Political notes from Free Press staff writers Terri Hallenbeck, Sam Hemingway and Nancy Remsen
On to Buel's Gore!
Some might wonder why Democratic Congressional candidate Peter Welch's campaign has scheduled him in for some campaign time Friday morning in Buel's Gore, a pie-shaped wedge of remote countryside tucked in between Starksboro and Fayston.
After all, the place has a population of 8 and is so obscure it's never been organized into an official town.
Still, that's where Welch and his trusty canine companion, Pepper, will be on Friday, although spotting a voter there may be tougher than spotting deer and who knows if any of them -- the people, that is, not the deer -- might be pro-Welch or even likely voters.
Why is he doing this? Well, it turns out that when Welch sets foot in Buel's Gore, he will have offiically visited every one of the state's 251 "communities." He spent part of Thursday dropping by Roxbury and Braintree, plus will hit Huntington Friday morning on his way to the 251 finish line in Buel's Gore.
Welch, at a press conference earlier this week, was chortling about his visits to various zero population meccas like Lewis and Ferdinand last weekend. "It was great campaigning out there in the woods. I know Pepper liked it," he said.
Carolyn Dwyer, Welch's campaign manager, said the idea of going to all 251 communities was a staff decision. She said occasionally a staffer riding with Welch would get lost and Team Welch would find itself in Massachusetts or Canada, and that in some of the more obscure ones, finding voters was particularly tough. He really did manage to meet voters in every single one of the 251 communities, Dwyer reported.
BTW, if you can't make it to Buel's Gore on Friday, you can take a virtual ride with the candidate via a slide show of Welch's wanderings that is slated to go up on his Web site the same day.
-- Sam Hemingway
At the fair
Steve May and Tiki Archambeau were sitting at the Vermont Progressive Party booth at the Champlain Valley Fair, shooting the breeze about Vermont politics, when a man passing by offered up these words of advice, "You need somebody for governor." He thought a Prog should be running for U.S. House too.
The man claimed not to know too much about the details of what goes on politically, but he nailed two offices for which the Progressives aren't fielding candidates.
Politics is alive and well at the fair. Candidates stroll the midway (Democratic congressional candidate Peter Welch and Democratic U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy will be there Thursday afternoon). Party booths dot the exhibition halls, among booths selling mops and birdhouses. Just about every candidate for anything has a brochure for the taking. Stacks of lawn signs and piles of buttons beckon.
You won't see many bumper stickers, though. Bumper stickers are an undercover operation. Because the fair people don't want you slapping them all over the tilt-a-whirl, you can only get a bumper sticker if you promise to tuck it away until you get back to your bumper. It's almost as stringent a process as adopting a dog from the pound.
Fair-goers stroll among the booths, trying to decide whether they want to watch a cooking demonstration or check out the hot tubs. Most of those who stop at a political booth are supporters just looking to share a comment with someone who's like-minded. Not too many people come by purely seeking to be enlightened about health-care reform.
That doesn't mean there isn't lively political banter going on. Burlington Republican Kevin Ryan approached the Progressive booth. The Progs and Ryan don't have a lot in common politically, except that they all love to talk politics. So the conversation was rapid and fluid.
What was on Ryan's mind was the Sunday New York Times article that mentioned IDX Corp. in the same breath as insider trading. He's been looking into it and doesn't buy the accusations.
Out on the midway, at Bernie Sanders' booth, out-of-staters who seemly vaguely familiar with the frizzy-haired independent congressman asked if he was a state senator or what. Sanders, of course, hopes most Vermonters know that he is running for U.S. Senate. Some of his help, though, is coming from out of state.
John Emerson and Alyssa Puretz, who were staffing the Sanders booth, both moved here recently - she from Los Angeles, he from Texas. Emerson is a retiree who said he moved to Vermont specifically to live in state where he could be represented by Sanders. "I love the guy," he said. Emerson's previous congressman in Texas? Tom DeLay.
Parties tap into new and old supporters to keep the booths staffed throughout the fair. Agnes Clift of South Burlington, candidate for state Senate, was pulling a shift at the Vermont Republican Party booth. Rep. Ira Trombley of South Hero was doing the same at the Democratic booth.
Sometimes, they discovered, people are more apt to approach the booths and the spreads of candidate brochures when no one is standing there. They might be curious, but they don't want to commit to a conversation. Or, heaven knows, put their phone numbers on a list.
The network of booths inside the halls at the fair is a tad confusing. Before you know it you find yourself in a room with a bunch of oven mitts and aprons. That's how T.J. Donovan, Democratic candidate for Chittenden County state's attorney, wound up standing in front of the Republican Party booth asking where the Democrats' booth was. We'll never know if they would have sent him on a wild goose chase because I led him to his destination.
Donovan, who is in a three-way primary, said he wasn't sure the fair was the best place for him to campaign. How many fair-goers on a Wednesday afternoon live in Chittenden County and will vote in the Democratic primary, he wondered. Nonetheless, he scrambled to leave his legal work and put in his shift at the booth, where opponent Ted Kenney's brochures were prominently displayed.
All's fair in politics.
- Terri Hallenbeck
More and more of our politicians are catching onto this strategy, though they will undoubtedly discover its diminishing returns. When scheduling press conferences, some of them are particularly conscious of how they might best make sure the media will show up. And some have discovered that if they time it close - but not too close - to another event the media is likely to cover, they'll get better results.
Thus we have at least four press conferences planned for tomorrow in Montpelier. Gov. Jim Douglas has his regular presser at 10:30 a.m. Much of the Vermont media usually attends these. Republican U.S. House candidate Mark Shepard smartly scheduled a press conference for 12:30 p.m. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Scudder Parker set his for 9:30 a.m. Planned Parenthood squeezed its in for 11 a.m.
Smart planning on all their parts. Collectively, however, it might very well backfire. It might not seem like there's any work to this, but the reality is that us humble members of the media can only write/broadcast so many stories in a given day. Not to mention that the public can only take so much in a given day.
Here's your turn to weigh in. Which would be the best news story?
1. Whatever the governor says?
2. Mark Shepard's comments on parental notification?
3. Scudder Parker's comments on the cost of living in Vermont?
4. Planned Parenthood's "Pro-Choice Pledge" signing ceremony for candidates.
5. Some other off-the-radar story?
- Terri Hallenbeck
Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., was running a little late for a Wednesday morning press conference at the Radio Deli in Burlington but then, he isn't running for office this year.
Still, when he finally arrived and called to order a meeting of what he hopes will be Vermont's congressional delegation in 2007, he sounded as much like a candidate on the stump as the other members of this years Democrats' congressional dream team --Senate candidate Bernie Sanders and House candidate Peter Welch.
Asked what he made of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's remark earlier this week that compared critics of the Iraq war to appeasers of fascists and Nazis prior to World War II, Leahy could barely contain his anger.
"I was outraged by what he had to say," fumed Leahy, his face reddening. "I wish someone in the Bush administration would read a history book." Moments later, he added, "This was pretty stupid! To suggest, as this administration does over and over again, that if people question what they’re doing, then somehow we’re unpatriotic."
Leahy also said it's become clear to him now that President Bush wanted to invade Iraq before 9/11, and that may explain why the administration diverted its attention from trying to capture Osama Bin Laden to go after Saddam Hussein instead.
Sanders said he wants the real reasons why Bush went into Iraq investigated, and vowed that will happen if Republicans no longer have "rubber stamp" control of Congress. Welch said it was an insult to the troops serving in Iraq that the Bush administration seems more interested in castigating war critics than figuring out a policy that extricates us from Iraq.
Ouch! And, oh yes, the three were all in favor of raising the federal minimum wage, the stated purpose of the press conference.
More details are in about next week's visit of Barbara Bush, the erstwhile first lady. Perhaps she is the grand-first lady. She'll be appearing at the Sheraton in South Burlington for a Sept. 6 noon-time reception in support of Republican U.S. House candidate Martha Rainville.
$125 gets an attendee into the general reception. $1,000 gets a couple in to the private reception with the first President Bush's wife, mother of the current President Bush.
If it's anything like first lady Laura Bush's reception in May, attendees should not equate a finger-foods reception with lunch, no matter that it is happening at lunch time. Overheard on the way out of the Laura Bush event: "So where do you want to eat?"
- Terri Hallenbeck
It was the first day of school in a brand-new school year at Johnson State College on Monday. Students sat with unspoiled notebooks in front of them. Probably had barely moved into their dorm rooms. But professor Bill Doyle had his Campaigns and Elections class whipped into shape already.
Doyle, the 80-year-old who practices political science as a Republican representing Washington County in the state Senate and then teaches political science at Johnson State for his real job, told his students that part of their requirement for the course is to ask questions. Ask they did. Not a bad question in the whole bunch. As someone who has asked her fair share of bad questions I am qualified to judge such things.
These mostly young adults wanted to know about ethics and farming and federal spending. They've seen the candidates' television ads and they wanted to know why they said what they did and why they didn't said what they didn't.
Hopefully, they will not lose their verve for questioning candidates because every Monday for the next eight weeks they will be hosting a slate of candidates for some office or another. The best part of it all is the public is welcome to sit and watch. A couple from Williston was doing just that Monday. Doyle might make you introduce yourself, but he will also make you welcome.
Here's the rest of the schedule. All are at 4:30 p.m. in the Ellsworth Room on the second floor of the Johnson State library building:
Sept. 4: Democratic lieutenant governor candidates Matt Dunne and John Tracy.
Sept. 11: Secretary of State candidates Deb Markowitz (D) and Cheryl Moomey (R).
Sept. 18: Lamoille County state Senate candidates Susan Bartlett (D) and Jim Black (R).
Sept. 25: State auditor candidates Randy Brock (R), Tom Salmon (D) and Martha Abbott (P).
Oct. 2: Lt. gov. candidates Brian Dubie (R), Dr. Marvin Malek, (P) and the winner of the Democratic primary.
Oct. 16: U.S. Senate candidates Bernie Sanders (I) and the winner of the Republican primary.
Oct. 23: U.S. House candidates Peter Welch (D) and the winner of the Republican primary.
Oct. 30: Gubernatorial candidates Jim Douglas (R) and Scudder Parker (D).
- Terri Hallenbeck
Read about reaction to the New York Times story that mentioned U.S. Senate candidate's IDX Corp. in a story about insider stock-trading, in Tuesday's Free Press.
Chittenden Senate primary shrinks
Both the Republican and Democratic parties have enough candidates to generate a primary race for the six-seat Chittenden County state Senate district. The Republican primary, however, just got a little less competitive.
Candidate Darren Adams enlisted in the Marines yesterday and the 31-year-old rescue squad chief from Milton won't be actively campaigning for the primary. His name will still be on the ballot, but that leaves six candidates interested in the six seats for the November general election.
Adams said he had to seek a waiver to enlist at his ripe old age of 31, but he regretted not going into the military when he was younger, and said the time is right for him now. He starts boot camp in the fall, and has enlisted for four years.
- Terri Hallenbeck
Nod from Dodd
U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd, the Connecticut Democrat, came to Burlington on Thursday morning to campaign for Democratic congressional candidate Peter Welch.
At lightly attended news conference at the College & Lake street Atrium, Dodd gave Welch the nod. Dodd said he has met Welch several times and heard a lot about him from the senator who has the office next to his in Washington - one Patrick Leahy. Though Dodd hasn't met Welch's Republican opponents, he said Welch is his choice. "I just know I've got a first-class individual in Peter Welch," he said.
The gathering focused on the subject of education. Dodd serves on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, with Vermont's other senator, Jim Jeffords.
With Dodd and several members of the Vermont education community behind him, Welch called for making education more affordable, reforming the No Child Left Behind Act, and increasing math, science and language education. Welch crticitized the "Republican Congress" for cutting higher education aid and placing unfunded mandates on local schools with NCLB.
You won't likely see much disagreement on any of this from Welch's Republican opponents, Martha Rainville and Mark Shepard. They all say NCLB mandates are not a good fit for small, rural schools in Vermont. They all decry the cost of a college education. They all think we need to do more in the way of math and science education.
How do voters distinguish between them on this issue? Welch goes back to his main mantra to answer that question. He will support a congressional leadership that will restore funding for education. "If we're going to restore that funding, we have to have new leadership," he said.
Rainville hopes more moderate Republicans will be elected to Congress this fall, campaign spokesman Brendan McKenna said. "She's very hopeful that the mid-term elections will give the moderates a stronger voice in the Republican Party," he said.
Dodd, by the way, is caught in the middle of a thorny situation in Connecticut. He supported his seatmate, Sen. Joe Lieberman, in the recent primary election there, right up until Lieberman lost to Ned Lamont (who was in Burlington last week to raise money for Democracy for America). Now, Dodd is supporting Lamont and will campaign for him this fall, he said. He's among those who've asked Lieberman not to run as an independent, but he doesn't expect Lieberman to follow that advice.
The other first lady
Barbara Bush, wife of the first President Bush, will be coming to Vermont on Sept. 6 to campaign for Republican congressional candidate Martha Rainville. This will be the second Mrs. Bush to travel to Vermont on Rainville's behalf. Current first lady Laura Bush came to a fund-raiser at the Inn at Essex in May.
Word of the new visit started seeping out last night after Rainville campaign aide Judy Shailor sent out an e-mail to supporters.
Details of time and place are still being worked out.
- Terri Hallenbeck
Bernie Sanders has made a point of playing above the fray in his television advertising over the years. So when his campaign on Tuesday unveiled Bernie's first attack ad since the ugly 1990 contest with then Rep. Peter Smith, R-Vt., it got everyone's attention.
Here's what Sanders had to say about Rich Tarrant's ads alleging Sanders was soft on drug dealers and child pornographers.
"I'm Bernie Sanders and I approved this message because dishonest ads should not be part of Vermont politics. For months my opponent Rich tarrant has been spending millions telling us about himself. Well, it's his money and he can spend it if he wants to. But he has no right to distort my record or what I stand for. I can't match his money ad for ad. But I'll let the truth speak for itself. I trust you to use your good judgment. Please go to my website and check the facts. [www.bernie.org] Thanks for listening."
Not exactly ruthless as "attack" ads go, but effective.
That would also describe the 1990 ad Sanders made late in the campaign against Smith, who had accused Bernie of being a tax dodger, cozy with Communists and nauseated in 1960 by the election of John F. Kennedy.
Here's the text from the 1990 ad, issued just a week before Election Day.
"There are enormous challenges facing our country -- health care, the growing gap between rich and poor, the crisis of our environment. The list is a long one. It saddens me that my opponent, finding himself behind in the polls, is now resorting to the most negative and dishonest television advertising in 1990 this state has ever seen ... I've run a positive and honest campaign, and that's the way I'll represent you in Congress."
Sounds a bit like the one Sanders released Tuesday, doesn't it. BTW, the 1990 ad nailed Smith, but good. Sanders had a single-digit lead in the polls when the ad was released, but won a week later by 16 percentage points.
Rainville takes to air
Republican congressional candidate Martha Rainville will start airing her first television ads today. The campaign is spending about $52,000 to air the 30-second television ad and a separate but similar radio ad over local airwaves for the next week and a half, campaign manager Nathan Rice said.
The ad, which shows Rainville in a dark wood office setting with the U.S. and Vermont flags behind her, emphasizes her appeal for a "clean campaign." She pledges to "set a new standard for the rest of America."
"I'm running a different kind of campaign that respects my opponent and respects you," Rainville says in the ad. "I've proposed and signed a clean campaign pledge. No negative ads or mail that tear down my opponent. And no guilt by association."
Rainville said she chose not to start with an introduction-to-the-candidate ad because she thinks Vermonters already know her from her role as head of the Vermont National Guard the last nine years. This clean campaign push, she said, is fundamental to her candidacy. "The first ad should reflect what I feel is fundamental to the campaign," she said.
Her Democratic opponent, Peter Welch, has maintained that the clean campaign pledge is flawed. The pledge included a commitment to spend no more than $1 million on the campaign, counting what others spend on the candidate's behalf. Rainville can't legally control what outside forces will do, Welch has said, so there is no way to ensure the national party, for instance, wouldn't drop a few hundred thousands dollars the last week of the campaign.
After seeing the ad Wednesday, Welch's campaign spokesman, Andrew Savage, said, "This ad shows a clear distinction in this race. Peter Welch believes the most important issue is whether we are going to take our country in a new direction and Martha Rainville thinks the most important issue is whether or not she runs a 'clean campaign.' Vermonters are looking for a real leader who will fight to take Congress in a new direction, not more boiler-plate political pledges to distract from addressing failed Republican policies."
Reaction was similar from Rainville's Republican opponent, Mark Shepard. "I've never been very impressed with that being the main part of the campaign," he said. "It's isn't something I hear people clamoring for. They want health care, jobs. They worry about the economy."
Defining negative could turn out to be a matter of disagreement as the campaign season goes on. Rainville said she will be talking about opponents' voting record and will feature fact-based statements about opponents. "That is all fair," she said.
Rainville said her opposition has been negative toward her. "I think there have been some pot shots," she said. She declined to specify or characterize those pot shots. The voters, she said, will define what is negative.
- Terri Hallenbeck
Republican Senate candidate Rich Tarrant has no problem writing $450,000 checks to his self-financed Senate campaign. For a while, it seemed like he was penning a check for another 450Gs to his campaign warchest every two weeks. Then, after his investment in Tarrant for Senate reached $4.35 million on June 15, the checks stopped coming.
A sign he was running out of dough? Hardly. An indication he was discouraged by polling showing him still far behind the incumbent-apparent, Bernie Sanders. Not so, said his staffers.
Any skepticism about Tarrant's will to win based on the pace of money he was investing in his campaign was silenced this week with the revelation that, in the last seven days, he wrote not one but two checks for $450,000, bringing the Tarrant total campaign donation to $5.25 million. It's all there in his Federal Election Commission file http://query.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/fecimg/?C00412825
Why the lull? Tarrant campaign manager Tim Lennon said the campaign had slacked off on taking in Tarrant checks over the summer so it would have a minimal amount of money on hand on primary day, Sept. 12. When some new bills came due, it was decided to get some of Rich's riches switched over to the campaign coffers. Other than that, everything is steady-as-she-goes on the good ship Tarrant.
"We're still on plan," Lennon said Tuesday. "Everything is going according to plan."
If you were looking for high drama, the first Martha Rainville-Mark Shepard debate was not the place to find it. The two candidates sat side by side in the Channel 17 studios in Burlington this morning. Radio talk show host Mark Johnson delivered the questions.
If, however, you thought all politicians are the same, the two did show differences. Among them:
Rainville is more supportive of how the war is going in Iraq.
Shepard is more inclined toward privatizing Social Security.
She is pro-choice on abortion. He is against it.
He is angry that the political parties have locked in their support for candidates before the primary (i.e. the Vermont Republican Party chose Rainville). She expressed no problem with it.
She supports Medicare Part D, which offers prescription drug insurance to seniors. He says the government can't afford it, and the program has not solved the soaring cost of drugs.
He doesn't think there should be a law limiting congressional terms. She said it's something she's considering.
The two will meet again Monday afternoon in front of state Sen. Bill Doyle's Johnson State College political science class and then on VPR's Switchboard on Sept. 4.
_ Terri Hallenbeck
Not all of the candidates are eager to acknowledge it, but there is a primary coming up in just a few short weeks. That means voters have just 22 days to sink their teeth into who's really running for what and who they should vote for. A handful of forums this week will help them do that:
Channel 17, the public access station in Burlington, and WDEV radio in Waterbury (AM 550 & FM 96.1) will air a debate between Republican U.S. House candidates Martha Rainville and Mark Shepard at 9 a.m.
Channel 17 has scheduled a debate of Democratic U.S. Senate candidates for 6 p.m. Not all of the candidates will take part, however. Bernie Sanders, the independent who allowed his name to be placed on the Democratic ballot and has the support of the Democratic Party officials but will decline the nomination if he wins it, will not be there, spokesman Paul Hortenstine said. The other Democrats running for the seat are Craig Hill, Peter Moss and Louis Thabault.
Democratic lieutenant governor candidates Matt Dunne and John Tracy will debate on Channel 17 and WDEV radio at 9 a.m.
Republican U.S. Senate candidates (Rich Tarrant and Greg Parke) will follow at 10 a.m.
At 6 p.m. on Channel 17, the slate of Democratic state's attorney candidates in Chittenden County will square off, followed by the Republican attorney general candidates.
Wait, there's more. Dunne and Tracy will again meet on Vermont Public Radio's Switchboard at 7 p.m.
CCTV's schedule: http://www.cctv.org/index.php?SiteAlias=cctv&PageAlias=CH17_Debates
- Terri Hallenbeck
Chicken joins Tarrant campaign
There have been spaghetti suppers and cookouts, nearly nonstop television commercials and political lawn signs that appeared with the dandelions rather than the falling leaves.
What's next in Republican Rich Tarrant's blitz to get Vermonters' attention for his campaign to upset Independent Bernie Sanders' plan to move from the U.S House to the U.S. Senate? (which assumes that Tarrant defeats fellow Republican Greg Parke in the Sept. 12 primary)
A guy in a chicken costume.
"In a fun way, we want to make sure Congressman Sanders is accoutable for his record," said Tim Lennon, Tarrant's campaign manager. The chicken, named "Bernie," will begin making appearances around the state -- independent of Tarrant.
So what' the significance of the chicken? It has nothing to do with confusing Congressman Sanders with Colonel Sanders of fried chicken fame, although they do have that white hair in common. Rather, Lennon said, the chicken image is supposed to suggest that Sanders is "chicken" to talk about his record in Congress.
The Sanders campaign said the chicken stunt sounded a lot like the Republican National Party's "Flipper," a guy dressed in a dolphin suit who would show up at the 2004 campaign events of Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry.
"Richard Tarrant is trying to masquerade as an independent," said Paul Hortenstine, Sanders' campaign spokesman, "but it is like they are following the tactics of the National Republican party."
DFA: Ned's devine
You've probably heard that Ned Lamont, the guy who last week knocked off three-term Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut Senate primary that politicos are still buzzing about, is coming to town. He'll be in Burlington Friday night to headline a fundraiser for Democracy for America, the grassroots party organizing operation that spun off from Howard Dean's presidential campaign after his bid for the White House crashed and burned.
At first glance, it seems odd that a guy who hasn't even been elected to anything yet is already going out on the road to do fundraising gigs for others, but it all makes sense the more you know about Lamont.
First off, he owes DFA bigtime for its help in his primary campaign. If you don't believe it, check out Lamont's gushing praise for DFA just two weeks before his big win. To hear, and see, him tell it, he couldn't have defused Joe-mentum without DFA's help. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0p6QMatwUio&mode=related&search
DFA, it seems, was the first group to endorse Lamont and the first to drop serious money on him. DFA's Tom Hughes tells us DFA gave Lamont $100,000 for his primary effort, more than any other DFA-backed candidate this election cycle. Hughes also said DFA staffers emptied out of the DFA headquarters the last two weeks to go to Connecticut to knock on doors for Lamont.
Reason Number 2? It seems Lamont has a soft spot for Vermont. In his speeches on the stump, he often mentions the time spent editing the now-defunct Black River Tribune in Ludlow after he graduated from Harvard in 1976 and before going to Yale's School of Management for his master's degree in 1980.
Lamont says his time in the Green Mountain State gave him “real world experience” and the opportunity to see small-town democracy in action. “I came away with an appreciation for what a difference good government can make,” he is quoted as saying in the April issue of the New Journal, a Yale University periodical. For more, check www.yale.edu/tnj/content/apr06/profile
The Friday DFA event featuring Lamont will be at 6 p.m. at the Main Street Landing Co. in Burlington. It's $50 a head for the reception, probably a lot more to attend the private dinner afterward. For more info on that, go to www.dfalink.com/lamont
-- Sam Hemingway
U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., will make a return trip to Vermont next month, though this is not necessarily a makeup visit for the one thwarted by bad weather last month.
McCain will be the special guest at the Vermont Republican Party fall dinner Sept. 17, an event GOP Chairman Jim Barnett hopes will bring in $50,000 from party faithful.
McCain was supposed to come to Rutland on July 22 to campaign for U.S. House candidate Martha Rainville, but stormy skies prevented his plane from landing. Rainville said she hoped to have McCain back for another visit.
The Sept. 17 appearance is a different kind of visit, though. Barnett said he's been working with McCain's people for about a year in an effort to bring him here for the annual dinner. Instead of being open to the public, this is open to those who pay at least $100. Instead of campaigning just for Rainville, McCain will be surrounded by the whole party. Around the same time, McCain will be in nearby Loudon, N.H., campaigning for the presidency while cars zip around around a track.
Rainville is glad to have him back and showing her support, campaign spokesman Brendan McKenna said. Whether she will get her own McCain visit is unclear, though.
- Terri Hallenbeck
Cool, awesome, powerful women
Matt Dunne, Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, basked Tuesday in the praise of seven "cool, awesome, powerful women."
Dunne, who faces John Tracy in a Democratic primary election on Sept. 12, brought his campaign to Tracy's backyard -- downtown Burlington. Standing in the same atrium where Tracy kicked off his campaign, Dunne happily accepted endorsements from seven women who don't need much introduction, especially in Chittenden County. "Women for Dunne" included former Gov. Madeleine Kunin, Barbara Grimes, general manager of the Burlington Electric Co., former Chittenden County state Sen. Janet Munt, artists Sabra Field and Peggy Kennenstine, downtown Burlington developer Melinda Moulton and Eileen Blackwood, a Burlington civil rights lawyer.
-- Nancy Remsen
Welch to air ad #2
Democratic U.S. House candidate Peter Welch will start airing his second television ad today. The campaign has purchased $30,000 in ads this week on WCAX, WPTZ and local cable, spokesman Andrew Savage said.
This ad features the acting debut of Pepper, Welch's dog, who is shown riding with the candidate as he tours Vermont. (Don't tell the sergeant-at-arms, but Pepper is the dog who sometimes hunkered down in the pro tem's office in the Statehouse but was wise enough not to bark and give away his presence.)
"Send a Republican to Washington and you'll give George Bush one more vote in Congress and get the same failed policies on health care and energy prices. Send me and we're going to take America in a new direction," Welch says in the ad, before telling Pepper to move out of the driver's seat.
The ad, like Welch's first one that featured his late wife, Joan Smith, is clearly meant to show Welch at his most human. The ad is supposed to be up on the campaign Web site later today: http://welchforcongress.com
Republican opponent Martha Rainville's campaign has a canine mascot too. Campaign aide Judy Shailor's dog, Brutus, patrols campaign headquarters.
Vermonters can expect TV ads from Rainville, but spokesman Brendan McKenna said he couldn't say when. Whether Brutus will make the footage, well, that's probably unlikely.
_ Terri Hallenbeck
Along the road
After about the 15th Ralph Misquez for sheriff sign as I traveled the roads of eastern New Mexico last week, it dawned on me - again - how different Vermont is.
It had become plenty clear to me by then that there was quite a race going for sheriff in Dona Ana County, by the quantity and size of the signs along the road. Yet, these signs also blended in with the surroundings - the unfettered sprawl with looming fast-food restaurant signs and hotel billboards. It was hard to imagine that there'd be any hue and cry in New Mexico over the size of Ralph Misquez's signs when they weren't quite as large as Wendy's, nor any more prevalent.
_ Terri Hallenbeck
There's only a handful of electric cars in Vermont, but to see the way Bernie Sanders and Scudder Parker are all charged up on this issue, you'd think the electric car vote was the key to winning the election this fall.
This week, we saw dueling announcements from the Sanders and Parker camps proudly disclosing how their guy will play host to special showings of the movie "Who Killed the Electric Car" at the Roxy Theater in Burlington. The showings will also serve as separate fundraising events for Sanders, who is running for the Senate, and Parker, who is running for governor.
"Bernie will introduce the movie and speak with the crowd for both showings," boasts a press release from Northern Democracy for America. The group, begun by Howard Dean after his presidential campaign went kaput, has been a bigtime Sanders supporter.
"Scudder will lead an expert panel of speakers to discuss som of the most pressing transportation, energy, environmental and political issues of our time," a statement from the Parker campaign said.
As for the movie, it portrays how the car was developed and how General Motors cut the legs out from under the proejct before it got a chance to succeed.
It looks like Sanders got to the starting line on this fundraising idea before Parker did.
Sanders' night at the Roxy will be Aug. 11, this Friday, with showings at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Parker's event is a week later, Aug. 18, at the same times.
Another week, another poll. This week's poll, by Rasmussen Reports, puts the leaders in Vermont's Senate and governor's races farther ahead of their closest rivals than the American Research Group survey had them, but not dramatically so. Rasmussen didn't poll the state's nip-and-tuck House race, but by Monday afternoon, they were acknowledging that next time they poll the state, they'll be checking in on that race, too.
Actually, The most interesting stuff in the Rasmussen poll were the answers Vermonters gave when asked a series of questions about their views on a couple of cultural issues and the state of politics in our country today. Here's some treats from the Rasmussen menu of questions.
The most important issue in this election?
Economy 32 percent
Immigration 8 percent
Government corruption 12 percent
National security 13 percent
War in Iraq 25 percent
Same-sex marriage 1 percent
Some other issue 8 percent
Not sure 2 percent
Confidence that ballots are properly counted?
Very confident 29 percent
Somewhat confident 36 percent
Not very confident 22 percent
Not confident at all 11 percent
Not sure 2 percent
Are large numbers of eligible voters being prevented from voting?
Yes 28 percent
No 40 percent
Not sure 32 percent
Is American political system badly broken?
Yes 63 percent
No 24 percent
Not sure 12 percent
Should marriage be defined as a union between a man and woman, or just between two people?
Between man and woman 44 percent
Between any two people 49 percent
Not sure 7 percent
Do you believe the Bible is literally true?
Yes 22 percent
No 59 percent
Not sure 18 percent
On the abortion issue, are you pro-choice or pro-life?
Pro-choice 68 percent
Pro-life 24 percent
Not sure 8 percent
How early was Martha Rainville thinking about stepping down as adjutant general of the Vermont National Guard and possibly running for political office?
The conventional wisdom is that it was sometime last year, either before or after Senator James Jeffords announced he would not seek re-election in 2006.
Now comes informaton that suggests that she was toying with the idea of elective office a lot earlier than that, like two years earlier.
The evidence? Her own remarks to the Free Press Editorial Board on Tuesday and the fact that she registered the martharainville.com domain name on the Internet on July 21, 2003, about 20 months before Jeffords' retirement announcement caused an earthquake on Vermont's political landscape. Martharainville.com is now the Web site for her GOP House campaign.
Rainville, talking with the Freeps editorial board, acknowledged she always thought she'd pursue a career in "public service" after her days were done as adjutant general, but didn't know when that might happen, or what form it would take.
Asked after the meeting by yours truly about her motives behind creating martharainville.com of the Vermont National Guard, she explained she took the step on the advice of her son, who told her about how some people make it their business to buy up Web sites named after prominent people and then sell the site back to the person at an exorbitant price later on.
"I knew I wouldn't be adjutant general forever," she told me. "I thought I might run for office some time, or go on the lecture circuit, and I knew I wanted my name protected."
She insisted she wasn't thinking about a particular elective office in 2003 when she plunked down the $25 to establish martharainville.com, which would remain dormant until her exploratory committee took form last year.
Vermont Democratic Party staffers, who were the ones who first stumbled on the info that the origins of her Web site pre-date her entry into politics by two years, told me they're uncomfortable with her explanation, particularly the timing of when martharainville.com was created.
"At a time our soldiers were fighting for our country in Iraq and risking their lives, the fact that Martha Rainville was contemplating her future political career was a disservice," said Andy Bouska, a staffer for the Ds.
The first independent political poll of Vermont's top three races created quite the buzz this week, especially the numbers that showed Democrat Scudder Parker making inroads into Republican Gov. Jim Douglas' lead and Republican candidate Rich Tarrant doing the same to Independent Bernie Sanders' lead in the Senate race.
The poll by American Research Group of Manchester, N.H. took hits from unhappy backers of Douglas and Sanders, who insist their internal polls show their guy with bigger leads than what ARG had. Funny that Sanders and Douglas folks found themselves singing from the same hymnal, eh?
In any case, we asked ARG for a closer look at the "cross-tabs" -- the numbers behind the numbers -- to try to divine what's going on here.
What the data shows is that Tarrant is making headway with the over 65 crowd, perhaps because of those ads alleging Sanders' form of health care reform will hurt seniors, something Sanders adamantly denies. Have a look at how the support breaks down by age group in the Senate race, according to ARG:
Sanders Tarrant Undecided/Other
18-24 67 22 12
25-44 56 36 7
45-64 56 33 10
65 and over 48 44 9
In the governor's race, Douglas seems to be having the most problem with the "boomer" set. To wit,
Douglas Parker Undecided/Other
18-24 47 33 20
25-44 46 37 16
45-64 45 41 13
65 and over 53 27 20
As for the House race, the age group breakdown between Democrat Peter Welch and Republican Martha Rainville shows no pattern, at least as far as we can tell. Here it is.
Rainville Welch Undecided/Other
18-24 47 37 17
25-44 43 41 16
45-64 38 44 18
65 and over 48 40 12
-- Sam Hemingway