- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 18, 2014

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - Recent campaign finance filings show a low number of Republicans gearing up to run for statehouse seats, and no announced Republican challengers to face incumbent Democrats in statewide races, even though members of the state GOP believe Vermont is ready for a political change because of recent job losses at IBM and other companies, as well as a troubled health care exchange roll-out.

Republican Chairman David Sunderland said Tuesday some party members have expressed interest in going up against incumbents in statewide races and that more challengers will be announced in the near future. He said recruitment goals are being met.

Republicans haven’t had a winning record in the state. Vermont is the most liberal state in the country, according to Election Day exit polls. And in 2012, amid worries about outside funding from independent, funding-unlimited Super PACs, Vermonters elected a large majority of Democrats to the statehouse and voted in all Democrats for statewide offices - except for the office of lieutenant governor.

Seven of 30 state senators are Republicans and less than a third of the 150 state representatives are members of the GOP.

Julia Barnes, executive director of the Vermont Democratic Party, is confident about maintaining the majority in the statehouse and about the Democratic statewide officers running for re-election.

Citing Vermont’s low unemployment rate of 4 percent and new jobs in the solar sector, totaling almost 1,000 according to the Solar Foundation, Barnes said negativity about the state’s economy wouldn’t resonate with voters. Instead of working on solutions, Barnes said state Republicans seem “pretty rooted in regressive obstructionism.”

All current statewide incumbents filed campaign finance reports for the period ending March 15.

Filings from Gov. Peter Shumlin showed his campaign has more than $1 million in the bank for the upcoming election season. The Democrat from Putney won his first gubernatorial election in 2010 and sailed to re-election in 2012 with almost 58 percent of the vote.

So far, no major party candidate has emerged to challenge Shumlin.

Sunderland called Shumlin’s current advantage in funding a hurdle for any potential gubernatorial candidates but not a complete obstacle. “In Vermont, especially, millions of dollars in a campaign is not all that it takes to win,” Sunderland said.

Republican Randy Brock, who previously ran for governor in 2012, filed but did not report any campaign contributions from this year. Brock outspent Shumlin more than 2-to-1, yet still lost. Brock could not be immediately reached for comment about the possibility of a 2014 run.

The lone Republican state officer seeking re-election is Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, who reported $8,500 in contributions.

A handful of Republicans are running for state senate and representatives races.

The deadline for filing to be on the ballot for statewide officers and legislative seats is June 12, according to the Vermont Secretary of State’s office.

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