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