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vt.Buzz ~ a political blog

Political notes from Free Press staff writers Terri Hallenbeck, Sam Hemingway and Nancy Remsen



Demon Dean

Fans of former Gov. Howard Dean might want to avert their eyes from Sunday's edition of the New York Times Magazine.

There's an article in the mag entitled ““Is Howard Dean willing to destroy the Democratic Party in order to save it?” and the scuttlebutt courtesy of this week's issue of Editor & Publisher is that the piece does not look kindly on the onetime presidential candidate and current chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

The NYT article is meant to be a profile on Dean and his efforts to establish a 50-state strategy to expand the party's base and give it a long-range plan for recapturing Congress and the White House. Many Washington-based party leaders aren't simpatico with Dean's vision, however, and he takes his lumps in the piece, written by Matt Bai.

Here's some exerpts, via E&P:
Writing about a Dean visit to Alaska to check on progress in his 50-state strategy, Bai writes “In just a few hours, Dean had nicely demonstrated why so many leading Democrats in Washington wish he would spend even more time in Alaska – preferably hiking the tundra for a few months without a cell phone.”

At another point, Bai notes "At power lunches and private meetings, perplexed Washington Democrats, the kind of people who have lorded over the party apparatus for decades, find themselves pondering the same bewildering questions. What on earth can Howard Dean be thinking? Does he really care about winning in November, or is he after something else?”

Bai thinks not, but sums up Dean's image this way: “Fairly or not, Dean has come to embody a species of Democrat that a lot of Americans of both parties find off-putting -- the 60‘s antiwar liberal, reborn with a laptop and a Prius."

What do you think?

-- Sam Hemingway



Candidates on the wing

The table of candidates at Tuesday night’s congressional debate stretched on for so long it looked like the head table at a very large wedding.

For those of you used to hearing that the race for U.S. House is between Democrat Peter Welch and Republican Martha Rainville, this was a reminder that the ballot will be larger than that. Eight names are on the ballot. Six of them showed in Middlebury for the Vermont Council on World Affairs debate.

The four third-party candidates at the debate had quite a bit in common with each other. None is too happy with George W. Bush. They tended to applaud one another’s comments.

They would make an interesting team together. Dennis Morrisseau of West Pawlet, who dabbled with running as a Republican before becoming an independent under the party name "Impeach Bush Now," was the funny, engaging storyteller. Jane Newton of Londonderry, the Liberty Union candidate, was the quiet (it was until closing comments that she mastered the mic), studious one. Bruce Marshall of Rochester, the Vermont Green candidate, offers intensity. Keith Stern of Springfield, an independent, is the steady, calm one. You’d want him driving the van if they were all to go on the road together.

Chris Karr of East Montpelier, the We the People candidate, and Jerry Trudell of Colchester, an independent, did not attend the debate.

The "wingnut" candidates at the debate, as Morrisseau himself described them, were insightful, intellectual, committed to their cause. They reminded the audience more than once that the main parties have disappointed voters time and again.

"We need change in Washington and it’s not going to come by electing another Republican or another Democrat," Stern said.

More than traditional candidates, these ones can say whatever they please. None did that more than Morrisseau, referring to the vice president as Richard "Darth Vader" Cheney, and pointedly telling Rainville that she most certainly could have stood up against the war in uniform, as he did in Vietnam, if she had wanted to.

Rainville wasn’t the only one who was the target of specific criticism. Newton took on Welch over the state Legislature’s agreement to allow dry cask storage at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

The string of third-party candidates will resurface at some, but not most, of the debates. It takes a long time for six candidates to - one at a time - answer a question. It takes a lot of the "debate" out of a debate. You tend to forget the question by the end, making it even harder than usual to tell whether a candidate is really answering what was asked.

— Terri Hallenbeck



Rich Tarrant might want to avert his eyes from today's edition of The Hill, a must-read newspaper for Washington insiders.

It has a story today that says the track record for candidates who have self-funded their campaigns over the past six years isn't that great.

The story notes that two of the Senate self-funders who won election in 2000, Democrats Jon Corzine of New Jersey and Mark Dayton of Minnesota have since moved on, both disallusioned by their time in the Senate. A third, Democrat Maria Cantwell of Washington, is struggling to win re-election this fall. In all, since 2000 only three of 48 candidates who self-funded their races went on to victory.

The article goes on to say several self-funders are involved in competitive races this year, and the outcome of their contests could determine who owns the Senate after Election Day. But Tarrant, who has dropped $6.1 million on his Senate bid so far this year, is cast as a long-shot in his bid to defeat independent Bernie Sanders.

For the full article, click HERE.

-- Sam Hemingway


Ruthless Pat?

Senator Patrick Leahy isn't running for anything this year, but that doesn't mean he's free of the slings and arrows of Campaign '06.

According to the Republican National Committee's Web site, one reason why Republicans need to retain control of the Senate in November is the prospect of Leahy becoming chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Leahy is identified in the memo, dated Sept. 25, as "ruthless" and a partisan "who will obstruct judicial nominees and weaken tools to fight the war on terror."

“If Dems win control of (the) Senate, the ‘angry,’ ‘most partisan’ Democrat would chair the Senate Judiciary Committee,” the RNC said in a memo included in its America Weakly, a e-mail newsletter sent to out by the party to energize GOP loyalists around the country.

"Sen. Leahy's mission: obstruct and smear qualified judicial nominees," another part of the memo says.The report attacks Leahy for being "wrong on the war on terror" by voting to kill the Patriot Act and for criticizing the domestic surveillance program. It also brings up the 1987 incident where "Leaky" Leahy resigned from the Senate Intelligence Committee for showing a draft report about the Iran-Contra investigation to a reporter.

For a full look at the GOP's four-page anti-Leahy memo, click here.

In a report on the GOP attack on Leahy, the Associated Press also quoted RNC spokesman Josh Holmes saying Leahy was one of a handful of Democrats being targeted by Republicans because “he’s had a reputation of obstructing qualified Republican nominees to the bench.”

Leahy, who has disputed the claim he made it difficult for GOP judge nominees to get confirmed when he was the committee chairman, told AP that Republicans are right to worry about him chairing the panel if Democrats win control of the Senate in November.

“They may be concerned that I might actually ask questions. We may put the attorney general under oath,” Leahy said.


-- Sam Hemingway



Jeffords' farewell

Sen. Jim Jeffords, the erstwhile Republican and now independent from Shrewsbury, said farewell to his colleagues on the Senate floor this morning. Here's the text of his speech:

Mr. President, even a diehard Red Sox fan has to give the devil his due. Probably the most moving moment in the history of baseball was when longtime New York Yankees’ first baseman Lou Gehrig walked on the field to accept the tributes of his fans and teammates. On Independence Day, in 1939, he told the crowd at Yankee Stadium that he considered himself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.

I consider myself pretty lucky, too. I was elected to the House of Representatives in 1974. That was not the best year to be a Republican candidate. Out of an enormous freshman class of 92 new members, which included Chris Dodd and Tom Harkin, only 17 of us were Republicans. And as Chuck Grassley and I walked down the aisle of the House, he with crutches and I with a neck brace, one Democrat muttered: “There’s two we almost got.”

Time has now got just about all of us. With my retirement and that of Henry Hyde in the House, Chuck Grassley next year will become the last remaining member of the Republican class of 1974 -- an Iron Horse in his own right.

The silver lining for me in the electoral losses suffered by the Republicans was the chance to land senior positions on the agriculture and education subcommittees that would quickly throw me into the thick of things. Throughout my career in the House, I focused on these two areas.

In 1988, with the retirement of Bob Stafford, I ran for and won a seat in the United States Senate. Senator Stafford was a tough act to follow. He had held just about every office in the state of Vermont, and had an enormous impact on federal policy in education, the environment, and elsewhere.

I was lucky when I got to the Senate that there were openings on both the education and the environment committees. And early on, I learned what the Senate can be at its best. In 1989, Congress was in the midst of reauthorizing the Clean Air Act. Even though I was a freshman, the door was open for anyone who had the time and interest.

As John Chafee, George Mitchell and the rest of us forged a strong renewal of the Clean Air Act, I realized these were the moments I enjoyed most: when smart, committed people worked together to solve tough problems and improve the lot of Americans. Every year since has provided similar moments, from rebuilding our roads to rewriting our food and drug laws.

Probably the biggest and most rewarding challenge for me has been in the area of education. From my first year in the House, when we enacted the Education of the Handicapped Act, to the work that continues today on the Higher Education Act, I’ve tried to do my best to ensure that every child is given the opportunity to reach his or her potential.

There is plenty of work left to be done to reach this goal, and nowhere is that more true than here in the District of Columbia. A decade ago Congress stepped in to try to help the District resolve the problems plaguing its overall budget and its schools in particular, and as chair of the DC appropriations subcommittee, I helped lead the effort.

The city is to be commended for its record of fiscal responsibility in the years since, and I hope the Superintendent, the new Mayor, the Council, and the School Board will be able to make similar progress in improving the city’s school system.

While Vermont has always been home, I have lived in the District of Columbia since coming to Washington. Luckily, I have never lost the ability to be moved by the sight of the Capitol Dome. Its majesty struck me when I first came to Washington, and it still does today.

Under that Dome, and in the buildings around it, work thousands of good people. We are all privileged to work with a whole host of people who get too little recognition -- from the person recording my words, to the people who will put them in the Congressional Record while we sleep -- not always easy tasks in my case.

Ours, too, is not always an easy task. I know it is hard for the public to understand the reality of life in Congress, but the continual travel, the campaigns, and the unpredictable hours of our jobs can take a toll on families.

I have been blessed with two wonderful children, Laura and Leonard; and a feisty, funny, and incredibly strong wife, Liz. They have had to put up with an awful lot over the years so that I could serve Vermont.

Three decades is the blink of an eye to history, but what a tremendous period of change in our country and the world. When I came to Washington, we were only three decades removed from the Second World War. My childhood heroes were the heroes of that war, and it seemed as though every family had a father or a son or an uncle who served and sacrificed in that war.

But when I came to Washington an entirely different war was being waged in Southeast Asia. Vietnam has colored much of our thinking since. Whether Vietnam had too much or too little influence over the ensuing three decades is a much larger debate. But we would be better served in world affairs today by being less haughty and more humble.

I regret that my departure from Congress, like my arrival, finds our country at war. Young and even not-so-young Americans are sacrificing life and limb, while the rest of us are making little or no sacrifice.

It seems to me the very least we should do is pay today for the fiscal costs of our policies. Instead, we are floating IOUs written on our children’s future. This year we have no budget, and we are unwilling even to debate most of our basic spending bills before the November election.

Thirty years from now we could well face the biggest crisis in governance since the Civil War if Congress and the White House do not adopt a more honest approach to governance. The basic compact between generations is being broken. FDR was right to borrow heavily to finance World War Two, but are we justified doing so today?

Earlier this month I was privileged to attend the dedication of a monument in Virginia, commemorating the sacrifice of more than 1,200 men of the Vermont Brigade during the Battle of the Wilderness. The tangled thickets of the 19th Century have given way to mature forests, the individuals are largely forgotten, but our collective memory must endure.

Today, we use blocks of granite to remind us of the sacrifices in the Civil War. In its immediate aftermath, you would think no such reminder would have been needed. But 140 years ago, so the story goes, a northern Congressman literally waved a bloody shirt before his colleagues to inflame them against the South for alleged misdeeds. True patriotism is the incredible bravery of those men whose too-brief lives ended on the Wilderness battlefield. Waving the bloody shirt, then or today, is anything but patriotic.

The beautiful Capitol Dome above us, completed even as the Civil War concluded, should serve to inspire us.

I am an optimist, and have been every day of my life. With Lincoln, I hope that the mystic chords of memory will stretch from every battlefield and patriot grave to the hearts of the living, and that we will soon again be touched by the better angels of our nature.

Mr. President, I wish you and all of my colleagues good luck, and Godspeed.

— Terri Hallenbeck



RNC-Rainville ad

Martha Rainville has a new ad starting today. This one focuses on health care and it's a shared venture between the Rainville campaign and the Republican National Committee. Rainville's people produced it and approved it. The RNC paid for it. It'll air for a week for about $40,000 to $60,000, Rainville spokesman Brendan McKenna said.

I'd give you a link to the ad, but it isn't on the campaign Web site yet and the campaign has not come forth with it via e-mail.

- Terri Hallenbeck


New numbers

If a new Rasmussen Reports poll is to be believed, Republican Senate candidate Rich Tarrant might want to rethink the direction of his full-court-press television ad campaign against independent Bernie Sanders.

According to the latest Rasmussen poll, Sanders has actually increased an already large lead over Tarrant by four more percentage points since Aug. 3, the last time Rasmussen polled Vermont.

The new poll said 64 percent of the 500 likely voters surveyed would vote for Sanders and 32 percent would support Tarrant. In August, Sanders had a 28 percentage point leade. In late June, Sanders Rasmussen had Sanders ahead by 38 percentage points.

Rasmussen also found that Democrat Scudder Parker had pulled closer to incumbent Republican Jim Douglas in the gubernatorial race and that Democrat Peter Welch was leading Republican Martha Rainville by 8 percentage points in the open-seat House race. The poll was conducted Sunday and has margin of error of 4.5 percentage points

Douglas still had a double-digit lead over Parker, with 52 percent to Parker's 38 percent. But Douglas' 14 percentage in the latest Rasmussen poll was down from the 18 percentage point he had in August and 23 percentage point lead he enjoyed in the June Rasmussen survey.

This was the first time Rasmussen had polled the House race. Welch had 51 percent support of those polled and Rainville had 43 percent support.

Anyone want to make some sense of all this?

-- Sam Hemingway


Morning talk

At 8:30 a.m., amid morning interviews with U.S. senators and calls from viewers in Dubuque, C-SPAN is doing a segment on many of the congressional races. Tuesday morning, they turned to Vermont.

C-SPAN, the channel that spends a good bit of its time just showing live “action” in Congress, is not apparently a stickler for well-polished commentary. Which prompted them to dial me up and ask me to be on the air for a few minutes to tell their viewers about the Vermont U.S. House race.

There I was on the other end of a not-entirely-clear telephone connection with my less-than-smooth delivery. The gist of what I said was that it’s quite clear in this race how interested Washington is in it, what with the steady flow of visitors we’ve had from there on behalf of both Republican Martha Rainville and Democrat Peter Welch. In between making that point, there was more ums and ers than I would have preferred. Trust me, you’re glad you missed it.

I figured out a radio career was not for me one Sunday in 1981 as I delivered the noon news for the first and last time on WRUV radio, the campus station at the University of Vermont. I can tell you the exact date, thanks to Google, because one of the stories in my newscast was about the longest baseball game ever played the night before — between the Rochester Red Wings and Pawtucket Red Sox. I grew up in Rochester, a huge Red Wings fan, so the story stuck with me. The 33-inning game is still a record. What I also remember about the newscast was that I was dreadful.

Enough about me, though. This congressional race is anything but dreadful, whether Washington cares or not.
- Terri Hallenbeck



Tarrant's ads

Rich Tarrant's name never came up during the noontime appearance of Sen . Barbara Boxer, D-Calif ., at a Burlington rally for independent Senate candidate Bernie Sanders and Democratic House candidate Peter Welch. But Tarrant, or at least the tenor of his TV ads attacking several Sanders' votes in the House that allege he is out of step with most Vermonters , was clearly on Boxer's mind.

"You never heard Bernie mention his opponent," Boxer said in remarks to the rowdy crowd of 300 at City Hall moments after Sanders had spoken. "I'm not going to, either, except to say (to Tarrant) 'Go ahead, spend all the millions you want to, rejuvenate the Vermont economy. But Bernie is going to beat you on Election Day. I don't care how nasty the ads get.'"

The comment got thunderous applause, and when I spoke with several folks afterward who had attended the event, it was clear that Tarrant's ads were on their minds, too.

"I'm surprised and saddened to hear that Tarrant's negative ads seem to have given him a bump up in the polls," said Bill Reznichek of Berkshire. "I hope it's short term and I hope Vermonters see the light eventually. I also wish Bernie would address the ads and what they say a little more substantively."

"I wonder what's the matter with him," said Mary Engel of Burlington, clutching a Bernie for Senate lawn sign. "Obviously this is not a man who has true Vermont values."

"I think the negative ads are helping Bernie, at least in Franklin County," said Jim Coutts of Swanton."People do not believe he is someone different than what Tarrant would have us believe."

No matter what you think of the ads, they sure have become issue No. 1 in the Senate race, at least for now. Comments?

-- Sam Hemingway


Add comments to the ads

New TV ads over the weekend from Bernie Sanders in the U.S. Senate race. New TV ad starting today from Peter Welch in the U.S. House race. See them here and here:

Now, I would not want to suggest that TV ads are the end-all-and-be-all of an election. We all know that newspaper articles fill that role. TV (and radio) ads do, however, offer a glimpse at the image the candidates are trying to create and the message they’re trying to deliver. Plus, they are beemed into people's living rooms (and kitchen and barns), making them sometimes the most direct look an ordinary Vermonter has of the candidates.

So blogworld, what do you think of the new ads? Neither mentions his opponent or his opponent’s stances, but both campaigns, separate from the ads, made it clear the ads are targeting what they see as a shortcoming of their opponents.

Are these the issues that will grab voters – the war in Iraq in Welch’s case and the outsourcing of jobs in Sanders’ case?

- Terri Hallenbeck



A night at the fights

Somebody asked me on my way out of the office today if I was sick of these political debates yet. At the risk of exposing my own sickness, my answer was no.

Then I traipsed off to see the two Chittenden County state’s attorney candidates duke it out. In my book, you don’t get sick of stuff like this.

No boxing gloves were used, no physical punches were thrown, but on a philosophical level, they duked it out. Moderator Mark Johnson, under the impression that the debate was supposed to last an hour, waved the white flag after 90 minutes. The crowd of police, prosecutors and a few stray others wanted more, but without Johnson there to referee things could have gotten ugly.

It is an odd day when cops ask a member of the media (Johnson) to be the referee in a fight. So fierce was the debate, the candidates hardly needed Johnson or the audience to interrupt the flow with questions.

The state’s attorney’s race might not grab as much of voters’ or the media’s attention as the other campaigns, but Chittenden County residents would be making a mistake if they didn’t tune in to this one. Arguably, the person who decides how to prosecute the crimes in your county has more direct impact on your life than the person you send to Washington or Montpelier.

Plunk down 50 cents and read about the debate in Saturday’s Free Press.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Oops, more missing consent forms

This has been the year for late consent forms -- those pesky documents candidates have to file to get their names on ballots.

First, there were the two Democrats who failed to include the consent forms with their petitions back in July. One got a break from a Chittenden Superior Court judge, while the other lost two court appeals, but ran a successful write-in campaign on primary election day.

Now Hardy Machia, chairman of the Vermont Libertarian Party, reports that seven of his party's candidates won't be on the November ballot because of tardy concent forms. Some other party members will be on the ballot as Republicans, but won't be able to amend their designation with a Libertarian label -- again because of tardy consent forms.

Machia said the party finalized its nominations Wednesday, Sept. 13, and the candidates put their documents in the mail on Thursday. The documents failed to arrive at the Secretary of State's office on Friday, which was the deadline for independent and minor party candidates to file their paperwork for the November election.

"It isn't a postmark deadline," said Kathy DeWolfe, director of elections. Her office needed to have in hand the original documents, not faxes or emails. "Hardy has been doing this for many years," DeWolfe said. "He knows what the deadlines are."

Machia, who drove some paperwork (his own and another candidate's) to Montpelier on deadline day, tried to sign consent forms for all the candidates whose documents failed to arrive by mail, but that didn't fly with state election officials.

Unless the party goes to court and wins a reversal, the following Libertarian candidates will have to run write-in campaigns or wait a couple of years: Kevin Volz and Thomas Carpenter Jr. running for House seats from Rutland, Don O'Donnell running for the House in the Calais district and also for Washington assistant judge, Kelly Todd running for state senator from Essex/Orleans, Milton C. DeGeorge Jr. running for probate judge and high bailiff in Essex County, Dwight Duke running for Washington County Sheriff and Cindy Myrick running for Addison County assistant judge.

-- Nancy Remsen



Behind the debates

You might think these political debates are a relatively simple thing. Plop 'em down in front of a crowd and pepper them with questions, right? Nothing's simple.

Turns out that every organization from the Basket Weavers Association to the Bad Acne Club wants to have the candidates in for an evening's discussion. While debates are key and the support of the Bad Acne Club crucial to winning an election, a candidate cannot spend all of his or her time doing these forums. When do you expect them to raise money?

So the candidates grapple with all these invitations. Working out when and where two (or more) opposing candidates will get together for a debate is akin to a divorced couple hammering out a child care agreement. These are people who don't particularly like each other, and certainly don't trust each other.

Thus, congressional candidates Peter Welch and Martha Rainville settled on a dozen or so debates for the season and issued a joint news release announcing them. One that didn't make the list was a forum put on by a group of Vermont business associations in Barre on Thursday. Trouble is that the organizers of that forum were spending $13,000 to have it filmed and aired on TV. It looked like it would be a forum with no candidates. Some arms were twisted, some pressure applied.

Rainville, the Republican, relinquished. Welch, the Democrat, wasn't happy. Rainville's campaign spokesman Brendan McKenna said there was a miscommunication with the organizers about whether the candidates had already committed to the debate and her camp felt they couldn't leave the local business groups hanging. Welch's campaign spokesman Andrew Savage said his camp believes Rainville broke the candidates' debate agreement, but Welch will be there.

- Terri Hallenbeck


The debates

"Anonymous" asked for some debate about the Monday Rainville-Welch debate. Let us not forget, too, last night's Parker-Douglas debate.

I caught just the last bit of Monday's House debate on account of family obligations. Ergo, some members of our staff who are in the witness protection program filled in with the "staff report" that appeared in the next day's paper. AARP might have done a better job getting the word out that the debate was being televised on VPT. Nonetheless, a fine thing to provide the forum.

I tuned in in time to hear Martha Rainville say Peter Welch has not done anything in the campaign to particularly annoy her, not that she was willing to admit anyway, lest she be accused of being negative. Not the most revealing or riveting aspect of the debates to date.

Riveting might not be the right word for political debates, but the House debates, as well as last night's gubernatorial debate, have beeing revealing. Vermont voters have had a chance to see a good contrast in political offerings. These are not the sort of debates where you walk away thinking, despite what Liberty Union gubernatorial candidate Bob Skold tried to say, that all the candidates are the same.

What did you, the viewers, think? Were there clear winners or losers in the debates in either race? On what grounds? Don't just say "Wonderful Candidate X kicked butt because I like X so much better than worm-sucking Candidate Y."

Were there questions not asked that you'd like to see asked? Did the debates reveal what you wanted revealed about the candidates? Please, do tell.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Primary challenges

At least three challenges of last week's primary are in the works:

1. Tim Palmer, a Democratic candidate for state Senate in Chittenden County who came in seventh for six seats by just 25 votes, is asking for a recount. The margin, he said, is so small that he believes an error is possible. He also said his faith in the election system was shaken in the last two presidential elections.

2. There will be a recount of an unusual tie vote in Newport. State House candidates John Hall and Duncan Kilmartin tied 31-31 for write-ins on the Democratic Party line. Neither is a Democrat. In fact, both ran as Republicans in the primary, but Hall, a former state rep, came in third for two seats behind Kilmartin and incumbent Michael Marcotte. All the Republican candidates, however, were also hunting for Democratic write-in. Marcotte won enough that he will be listed on the November ballots as both a Republican and a Democrat. Hall and Kilmartin will fight it out for the second Democratic line. The recount will be held Wednesday, and if it's still tied, a new vote is possible, Secretary of State Deb Markowitz said.

3. Larry Drown, who sought the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, said he has petitioned in court to direct the party to put forth a candidate. U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders won the Democratic nomination but promptly declined it. The party is expected not to fill that slot on the ballot, leaving the independent Sanders with no Democratic opponent. The move has ruffled more than a few political feathers. However, Markowitz said she sees no room for the court to force a party to field a candidate.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Take a number?

A lot of left-leaners who didn't like that American Research Group of Manchester, N.H. poll last week that said Republican Rich Tarrant was only 15 percentage points behind Bernie Sanders in the Senate race are going to like what a new Sanders/Democratic internal poll says about the race.

This poll, performed over the weekend, put Sanders where his campaign and the Democratic Party thinks he really is -- way, way ahead of Tarrant. The poll, of 500 Vermont voters, gave Sanders 66 percent and Tarrant 27 percent.

BTW, it also had Democrat Peter Welch ahead of Republican Martha Rainville, 47 percent to 41 percent, in the House race and incumbent GOP Gov. Jim Douglas well ahead of Democrat Scudder Parker, 54 percent to 31 percent. ARG had slightly different numbers on those two races, but the two polls are really light years apart only on the Sanders/Tarrant contest.

Something doesn't add up here, but it's nothing that a few more polls can't iron out. And you can count on more polls to come in the days ahead. Couple of thoughts, though. One, internal polls are by definition suspect because they are bought and paid for by partisans in the contests. And, two, the new internal one said the responses were based on interviews with "Vermont voters."

Usually, pollsters want to makes sure their results are based on "likely voters," people who allegedly have a history of actually voting on Election Day.

-- Sam Hemingway


So long, Chris

The other shoe in the Chris Graff saga finally fell today.

Graff, the longtime chief of the Associated Press bureau in Montpelier until he was unceremoniously fired six months ago by his bosses, has landed a job as the vice president of communications at National Life Insurance in Montpelier, replacing the retiring Brian Vachon.

It's one of the cushiest, and best-paying public relations jobs in Vermont, but Graff's decision to go to the dark side means he will be severing his ties with Vermont Public Television, where he has hosted the station's popular Vermont This Week program for 14 years.

Graff, in an e-mail to friends, said the decision to leave Vermont This Week at the end of the year was his and not the station's.

"I felt that my new responsibilities - and the huge learning curve I will face - would mean I would not be able to do justice to the show," he explained. "My thanks to everybody who has helped me through these past six months. My firing was a horrible experience but I was so blown away by the wonderful things people said about me and my work. I will treasure them forever."

Graff, you may recall, was shown the door in March when AP management concluded he engaged in a "grave violation of AP rules by putting an opinion piece penned by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., on the wire for member use. The subject of the Leahy op-ed piece, ironically, was freedom of the press and the public's right to know what is going on with their government.

-- Sam Hemingway



At the debate

The few people who ambled by Friday morning's debate at the Tunbridge World's Fair were in for a treat on par with fried dough.

If you care a single hoot about what happens in the world, this was the place where issues were being debated, candidates were staking their turf and the tug-of-war was on. Later in the day, the harness races were to be run on the track. This horse race, though, was in full swing under the gazebo.

Enough with the analogies. If you have a chance to get to a debate between Peter Welch and Martha Rainville, do so.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Poll by numbers

The last time that American Research Group Inc. of of Manchester, N.H. did a poll in Vermont, political strategists on both sides of the aisle pooh-poohed the results as way off base. Some of them are bound to be singing the same song again when they see ARG"s latest poll figures.

The new poll, done right after the primary was over on Sept. 13th and 14th, had independent Bernie Sanders ahead of Republican Richard Tarrant in the Senate race, but Tarrant just 15 peercentage points behind. Click here to see the whole poll.

In July, the last time ARG polled in Vermont, Sanders was said to be 21 percentage points ahead, a number that had Tarrant types smiling. Sanders folks back then all but said the poll was bogus.

"Our internal polling shows us up by 41 points," Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver said at the time. "I trust our polling more than this polling." Recently, the Sanders campaign has made a point of saying its internal polling was showing that Tarrant's negative ads were costing him support. The ARG poll, if it is to be believed, says otherwise.

In the House race, ARG had Democrat Peter Welch with 48 percent and Republican Martha Rainville with 45 percent. That's an improvement for Welch from the July ARG poll, where he trailed Rainville by a single percentage point, but it's not welcome news for Peter and Pepper the dog. They'd rather believe a recent Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee internal poll that has them up 10 points over Rainville.

Finally, the ARG poll had Gov. Jim Douglas whupping Democrat Scudder Parker by 27 percentage points, instead of the measly 11-point spread Douglas enjoyed in the July ARG survey. Back then, Team Douglas was all over the ARG poll, saying it was badly flawed. It's unlikely they will feel that way about this poll.

Of course, the only poll that really matters is the one that takes place on Election Day, Nov. 7. In the meantime, we're all ears on what you think about this ARG stuff.

-- Sam Hemingway


What the ad doesn't tell you

The National Republican Congressional Committee's telelvision ad promoting the candidacy of Martha Rainville for the U.S. House includes a line that sounded wrong.

The line is that Rainville was "called upon to serve by governors of both parties" and printed in the background as the narrator speaks these words are the names -- Gov. Richard Snelling and Gov. Howard Dean.

Since the ad opens with a reference to Rainville's selection as the nation's first female adjutant general, this reference to two governors calling her to serve seems to suggest Snelling and Dean picked her to be adjutant. In Vermont, of course, the Legislature elects the adjutant general and Rainville's terms in that office fell under the Dean and Douglas administrations.

Ed Patru, spokesman for the NRCC, had to do some research when questioned about this line in the ad, but he called back with the explanation.

Both Snelling and Dean appointed Rainville to the 6th District Environmental Commission, Patru said, adding that Rainville isn't pictured in her military uniform when that line is spoken.

"We think the facts are on our side," Patru concluded.

Factually correct? Agreed. Clear in the ad? Not really.

-- Nancy Remsen


To our blogger friends

Just a reminder that we will pull posts to The Buzz that contain offensive (foul) words. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.

Yesterday, we had a such a situation and, after a huddle here, concluded that this was the course we would take. We don't want to tinker with anyone's individual words -- they're yours, not ours -- but we will retain the right to remove an item in its entirety if we deem that it contains offensive language.

So keep it clean(er) folks. Thanks for your understanding...

--Sam Hemingway



Poor Rich

Hard to fathom how Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee, somehow managed to overlook Rich Tarrant's Senate primary victory this week when he issued a statement congratulating Martha Rainville's House primary win.

Or that Tarrant would not get a mention in the invite for this Sunday's party fundraiser with Arizona Sen. John McCain. You'd think the $5.2 million that Tarrant has invested in trying to prevent Bernie Sanders from becoming a senator would at least earn him some Republican leadership love.

And here's yet another Tarrant snub. This summer, the state party put out a brochure trumpeting "Vermont's Reform Team." You could have picked one up at the Champlain Valley Fair if you had stopped by the GOP booth.

One the cover of the brochure are the smiling faces of Gov. Jim Douglas, Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, state Auditor Randy Brock, Rainville and Cheryl Moomey, the party's Secretary of State nominee. Inside are bios of these folks and an invitation to Vermonters to "join" the Reform Team. No where in the glossy brochure is there a mention or a photo of Tarrant.

The excuse for all of this, as it's always been, is that Tarrant has asked the national GOPers to "stay out" of the race. If we're to believe that, then why did Tarrant show up at a GOP unity event in Montpelier on Wednesday?

-- Sam Hemingway



More post-poll talk

The parties find the timing of the primaries hugely inconvenient. A good many voters apparently do, too, given the number who stay home. So are primaries worthwhile?

Here are some reasons they are:

- Sometimes they provide an opportunity for regular folks to genuinely decide who the candidates should be. Three men got the inclination to run for Chittenden County state's attorney as a Democrat. Apparently, as near as we can tell, there were no backroom meetings, no busted knees, no telling glares intended to keep any of them from giving it a shot. Instead, the three of them spanned out across the county, shook hands, called voters and sought to distinguish themselves. Voters made their choice known Tuesday.
In Washington County, the power of the people was even more evident. The governor appointed Craig Nolan as state's attorney after Terry Trono died. Republican voters Tuesday had a choice whether they wanted Nolan to be their candidate or former deputy state's attorney Tom Kelly, who'd been fired by Nolan. The race was close, but voters apparently chose Kelly.

- Primaries generate debate. The Vermont Republican Party made it clear that Martha Rainville was the chosen candidate for the U.S. House. If everybody in the party had heeded the call not to question that selection, voters today would not have known as much as about Rainville. Mark Shepard, a quiet, little known, two-term state senator from Bennington, wasn't happy that his views were going unrepresented. His existence in the race forced several public debates that showed a very distinct choice for Republicans. Shepard, speaking after his loss on his 46th birthday Tuesday, said he believes he made Rainville a better candidate, that the primary served as a warm-up for the general election. "They're practice sessions and they're good for the party," he said. Like vegetables for a kid. Good for you whether you think so or not.

- Primaries let voters speak their minds. Outside the Williston Central School polling place Tuesday afternoon, one voter said he was there primarily to vote against Bernie Sanders, even though Sanders had little competition for a Democratic nomination he declined a day later. In South Burlington, another voter said he took pleasure in showing his support for Sanders. They made their statements at the ballot box.

Political parties complain about primaries (too close to the general election, they say). Now it will be interesting to see whether anyone does anything to move the date up. As they say, if you don't act, you have no right to complain.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Happy talk

Thoughts from the Senate campaign trail on primary night...

Republican Richard Tarrant was a happy guy Tuesday night. Surrounded by cheering supporters he wore a big grin as he made his way to the microphones at his Colchester headquarters, introducing his youngest grandchild, one-year-old Nina Tarrant, to one and all.

Once he made it to the podium Tarrant once again made reference to his granddaughter. Then came this attempt at humor from the happy candidate. Introducing his wife, Deb, he grinned and said that sometimes she "acts like my oldest granddaughter." No explanation of what he meant by the remark.

Over at Bernie Sanders' headquarters, independent, eight-term Congressman Sanders was enjoying his first-ever victory as a Democratic candidate, even though he was quick to say he'll politely turn down the party's nomination today and run again as an independent.

Once upon a time, when Sanders was mayor of Burlington and city Democrats detested everything about him, the idea of such a friendly relationship between the Ds and Bernie would have seemed impossible.

Sanders' independent streak runs deep, though, even if he has voted with the Democratic caucus
almost all the time. "I am the longest serving independent in Congress in American history," he insisted on reminding reporters. Okay, got it.

-- Sam Hemingway



The results

If you had to look at the races objectively and outline the winners in Tuesday's primary before the election was ever held, you probably would have listed them exactly the way they ended up, at least for the top races.

U.S. Senate: Rich Tarrant beats Greg Parke and Cris Ericson, easily. Bernie Sanders snares the Democratic nomination, hugely, though he is expected to decline it.

U.S. House: Martha Rainville over Mark Shepard, easily.

Lt. Gov.: Matt Dunne defeats John Tracy, but barely.

Some of the other races were harder to pick with precision, but not entirely surprising:

Chittenden County state's attorney: T.J. Donovan beats Ted Kenney and Rob Backus. Donovan, though the youngest candidate, was perhaps campaigning the heaviest.

Chittenden Senate: The four Democratic incumbents and former state Sen. and Lt. Gov. Doug Racine made it onto the November ballot. Perhaps the surprise was Dennis McMahon out-polling Tim Palmer for the sixth spot on the ballot. Among Republicans, Darren Adams, who changed his plans and signed up for a four-year tour with the Marines, won one of the six seats.

Chittenden House seats: No surprises. Incumbents survived all challenges. The Progressives, holding their first primary, decisively chose two candidates for state House in Burlington.

The lessons: It's hard to beat an incumbent. It's hard to beat a candidate annointed by the party in advance. And it's hard to beat somebody who gets an early start.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Who's not voting?

All this talk about how very few people vote in primaries brings us back to the age-old question: Why do some people choose not to vote?

Apathy? Sure, there's that. But even a good number of people who vote in the November elections stay away from the primaries. Why?

University of Vermont political science professor Garrison Nelson (who's wisened by so many of years of experience that I was a student of his 26 years ago) said it's because the parties are doing so much of the candidate winnowing that the Average Voter wonders what's the point.

Or is it because some 40 percent of Vermont voters say they don't see themselves as affiliated with any party? If you pick a ballot at the polls, does that make you feel like you are one of them and that makes your skin crawl?

Or is Tuesday golf day and you just can't fit voting in? Then by November, golfing's pretty much history and skiing hasn't started.

Perhaps anyone reading a political blog doesn't fit into this category, but if you're out there and you're not going to vote, tell us why. You can do it here in the comment area of this blog, or you can leave your words of wisdom in the nifty new comment area at the end of our recent story on the primary, here.

Otherwise, get out and vote.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Outsider ad

The Center for Security Policy, a Washington, DC, group with a mission to "promote peace through strength," will air a television advertisement in Vermont this weekend that opens with scenes of the smoking twin towers in New York and ends with the advice, "Vote this November as if your life depends on it because it really does."

The ad doesn’t name any candidates, but is being aired here and in five other states because the debate about the war has figured prominently in political debates, according to Frank Gaffney Jr., president and CEO of the Center.

At the Center’s Web site, the ad is promoted as follows:

"In a democracy like ours, an uninformed electorate can make decisions that are far-reaching and potentially quite dangerous.

"Against this backdrop and as a public service, the Center for Security Policy today unveiled a television ad campaign aimed at explaining in no uncertain terms the nature and stakes of the conflict we are waging around the world against an Islamofascist enemy bent on our destruction.

"The ad, which can be viewed by clicking here, observes that in this War for the Free World, the United States simply cannot afford to follow the advice of war critics who would have us cut-and-run. It points out that steps such as a withdrawing prematurely from Iraq and/or closing the U.S. facility for detaining terrorists at Guantanamo Bay would unambiguously convey weakness to our enemies, resulting only in more bloodshed abroad and quite possibly renewed attacks against the U.S. homeland."

Gaffney was assistant secretary of defense for international security policy in the Reagan administration. He founded the Center for Security Policy in 1988.

An e-mail promoting the advertisement said the ad was running "in six key political markets around the country, including you up there in Burlington, VT because of the Jeffords Senate race."

Sen. Jim Jeffords, I-VT, isn’t running for re-election, of course, but his retirement has sparked a hot race. Rep. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, wants to move from the House to the Senate. Three Republicans are battling for the chance to face Sanders on the November ballot. Democrats are backing Sanders.

It is a coincidence the ad runs just days before Vermont’s primary election, Gaffney said.

Among the Republican primary candidates, the two candidates who have invested the most in their campaigns — Rich Tarrant and Greg Parke — disagree about what should happen next in Iraq. Tarrant has said it’s time for the U.S. to re-deploy its troops and let the Iraqi Army take over, while Parke has argued that announcing a timetable for withdrawal concedes defeat.

The Center’s ad has a Parke-friendly message, but Parke said Friday, "I haven’t been in communication with them whatsoever."

Parke noted, however, that the message, as described to him, "obviously isn’t going to hurt me."

Tim Lennon, Tarrant’s campaign manager, said, "Our position is third party groups should stay out of Vermont and this campaign."

-- Nancy Remsen


Signs of the time

On his way from City Hall to the bank yesterday, Chuck Hafter snared 15 political signs that were violating the rules of conduct. Signs are not allowed in the highway right-of-way. He found 12 at the corner of Swift and Spear streets.

Hafter, the South Burlington city manager, loaded the ones he saw into the back of his truck. Candidates, informed by letter that this would happen if their signs strayed into the wrong space, can collect them from the pile in back of City Hall.

Violators come from all political parties, Hafter said. Politicians are no worse offenders than real estate agents and garage sale holders. Hafter figures the candidates themselves aren't the ones typically putting the signs in the right of way because they know the rules, but their friends and supporters do not.

Hafter said he's not just being a stickler. The signs pose a safety hazard, he said.

Signs may go on private property with the permission of the owner, but not within 24.75 feet of the center of most roads, according to state law. Localities may have laws of their own as well. They can't be posted on road signs or trees, either.

Hafter and others like him are likely to be busy in the next few days.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Marking time

State Sen. Mark Shepard, R-Bennington, has a decidedly uphill battle on his hands in his effort to win the Republican House nomination next week. Martha Rainville, his Sept. 12 primary opponent, has raised far more money than him, has more name recognition and has the unabashed support of state GOP.

Serious help, however, is on the way if Shepard does get past Rainville. FreedomWorks, a activist conservative research group based in Washington D.C. this week identified 16 House races around the country where it plans to "educate and mobilize" voters this fall with a purported network of a million volunteers and a $4 million ad campaign. The "Mark Shepard-Peter Welch" contest match-up is one of the16.

Shepard is on the radar of FreedomWorks, founded by former Texas Republican Rep. Dick Armey, because Shepard responded positively to a 10-question survey on economic issues, vowing to oppose an tax increase and support partial privatization of Social Security and scrapping the tax code in favor of a flat tax.

FreedomWorks, by recently joining forces with the Rutland-based Vermont ers for a Better Education, claims to have about 1,300 "members" in the state. Rob Roper, who runs FW's Vermont chapter, said he hand-delivered the group's questionaire to Rainville and GOP Senate candidate Richard Tarrant to fill out, but said they never did. Republican Senate candidate Greg Parke did fill out the questionnaire this week.

Unfortunately for Parke, he too is in an uphill battle -- against Tarrant.

--Sam Hemingway



Fancy footwork

Republican Congressional candidate Martha Rainville has made her "clean campaign" pledge the centerpiece of her campaign for Vermont's House seat to date. It's even the subject of her only TV ad so far.

So it wasn't surprising earlier this week when, during her VPR Switchboard debate with GOP House primary rival Mark Shepard that host/moderator Bob Kinzel asked her what she thought about fellow Republican Rich Tarrant's controversial TV ads alleging that Bernie Sanders, had voted in the House in support of child molesters and drug dealers. To hear the debate, go to VPR's website.

Rainville is an adept public speaker, but she seemed particularly careful not to sound too critical of her fellow Republican who, along with his wife, happens to have made a not-too-shabby donation to her campaign recently. (More on that in a moment).

"I think Rich Tarrant has to highlight the differences between himself and Bernie Sanders," she said at one point. "That's what he's trying to do. Whether it's negative or not is really something the voters have the last say on." Later, she urged Tarrant to listen to feedback from the ads and "make adjustments if he needs to," but concluded, "his race is not my race. "

Maybe it was the farthest thing from her mind, but let the Federal Election Commission record show that on July 24, Tarrant gave $1,000 to her campaign. And that, on the very same day, Tarrant's wife, Deb, gave Rainville 's campaign $4,200.

-- Sam Hemingway


First ladies

Maybe 30 years from now, when Jenna is president and mother Laura is touring the country on her behalf, she'll have this public speaking thing down as well as her mother-in-law does now. But here in 2006, if you were to rank the Bush first ladies - as I'm about to do - it wouldn't be hard to do.

Barbara Bush by a mile.

Laura Bush didn't exactly do anything wrong public-speaking-wise when she appeared at the Inn at Essex in May. Didn't drool, didn't stutter. Didn't call the candidate by the wrong name. It's just that she delivered her speech as if she were completing a dreaded school assignment.

Barbara, on the other hand, acted like she was actually having fun Wednesday when she appeared at the Sheraton. She lost her place, had to haul out her reading glasses and shuffle the pages, but made it so none of that seemed embarrassing. She butchered the word adjutant (as in adjutant general Martha Rainville) several times so that it came out as some mushed version of adjunct. Didn't matter. Barbara made a little humor go a long way. As she said, she's been doing this for 40 years.

Perhaps next summer when the Bush clan gathers at the estate in Maine, Barbara can have a heart to heart with her daughter-in-law.

By the way, a day after Barbara Bush raised $50,000 for Rainville's congressional campaign, Democrat Peter Welch's campaign sent an e-mail to supporters urging them not to allow this advantage. "He needs your support today because he will make sure we don’t send another friend of the Bushes to Washington," the Welch letter says.

- Terri Hallenbeck

(Photo by Alison Redlich/Free Press)



Meet Matt promo

Wednesday afternoon, Matt Dunne, Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, upped the ante in his primary election race against fellow Democrat, John Tracy. He unveiled a 30-second warm and fuzzy television ad.

The ad shows Dunne as a young child, Dunne with former President Bill Clinton, Dunne digging a hole and a closing portrait of Dunne with wife Sarah Taylor and baby son, Judson.

If Dunne is lucky enough to defeat Tracy in Tuesday's primary, the biographic promotion could help Dunne introduce himself to the broader electorate. Any candidate taking on two-term Republican incumbent Brian Dubie will be challenged to overcome his statewide name recognition.

To check out the ad, go to Dunne's Web site.

-- Nancy Remsen


Man on the street

Incumbent state senator Ed Flanagan obviously wants to make sure voters see he's no invalid following a serious car accident a year ago that kept him away from his elected job for all but one day last winter.

Wednesday, Flanagan stood in the median on the Williston Road overpass in South Burlington, waving to commuters. It's not the first time he has been spotted doing the public political wave.

It's important for him to be seen now, because Flanagan is one of eight Democrats in the Chittenden Senate District vying in Tuesday's primary election for six slots on the November ballot.

- Nancy Remsen



Who signed, who didn't

U.S. Senate, U.S. House and gubernatorial candidates were asked by organizers of the recent global warming rally to sign a pledge, committing themselves to the issue. So who did and who didn't?

U.S. Senate candidates Cris Ericson, Bernie Sanders and Rich Tarrant signed it. So did U.S. House candidates Martha Rainville and Peter Welch.

U.S. House candidate Mark Shepard did not. He said he was invited, but had other commitments and would want to study the details before committing to the pledge.

Gubernatorial candidate Scudder Parker signed the pledge. Gov. Jim Douglas did not. Douglas had other commitments, but would gladly sign the pledge, campaign manager Dennise Casey said.

Here's the pledge: "Scientists say we must begin to significantly reduce our emissions within the next 10 years if we are to avoid the most serious impacts of global warming. That is why I support the goal set by Senator Jeffords in his global warming bill - an 80 percent reduction in global warming pollution by mid-century. To achieve that goal we need to start an energy revolution. I will work to promote global warming solutions, such as a national renewable energy standard of 20 percent by 2020 and an increase in mileage standards to 40 miles per gallon." 


Once and wants-to-be governors

Howard Dean, who held the governor's seat for more than 10 years, hit Church Street in Burlington on Tuesday to give Scudder Parker, who'd like to be governor starting next year, a litte exposure.

Dean, though in his current role as chairman of the Democratic National Committee is working feverishly to elect as many Democrats to as many offices as he can, wasn't willing to say anything bad about Republican Gov. Jim Douglas.

Is there some reason voters should oust the current office-holder, some policy that isn't working? we asked. He wasn't biting. "I do think we need a more aggressive approach to health care and energy," he said. "Scudder understands energy. The number of peoiple with no health care has gone up."

Dean and Parker then strolled up the marketplace in search of voters to woo. It wasn't entirely candid and impromptu as Parker had two TV mics pinned to his jacket, but there were genuine, unsuspecting potential voters in their path.

"I'm Howard Dean and this is Scudder Parker," Dean said to one young woman as she passed Sweetwater's Restaurant. Heidi Lynch of Rutland, who just moved north to attend St. Michael's College, said she wasn't sure that Howard Dean's say-so would persuade her to vote for Parker, or to vote at all, but she leans Democrat anyway.

As Dean and Parker moved up Church Street, passersby easily identified Dean, but were less likely to know Parker. A young woman walked by, saying into her cell phone, "Howard Dean just walked by. What's he doing here?"

A man sitting outside Speeder & Earl's coffee said he recognized Dean but not Parker. He'd heard of Parker, though. Another woman listening to her iPod said she didn't know who either one of the men was. A man from Montreal recognized both of them from the television news. He might be paying more attention than half of Vermont.

Finding Vermont voters was a challenge, but one Parker said he's grown accustomed to. He's learned to identify what he calls that "I'm from Connecticut" smile more quickly as the campaign goes on, he said.

Later in the day, Dean was the draw for a fundraising event in Burlington for the Vermont Democratic Party. Won't Vermont Democrats be too blase about seeing their own former governor to pay money for the privilege? Au contraire, said Parker. Many are eager to hear Dean's take on the national political scene, he said.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Rummy's the game

Nothing like beating an old, but very much alive, war horse to make political points.

Tuesday was press conference day for Democratic House candidate Peter Welch, who used the opportunity to once again call on President George W. Bush to fire Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

"Rumsfeld's leadership has been characterized by continued poor judgment, stubborn arrogance and a refusal to listed to the sound advise of our best and most respected military commanders," Welch said Tuesday.

This will be at least the third time Welch has used a press event to publicly demand that Rummy vacate his corner office at the Pentagon, but who's counting. Well, we are, actually. Welch said he was moved to repeat his stand on Rumsfeld after the secretary implied in a speech last week that Iraq war opponents weren't much different than the appeasers of fascism and Nazism in the run-up to WW II in the 1930s.

Asked whether he'd push for impeachment of the prez if Bush doesn't retire Rummy, Welch demurred. He said getting Congress bogged down in impeachment proceedings would divert attention away from fixing the war policy.

Besides, if Bush were impeached, the nation could end up with Vice President Dick Cheney in the White House and "Cheney's worse than Bush," Welch said.

-- Sam Hemingway


Pre-primary prediction?

This just in: A group concerned with the nation's nursing shortage has decided who the victors will be in next week's Republican Senate and House primaries.

At least it appears that way, considering the press release put out Tuesday by the Institute for Nursing Ethics, an educational program for nurses run by Readnour & Barone, a Rutland law firm.

The "institute" announced it will stage forums for Vermont's candidates for the Republican U.S. Senate and House on Sept. 14 at the Rutland Regional Medical Center. According to the release, the candidates invited to attend are Republican Senate candidate Richard Tarrant and Republican House candidate Martha Rainville.

A week later, the "institute will conduct a separate forum for Democratic House candidate Peter Welch at the Central Vermont Hospital in Berlin. Curiously, there's no mention of independent/Democratic Senate candidate Bernie Sanders in the release.

Excuse me, but Republican Senate candidates Greg Parke and Cris Ericson, as well as Republican House candidate Mark Shepard, might have a bone to pick with the "institute." Bernie might, too.

-- Sam Hemingway


Broken system

We're Number 1! We're Number 1.

At least we are when it comes to taking a dim view of how well the political system is working in the United States.

Rasmussen Reports, one of those new polling companies busy making a name for themselves nationally the past few years, has been asking voters around the country whether or not they think the nation's political system is badly broken.

After polling 32 states where there are Senate and governor races this year, the results are in. Of Vermonters polled, 62 percent agreed America's political system is badly broken. No other state had a higher percentage of political cynics as our Green Mountain state did.

But we aren't that far off the beaten path, it turns out. According to Rasmussen, a plurality of people in all 32 state had the same thumbs-down attitude. Nebraska had the most positive attitude among the gang of 32, and even in the Cornhusker state 47 percent of those polled agreed the system is "badly broken."

All of which begs the question. Why do Vermonters, or at least two-thirds of them, feel more down about America's political system than folks in any other state?

Any thoughts?

--Sam Hemingway



an inconvenient goof?

The Radio Deli and Grocery seemed like such a perfect place for Pat Leahy, Bernie Sanders and Peter Welch to stage their joint press conference this week calling for passage of an increase in the federal minimum wage to $725.

The joint is on the edge of the Old North End, it's managed by Jim Condon, a Democratic state representative from Colchester and, last but certainly not least, the meatballs the store offers are to die for.

Just one little snag, as Vermont Republican Party Chairman Jim Barnett was all too willing to point out afterward.

It turns out that Condon, a first-term lawmakers, several times last year voted against S. 80, a bill calling for increasing the state's minimum wage to the aforementioned $7.25. Condon, informed of the GOP's disvovery, acknowledged he did indeed vote against the bill but not because he was against the increase. Instead, Condon said he voted no because he was opposed to an amendment to the bill that made future cost of living adjustments automatic.

"I'm for the minimum wage increase," said Condon. "But sometimes we may want to increase it by more than the cost of living adjustment, and other times we may want to increase it by less. I find it amusing that the Republicans are attacking me on this, of all things."

Barnett shrugged off Condon's qualification. "I find it the height of irony and hypocrisy this is where they chose to do their press conference," he said chuckling.

-- Sam Hemingway


Would-be editors

Thanks for weighing in on which stories you thought should be covered. And thanks for your undying thirst for all things political. We really do have some geeks among us, and I mean that in the nicest way.

Some of you would-be editors would break all kinds of labor laws as well as laws of physics by having us work 62 hours a day.

Ultimately, we chose option 5) other stuff. Our friends at the Associated Press handled the Planned Parenthood and net neutrality stories and monitored but didn't write anything from the guv's press conference. Scudder Parker fell by the wayside for the time being.

Fear not, we have plenty of political stories in the works for the coming days. We are, after all, about to have primary.

If you're not registered to vote, by the way, you have until noon Tuesday to get on the list in time for the primary.

- Terri Hallenbeck

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