the record $7.7 million raised and spent by candidate Rich Tarrant in his failed Senate bid in 2006. In stark contrast, Freilich reported contributions of $16,272, and expenditures of $21,666.
Freilich has called on Leahy to return $1.4 million in campaign money he says is from special interest groups – political action committees. Dwyer says PAC contributions represent less than 30 % of Leahy’s campaign contributions. “Senator Leahy is grateful for the support he has received from the thousands of Vermonters who have contributed to his campaign,” she said. “The average contribution on his last report was less than $100.
While political challengers around the nation may hope to take advantage of an anti-incumbent wave of sentiment, Dwyer says Leahy’s seniority in the Senate is an asset that brings measurable benefits to a small state like Vermont. “It has enabled him to bring over $1 billion in federal grants to create jobs and promote growth in small business,” she said. “It has ensured our small rural state is not overlooked or shortchanged when it comes to things like grants for law enforcement and first responders and recovery funds and it gives us an edge for things like the Smart Grid.”
Leahy’s campaign points to a long list of accomplishments in which Leahy has played a key role as a leader in the Senate. “When Senator Leahy decided to seek re-election he did so knowing that President Obama was going to need support as he sought to avoid global recession, to restore our moral authority abroad and rebuild our economy at home,” Dwyer said. “In less than two years, we have provided economic stimulus money to help states survive the severe economic downturn, passed landmark health care legislation, passed Wall Street reform to protect consumers and hold corporations accountable.”
Like the rest of the state and the nation, Deerfield Valley residents are focused on economic issues this year, and Dwyer says Leahy will continue to focus on creating jobs and strengthening the economy. She says Leahy has worked with communities around the state to preserve their rural character while upgrading the infrastructure they need for economic development. “Senator Leahy knows how difficult it is for communities to keep their rural character while still developing economically to support good, high paying local jobs,” she said. That is why he has worked to fund the Green Mountain National Forest, he has expanded it by over 100,000 acres, and helped local landowners develop and fund forest management programs, maintaining the working landscape that is critical to the Deerfield Valley’s natural beauty.”
As an example of ways in which the federal government can cooperate with local economic development efforts, Dwyer points to UVM’s federally-funded Proctor Maple Research Center, which supports maple sugar producers around the state. Leahy has also supported the Deerfield Valley Transit Association with the promise of $3 million in earmarks, without which they wouldn’t be able to build their proposed MOOver maintenance facility and offices. Leahy has already secured $584,400 of the necessary funding.