Hartland Resident, Google Exec Raises $135KThe …
By Katy Savage, Standard Staff
HARTLAND Shortly after Congressman Peter Welch announced at the end of June that he would not run for governor, Matt Dunne returned from a computer-less vacation in Maine and started dialing old numbers.
He spent an hour a day calling people, asking: What do you think about me running for governor?
At least 75 people thought enough to give him a total of $115,000, according to a July 15 campaign finance report. He s received an additional $20,000 or so since then.
This isn t typical, said the former state senator.
The race for Vermont s next governor is wide open after Gov. Peter Shumlin announced last month that he would not seek another two-year term.
Dunne, 45, of Hartland, is the early fundraising leader.
To him, the early response signals desire for a fresh start.
There was a general feeling that something s not working well in Montpelier, he said.
Dunne s friends in California, Vermont and New Hampshire contributed to his campaign. Some of them include Christopher Brousseau, the global commercial director of Accenture who grew up with Dunne in Hartland, and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, who attended the Putney School in Vermont. One of Dunne s neighbors already has a Dunne sign on his lawn, which appears to be from a previous election.
It s a lot of support for the Google executive, who has spent five years out of the political sphere and has yet to make an official announcement.
We ve been through this before and you don t make an announcement you re running for governor lightly, said Dunne on Sunday afternoon, sitting at his Hartland farmhouse, wearing a Red Sox T-shirt and Carhartt pants.
The financial piece is just one part of it If your skills aren t what s needed then there s no point in running.
He added, I ve got a good job.
Dunne held off soliciting support to make sure Welch wasn t running. He credits Welch for his early exposure to politics.
Dunne remembers standing in front of a dumpster near a local elementary school, passing out fliers for Welch, who was seeking a state senate seat.
After attending Brown University, Dunne returned home. There was an open seat in his home district.
(Welch) said, Matt if you work hard you ll win and he wrote me a check for $50 made out to Matt Dunne for State Representative, Dunne said.
Dunne didn t even have a Matt Dunne for State Representative bank account.
At age 22, he opened an account, knocked on every door in his district and told people he knew nothing, but promised to work hard.
He won the house race by 186 votes and became one of the youngest legislators that year.
Later, in 2003, Dunne became a state senator.
He still looks up to Welch.
He s incredibly smart. He s a very, very good listener. His ability to hear and empathize even with 9 million other things coming at him is a real gift, he said.
Welch made a trip to Woodstock on Monday and strolled through downtown.
Despite pressure from people he met, Welch confirmed that he would not seek the governor s seat.
Dunne also didn t want to run against Miro Weinberger, the mayor of Burlington, who grew up with Dunne in Hartland.
The job he s doing in Burlington, to me, is a model for what needs to happen in Montpelier, Dunne said.
A team mostly made of people in his previous bid for governor in 2010 was waiting for Dunne to give the green light and once he did, they organized themselves.
It didn t take much, just a squint or a nod and all of sudden everybody s calling, said Tig Tillinghast of Thetford. When he got one of those phone calls, he gave $172.11.
Tillinghast and Dunne met more than a decade ago when Dunne was running for his first house race.
Tillinghast believes the future success of the Democratic Party in Vermont relies on its ability to keep old promises.
That s a long-term brand threat for us, he said, which is partly why Tillinghast is supporting Dunne.
I trust Matt most, he said.
Dunne unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor in 2006. Then he ran for governor in 2010.
He was the youngest candidate at 40 years old.
We were the long shot, Dunne said. Nobody really took us seriously until June. We were outspent 3-1.
After Dunne s brother suffered a stroke and nearly died, Dunne pulled out, missing the last of the debates.
We all agree that we got started too late last time, he said.
In 2010 he focused on how to grow a 21st century economy and how to tackle health care.
His thoughts haven t changed much.
In terms of education, he sees a future of more automated learning that makes use of online tools to bring students the best teachers available.
He sees problems with the new education bill, which incentivizes schools to consolidate by offering school districts with at least 900 students grant money and tax benefits.
A number like that isn t necessarily a good match for reality.
I think there s going to be rigidity around that, he said.
He worries about communities that will get left behind.
For economic vitality, he wants to educate small boutiques about e-commerce and support small niche companies like breweries, so they can thrive into something more.
For health care, he wants to focus on small bits of Shumlin s singlepayer initiative, like changing the way providers are funded to incentivize small, low-cost clinics in the community or at the drug store.
We can start reimbursing hospitals for health rather than how many procedures they fit into a fiveminute increment, he said.
Dunne is currently the head of community affairs at Google, where he s been since 2007.
His team has helped build highspeed Internet in rural communities and has made affordable housing investments in communities where Google has a large presence. The team has helped trained thousands of small businesses to market themselves online and trained thousands of low-income women how to code.
He would eventually quit his job if he ran for governor, he said.
His supporters praised his ability to think outside the box.
When Hartland resident Pat Richardson got a phone call from Dunne, the potential gubernatorial candidate said he was hoping to raise $40,000.
If that s true he certainly exceeded his expectations, said Richardson, who has known Dunne since he was born.
She contributed $750.
He s an old pal. I ve kind of been following his career since he was a young man.
I think he s full of great ideas.
I thought, why not get this horse in the race, said Woodstock resident Christopher Lloyd, who contributed $500.
I wanted to give him a boost, said Lloyd, who received a call from a friend of Dunne s.
Peggy Kannenstine of Woodstock was in charge of Dunne s fundraising in 2010.
She isn t sure what capacity she ll serve in this time if Dunne decides to run.
I know he cares a great deal about the health of the state himself, she said.
Dunne is cautiously optimistic about the money he s received so far.
It is a proxy for support out there but it s not what Vermonters zero in on, Dunne said.
This article first appeared in the July 23, 2015 edition of the Vermont Standard.