- Associated Press - Monday, October 27, 2014

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - Republican U.S. House candidate Mark Donka says he’s much better organized this year in his re-match against Democratic incumbent Peter Welch but recognizes the $10,000 to $15,000 he expects to spend can’t match Welch’s $1.6 million war chest.

Yet he’s still determined to give Vermont voters an alternative to four-term congressman Welch, who political experts say holds a safe seat.

Donka, 57, of Hartford, is a full-time Woodstock police officer working a four-day week of 10-hour night shifts, which gives him time during the day to campaign on his theme of the federal budget deficit.

“It is difficult,” Donka said Monday of his campaign. “I don’t have the luxury that my opponent has; he’s in Congress, he gets a five-week break, basically to campaign.”

Welch said Monday he’s continuing to work with congressional Republicans as part of his goal of breaking the gridlock and improving the lives of middle class citizens. He said he doesn’t know why he isn’t being challenged by a well-funded opponent.

“I’d like to think people see me as doing a good job and focused on Vermont as opposed to partisanship,” Welch said.

Welch was first elected to Congress in 2006 after many years of service in the Vermont Legislature. Donka first ran for Congress two years ago after a nudge from fellow Republicans. He bested two opponents in the August primary for another shot at Welch. There are four other candidates on the ballot as well.

Two years ago Welch received 72 percent of the vote while Donka won 23 percent.

As in 2012, Donka said his most important issue is the federal deficit.

“I don’t think the country is going in the right direction,” Donka said. “I believe we’re going further and further in debt.”

He doesn’t have the money for television ads, although he will be running a radio ad in the Burlington areas. So he travels Vermont talking to people.

It’s just stopping and talking with business people and farmers across the state.

“We don’t have the money or the ability to, basically, draw big crowds or anything at this point,” he said. “It’s all about getting the name out.”

People are receptive to his message, he said.

“It’s been overwhelming. They’re not happy with what’s going on in Washington. … You’re sick and tired of it. It’s time to vote for somebody different, and most of them have been, ‘You’re right, it is time for a change,’” he said.

Welch understands that people are unhappy with Congress. But he said he’s an anomaly because he works with Republicans.

He said he can be one of the people in Congress who brings back bipartisanship.

“In Vermont we have our tradition of having our disagreements but finding common ground and making progress,” Welch said.

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