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



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

This is an important campaign. It deserved better coverage in the state newspapers.

I know that Terri can't be in all places at the same time -- but the Freeps should have the staff to cover significant events like this one.

It isn't just the Freeps. The Times Argus didn't cover it at all. And where was the AP? Did they have a story about it? I haven't checked. But if they did, the statewide newspapers didn't pick it up.
I was refering to the House debate, not the Gov debate. You had a good story about the Gov debate in today's paper.

Scudder really nailed Douglas on the negative ads. That was the one issue that clearly resounded with the audience -- it show's that Vermonters really don't like the kind of campaign that Douglas has been running.
To be fair, it was a Dem audience. But, the reaction was not only dissaproval, but I think shock that Douglas cast off the question in the way that he did. He's a shmuck who needs to replaced.
"He's a shmuck who needs to replaced."

Yeah good luck with that
I'm loving the debates. First Rainville/Welch now Douglas/Parker. Good for them for participating, especially Douglas who is the only incumbant but does not seem to be suffering from that most incumbent of afflictions - the no debate by any means affliction.

My passion is the Rainville/Welch race. I admit it, I'm in love with Martha Rainville. How can you not be? The lady is incredible, articulate and attractive. Her record with the Vermont Guard speaks for itself. On and on and on. Martha's been smashing glass ceilings in a male dominated world for 27 years. You go girl!

Then you have Peter Welch. Fairly successful Senator/trial lawyer. Peter's a nice enough guy, I've met him a few times here and there. His politics seem alright, pretty far to the left, but I'm pretty far to the left as well so its ok.

Two things bug me about Peter. First, his whole "I'm not George Bush" schtick. Its everywhere and its boring. I understand he has to run somewhat against Bush for purely political reasons, but for goodness sakes, lets mix in some of your own opinions in there to Peter! I think he's got his own opinions, I mean, the guy isn't stupid. Why does he come across as so two-dimensional whenever he opens his mouth?

Second thing that bugs me is the debates (even though everyone gets a gold star for agreeing to do them). I can't understand why Welch doesn't do better against Martha. I've already admitted that I'm voting for Martha, but I, like many other people, like a lively debate, an informed debate. The two debates that I've heard so far are lopsided in favor of Marvelous Martha.

Peter just seems flacid during the debates. Like a little fawn lost in the woods. It's all "Bush this" or "Bush that". Enough already. How about some "Peter this" or "Peter that".

I am more amazed considering the fact that Peter made close to a million dollars last year as an attorney arguing in courts of law. He's been a politician for 20 years. He's got to know how to debate? Doesn't he?

Earth to Senator Welch. Strap on a helmet and get in there. You want to run with the big dogs or do you want to sit on the porch?
Welch and Rainville offer nothing of any substance. They both say just enough to get by, fearing alienating someone. Anyone else tired of that? And I find Steve Delaney to be a big pompous ass.
I liked the contrast between the two House candidates. Welch was clearly very well versed on all the issues brought up by the moderator and the audience, but he also seemed like a nice guy. Also, a bit off the subject, it's so disingenuous of Martha to act like she will have a choice of House Speakers to vote for. She will vote for Hastert. He will return his most faithful comrades to their chairmanships. It's a fact.
I get why people feel there is no substance to the race. It is a byproduct of the fact that the VT media has not covered policy statements by the candidates. Sen. Dodd visits and Welch proposes an education agenda: no coverage. Rainville wrongly accuses the Dems of pushing crossover voting for Shepard: covered. (and no coverage of the lack of an apology I might add)

Way to elevate the debate guys.
"Welch proposes an education agenda: no coverage."

I don't see anything resembling an "education agenda" on his website either.
"I don't see anything resembling an "education agenda" on his website either."



There's a link to this page right on Senator Welch's front page. Pretty easy to find when you take the blinders off.
"Pretty easy to find when you take the blinders off."

Wow, are all Welch supporters such knobs?

Your link is the wrong page by the way, all that one says is that he thinks education is really important. There's a different one linked from there that goes into all the swell things he'll not have the chance to do after he loses in November.
Here is a letter to the editor from the Welch camp. It runs in today's Times Argus. Will it be effective? Maybe. Its the only arguement the Welch folks have left to play - Welch is a wimp, but Martha is a Republican. I'm embarressed for Welch. Serious Lack of self respect. Here is the letter...
Rainville sounds good... at first

September 21, 2006

I was listening to a debate between Peter Welch and Martha Rainville today on the radio. My first impression was that Rainville came across as forceful and intelligent with canny ideas while Welch sounded kind of wimpy, tentative and surprisingly dependent on political clich├ęs for such an experienced and successful politician.

Rainville sounded especially convincing when talking in her comfort zone about the military.

But when I listened more closely as the debate continued, and tried to cut through the rhetoric to the core issues, it was clear that a vote for Rainville, regardless of how dazzling she seemed, would just be another vote for the Republican ruling class in Washington.

After a while, Rainville was either espousing the good old Republican causes - lowering taxes, pro-business policies, military solutions to diplomatic problems - or saying silly things, such as that two of her first three legislative priorities if elected were 1) immigration, and 2) establishing an ethics commission to oversee Congress [how about one to scrutinize the White House where it's really needed?]. (Both Welch and Rainville agreed that electing a member of their own party as House Speaker was their first priority.)

Against this, Welch posited his choice of 1) balancing the budget, and 2) raising the minimum wage - much more fundamental problems that can be readily fixed by Congress.

Although wowed by Rainville initially, I came away realizing that a vote for her would only ensure business as usual in D.C. and two more years of King George's heavy hand.

Welch may not have the polish, but he certainly has the job experience and the right ideas. Being sent to Washington is a great responsibility and, of the two candidates for the U.S. House, it's apparent only Welch fully qualifies for this honor.

The same could be said for the Senate race where a rank political beginner is desperately trying to unseat the seasoned and experienced Bernie Sanders.

Like filling any job, my vote would definitely be for the more qualified candidate who has earned his position the hard way.

Marge Garfield

E. Calais
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