Sponsored by:

vt.Buzz ~ a political blog

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



One more thing

Before you settle in with the eggnog, here's one more political tidbit.

Jon Copans, who's been executive director of the Vermont Democratic Party for almost four years, will be going to work for Rep. Peter Welch in January, working out of newly elected Welch's Burlington office on constituent services.

Copans, well-regarded within the party for his mostly behind-the-scenes organizational work, had previously announced he'd be leaving the party. Now we know where he's landing.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Merry wishes

As we careen head-long into Christmas, I encourage all of you out there to get a life for a few days and lay off the blog-reading. Relax and rev up your engines for the new year.

Happy holidays.

- Terri Hallenbeck (I’m sure Nancy and Sam would ditto that, if they hadn’t already gone off and gotten a life)


Inaugural collision

Two things are scheduled to happen Jan. 4 that are on a collision course. There will be swearings-in going on in Washington at the same time as swearings-in are supposed to go on in Montpelier.

Gaye Symington, who would be at the front of the room to mark the inauguration of the governor and the state's other highest-ranking elected officials, has an invitation to attend the other event in Washington.

She's torn, she said today, but she's decided to go to Washington. (Rep.-elect Peter Welch offered Symington one of his two tickets to the festivities - the other will go to one of his children.)

Symington's decision has prompted Gov. Jim Douglas to look into (or have his staff look into) changing the state inaugurations to Jan. 5. We won't know until next week whether that will happen.

Douglas spokesman Jason Gibbs said going to D.C. instead of Montpelier for this state tradition is something the governor would never do, but he understands why Symington would want to.

Symington laid it out this way: The transition to Democratic control in the U.S. Capitol is
a historic change in direction she thinks Vermonters are celebrating and she wants to represent them there. She wants to represent Welch's former Statehouse colleagues during his moment in the sun.

As the only woman Democratic state House speaker in the country, Symington said she also wants to be there as Nancy Pelosi is the first woman to step into the country's third most powerful position.

Changing the Vermont ceremonies could be a logistical problem, given that it involves changing the schedules of everybody from school choir groups to former governors and the first lady, whose dental office had not scheduled any appointments for Jan. 4.

If the inaugural is changed to Jan. 5 and you develop a toothache, they'd probably be able to fit you in.

So tell us: Should the Vermont inaugurations of the governor, lt. gov., sec of state, treasurer, atty. general and brand-new auditor (including the governor's inaugural address) be pushed back a day or not? Is Symington out of line for going to D.C.? Is the governor making more hay of it by suggesting her absence calls for changing the schedule?

- Terri Hallenbeck



Prog debate in the hallway

Tom Salmon, having just been declared the winner of the state auditor's race, was standing outside the Washington County courtroon, talking to Martha Abbott, the Progressive Party candidate in the race.

Abbott was explaining to Salmon how she believed that her presence in the race helped Salmon by stimulating interest in the campaign, thus allowing Salmon to defeat incumbent Republican Randy Brock. That is, more people paid attention to the auditor's campaign and voted because there were two of them out there drumming up interest.

She seemed to be waiting for a nod of agreement from Salmon on this, but it was not forthcoming.

The way Salmon saw it, having a Prog in the race meant the two of them shared votes on the left side of the political spectrum. That is, people who voted for Abbott would have voted for him if she had not been in the race.

Thus summarizes the debate between Dems and Progs every election cycle. Progs believe no one "steals" votes from anyone else. Dems disagree.

By the way, if you want to pore over recount results and compare them to Election Day results, the Secretary of State's Web site has the numbers posted, not counting the handful that were added in during Thursday's court hearing. It's HERE.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Welch hiring

Peter Welch says he's making good on a campaign promise to hire a Vermont business liaison.

Mary Sprayregen, who has been lobbying in Montpelier on behalf of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Burlington Industrial Corp., will go to work for Welch in his Burlington office.

Sprayregen, 26, is from Charlotte originally, and now of Burlington.

Her job will be to help businesses navigate the federal nightmare.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Farewell Sergeant of Arms

Kermit Spaulding, the Legislature's Sergeant of Arms since 1997, has decided not to seek legislative re-election to his post and has endorsed Rep. Francis Brooks, D-Montpelier, for the job instead.

"As Rep. Francis Brooks has voiced a desire to serve as Sergeant of Arms and I feel he will do an excellent job I hereby withdraw my name from consideration," Spaulding wrote in a note to Secretary of State Deb Markowitz earlier this month.

Spaulding, a well-liked, two-term former representative from Stowe, is known for showing up for work at the Statehouse at the crack of dawn, even when the Legislature isn't in session.

Twice in the last three years, he has run afoul of the state Fish & Wildlife Department, pleading guilty three years ago to shooting a deer decoy and no contest to a charge of feeding a deer in 2005.

He says his troubles with F&W aren't the reason for stepping down. Instead, at age 69, he says it's just time for someone else to take the reins.

-- Sam Hemingway



Ag appointment

WCAX-Channel 3’s lead political and Statehouse reporter has accepted the job of deputy secretary for development at Vermont’s Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets.

Anson Tebbetts, who grew up on a family farm in Cabot and has covered state government and politics for WCAX-TV for 10 years, confirmed Tuesday he has accepted the $75,000 agency post.

"Agriculture has alwayas been so important to me," Tebbetts told us in an interview. "One way or another, it’s always been a part of my life." Tebbetts said his family farm stopped milking cows five years ago, but continues to cash crops like hay.

He said his background as a reporter and knowledge of farming should help him in his new job. "It seems like a good fit." he said.

Tebbetts will join Roger Allbee, who last week was named to replace Steve Kerr, the agency’s departing secretary. Allbee, prior to his appointment, was executive director of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Services Agency in Vermont.

Tebbetts has worked for WCAX-TV since 1994. Before that, he was news director at radio station WDEV in Waterbury. Tebbetts, 41, and his wife Vicky live with their two children in Cabot.

His first day at his new job will be Jan. 2.

-- Sam Hemingway



Having a ball

Gov, Jim Douglas will be having an inaugural ball Jan. 5 at the Sheraton in South Burlington. Semi-formal attire. Proceeds to the Vermont Military Family Assistance Fund Inc. $40 tickets. Canned goods collected for the food bank.

I read somewhere that New York's Gov.-elect Elliot Spitzer will be having Natalie Merchant sing at his inaugural.

Clearly, we do things simpler in Vermont. The invitations say: "Music for Dancing." Haven't heard of that group.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Down to the wire

Can you say close? Democrat Tom Salmon appears to be leading the race for state auditor over incumbent Republican Randy Brock by 104 votes statewide now that Chittenden County's recount rally is in.

Those numbers have been shipped off to Washington County Superior Court via certified mail. Amid all those Christmas cards and packages floating in the postal world, who knows how long it will be before a judge finalizes the count.

The tally we're working with now is based on numbers accumulated from each county by the Associated Press.

Considering Salmon almost didn't challenge the Election Day count, this is an interesting tale.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Welch rules

Being named by incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the prestigious House Rules Committee last week was unquestionably a big deal for Congressman-elect Peter Welch, D-Vt., but it could also limit his visibility on big-issue legislation in the next two years.

So says Daily Kos, the closely watched blog with a distinctive liberal tilt. In a posting that discussed Pelosi's moves last week, Daily Kos noted that the assignment could keep Welch "out of the spotlight on big-time bills" but give him plenty of face-time on C-SPAN as one of Pelosi's close confidants. For a look at the full posting, click HERE.

Kos also noted that the other incoming freshman legislators named to the Rules Committee are Betty Sutton of Ohio and Betty Castor of Florida. Sutton and Welch are replacing progressive House members who just got elected to the Senate. That would be Sherrod Brown in Ohio and Bernie Sanders in Vermont.

Here's how Daily Kos summed up the power being entrusted to Welch and Sutton as members of the Rules Committee: "They decide what amendments get to the floor, what the rules of debate are, and just about everything else surrounding the terms under which votes in the House are cast. You have got to be absolutely rock-solid to make it to the Rules Committee ... Their Rules Committee seats will keep them out of the spotlight on big time bills, but they'll be on C-SPAN quite a bit managing debate on the rules (every bill that comes to the floor under normal circumstances -- or "regular order" -- comes with its own, customized rule setting the terms of debate), and will be the sort of behind-the-scenes fixers that will make appropriators and other legislative powerhouses want to make sure their districts are taken care of. "

-- Sam Hemingway


Clint Martin dies

More sad news from the legislative front.

Rep. Clint Martin, a Democrat from Springfield who served on the House Human Services Committee, died Sunday. Here is the Herald's story.

Martin struggled last session with a variety of health problems, rallied, then apparently took a sudden turn for the worst. Funeral services are Wednesday in Springfield.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Recount update

Monday. That's when we're likely to have a better idea who will be state auditor in January.

Chittenden County Clerk Diane Lavallee thought this morning that the work might be done by day's end, but alas, not enough volunteers showed up for the counting Friday afternoon. Chittenden is the last county to be tallying.

The results could change from the presumed Election Day outcome that indicated incumbent Republican Randy Brock had won. Under the recount, Democrat Tom Salmon leads by 2,404 with Chittenden's vote pending.

And by the way, those billboard-sized ballots I mentioned in a posting below - Charlotte isn't the only one to use them. That should have been occurred to me, on account I voted on one of them myself on Election Day. Bolton and St. George also used them. Now that my addled mind has been awakened on the issue, I do recall that it felt like I was voting in two ZIP codes.

- Terri Hallenbeck



I stopped by the first Vermont meeting of those interested in seeing U.S. Sen. Barack Obama run for president last night. I was interested in seeing how many people were interested.

About 25 turned out, much to the surprise of organizer Zephyr Teachout, the young Vermont lawyer who helped create Howard Dean's presidential Internet presence. She thought maybe five would show up and they'd have a cozy little discussion about how to get started.

It was a surprise to owners of the Euro Gourmet Cafe too, who had no idea the event was being held there but were nonetheless efficient and gracious in serving Pilsner Urquells and panini sandwiches.

The group was a mix of those all ready to leap on the Obama bandwagon and those curious about the charismatic up-and-comer but wondering whether he's really the perfect candidate or if he tends to vote pro-establishment.

Participants filled out Vermont-scene postcards, to be sent to Obama, urging him to run. Dear Barack: See the wintery scene on the front of this card? It's December and 50 degrees, no snow on the ground, and we're wondering if our picture postcard future is dead. Can you help? I don't know if anyone actually wrote that, but it seemed viable.

There will be more such meetings - perhaps once a month, as the group is looking to raise about $100 for a draft Obama campaign.

Anybody out there looking to draft anybody else? Is Obama the commonsense, charismatic leader many assume he is?

- Terri Hallenbeck


Ballooned ballots

Over at Superior Court in Burlington, they're still counting every one of our votes for auditor from Election Day. The pile they're poring through right now is from the residents of Charlotte.

An unusual lot, these ballots are. They practically violate the state's billboard law they are so large. Yellow sheets bigger than your typical placemat. One counter remarked that Charlotte ought to be ashamed of itself. Don't know yet if big translated into easier to read, and therefore fewer counting mistakes, but they certainly didn't look easier to store, or handle.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Talkin' about the next generation

The Next Generation Commission, which was handed a monumental task to figure out how to help Vermonters afford college, get trained for the right jobs and stay in Vermont so they can support the rest of us in our senior years, has filed its report.

Thousands of people will undoubtedly think upon their own lives and conclude that the commission didn't consider the fact that their son/daughter/neighbor moved out of Vermont because of rent/job prospects/lack of seafood but would come back if only the state would bring in more jobs/higher mountains/more opera.

They have, however, heard a lot of stories. They've made recommendations about how to offer financial help for higher ed, how to help those not going to college and how to get kids thinking about careers earlier in their lives.

It's available online here. Do the recommendations get at the stated problem?

The next question is what will happen to the recommendations.

Will the governor and Legislature agree to put the money toward scholarships and workforce development?

Is there a way to solve the problem of one piece of government not working closely enough with another?

Read it and weigh in.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Civil uncommitment

Rep. Kurt Wright learned a few things in Albany, N.Y., yesterday.

1) That the Legislature there does a lot of sitting around and waiting.

2) That they get paid a heck of a lot more to do it, plus they get offices and staffs.

3) That he won't be able to point to New York as a shining example in his pitch for civil commitment, at least not yet.

Wright and fellow Republican Reps. Patti Komline and Rick Hube went to the New York state capitol in hopes of watching the Legislature pass a civil confinement law that would allow the state to keep some untreated sex offenders locked up beyond their criminal sentences. They'd like to see Vermont pass a similar law.

New York legislators left the one-day special session without an agreement on the bill, however. Democrats in the Assembly are leery, as are their counterparts in Vermont. You can read about it here.

Wright will find even more resistance to the idea in the Vermont Legislature next year. Though he and Gov. Jim Douglas have both said they plan to persist in trying to introduce civil commitment legislation, Democrats who control the Legislature say they've been there, considered that, and decided to combat sex crimes in other ways.

"We looked at it very, very carefully," said Rep. Bill Lippert, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. "It was not supported by the majority."

Perhaps, he suggested, if the issue is going to come up in the Legislature, it's the Senate's turn to hash it out. Senators were no more eager for it than he was last session.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Welch's assignment

Vermont's Rep.-elect Peter Welch learned his committee assignment today. He'll be on the Rules Committee. It's a 13-member panel through which virtually every piece of legislation passes, so Welch is pretty happy with it.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Here's a doozy

This just came over the wires: Sen. Tim Johnson, a Democrat from South Dakota, suffered a possible stroke. The potential reverberations go far beyond Johnson and South Dakota.

If Johnson were unable to serve, his replacement would be appointed by the governor, who's a Republican. If Gov. Mike Rounds were to appoint a Republican, it would toss the Senate into a 50-50 tie politically but effectively return control to the Republicans, as Vice President Dick Cheney would break tie votes.

I know that's a lot of ifs and speculation, right after I condemned such practices, but it is a surprising turn of events.

Dems might want to hold off on the redecorating.

- Terri Hallenbeck



His last vote

Rep. Malcolm Severance, R-Colchester, cast his last vote Tuesday when the Joint Fiscal and Health Access Oversight committees met jointly to decide whether to give the Douglas administration a green light on an employer sponsored insurance initiative. That's a program that would move about 1,000 Vermonters from public health insurance to private coverage where they work.

Anyway, no one seemed to realize this was it for Severance and he said that was fine with him. He didn't want to wrap up his four terms with any kind of splash.

That doesn't mean he didn't participate. Ever the economics professor, he offered his assessment of the numbers the panels were reviewing -- "iffy." And he suggested the policy of shifting expenses from the state to businesses "is questionable public policy." Still, as a lame duck, he decided he wouldn't stand in the way of the program going forward. He didn't see that as his role. Others had said they shared his concerns and spoke about monitoring the implementation.

With that assurance, Severance headed off into Tuesday's bright sunlight with the noticably lighter step of a former lawmaker no longer carrying the weight of the Green Mountains on his shoulder.

-- Nancy Remsen


As New York goes, so should Vermont?

Rep. Kurt Wright, R-Burlington, plans a field trip Wednesday to Vermont's neighbor -- New York -- to meet with lawmakers there who may have found a way to break a longstanding deadlock over civil confinement legislation.

Kind of a familiar situation. Republican Gov. Jim Douglas pounded away about the need for a civil confinement law throughout his fall campaign even though the Legislature already considered and rejected his proposal. Since Republicans lost, rather than gained legislative seats, Douglas can't expect much change in lawmakers' receptivity during the coming session.

Wright knows the political score. (49 Republicans in the House, 93 Democrats, 6 Progressive and 2 independents while in the Senate there are 23 Democrats and 7 Republicans.) That's why he's traveling to Albany with Reps. Rick Hube of Londonderry and Patti Komline of Dorset to see if New Yorkers have found a compromise that would work here, too. Komline, about to start her second term, is the new assistant Republican leader in the House

Wright praises changes that were made during by the last Legislature that constrain future dangerous inmates, but he said he worries there still isn't a way to keep the "worst of the worst" already in Vermont jails off the streets after they serve their sentences if they haven't undergone treatment.

Wright promises he will bring up the issue again this session. He hopes he will have a compromise for consideration.

By the way, is anybody worried Wright might learn something else while watching New York lawmakers at work?

-- Nancy Remsen


Too springy

Been away for a few days in and around the Big Apple, so maybe I'm just disoriented. Times Square during the Christmas shopping season can do that to a person. But I have to question some of the comments you see on neighboring blogs about who is or isn't viable material for political office. There seems to be a startling eagerness to throw other people's hats into rings willy-nilly.

Over at Freyneland today, young Peter suggests:

"If the trend in the recount continues, and Tommy CPA wins, he will also
become the newest name added to the list of potential Democratic gubernatorial
candidates in 2008."

Say what? I'd say if the guy wins the auditor race in 1006, he's a strong candidate for the auditor's race in 2008.

I'm not trying to pick on Peter here, fun though that is. I just think bloggers have a disease called over-speculatitis. At Politics VT, a bout of the illness has prompted speculation about Melinda Estes as a gubernatorial candidate. An interesting notion, but is there any indication she'd be interested?

Freyne goes on to speculate that because Matt Dunne "did a respectable job in losing this year’s lite-gov contest" he's a possible 2008 gubernatorial choice. You get a promotion by failing? I mean, it's possible, but what is with this fever for speculating on the next election two minutes after the last one ended?

- Terri Hallenbeck



Political springboard

Just cleaning up my e-mail and came across this tidbit from the National Lieutenant Governors Association from last week -- offering cautious hope to Brian Dubie.

According to research going back 100 years, the office of lieutenant governor in states where it exists was the springboard for one in four politicians who became governors. Check out the study here.

The last lieutenant governor to move to the Vermont's top job was Howard Dean, but his ascension came under tragic circumstances. Gov. Richard Snelling had collapsed and died, forcing Dean to step up.Richard Snelling's wife, Barbara, became lieutenant governor in 1992 and was ready to make a run for the top office in 1996, only to be struck down by a stroke.

Democratic Lt. Gov. Doug Racine tried to move up in 2002, but lost to a treasurer -- Republican Jim Douglas.

Obviously, the stepping stone isn't a sure path, but some ambitious politicians -- such as Peter Shumlin, Cheryl Rivers and Matt Dunne, who all ran unsuccessfully for the job -- certainly must have believed in the odds. The current office holder, Republican Brian Dubie, may as well. Why else run for this strange office that is part just-in-case understudy for the governor's job, part traffic cop for Senate floor action and then whatever else a lieutenant governor wants to make of the job?

-- Nancy Remsen



National ink for Dunne

Matt Dunne, unsuccessful Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, earned designation as a "hero of the service politics movement" in the Daily Kos.

Eric Loeb, promoter of changing the flow of money in politics toward more meaningful uses solving real problems, praised Dunne's decision to weave service projects into his campaign.

Loeb writes, "Dunne's use of service politics went far beyond picking up trash in a local park. Rather they selected "target towns" which they believed would be important in the upcoming general election. Dunne's staff worked with non-profit and social service leaders in those town and designed service projects addressing the issues those leaders identified."

Check out the Loeb's article yourself at here

-- Nancy Remsen


Welch is hiring

Rep.-elect Peter Welch, D-VT, has added two more people to his staff and selected a location for his district office in Vermont.

Patricia Coates, who once worked for U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy and currently heads the history department at a pair of private schools in Albany, will become state director for Welch. Coates, 41, grew up in Brandon and graduated from St. Michael's College.

"Tricia is a consummate professional who brings to this job strong management skills, solid political and public policy experience and a deep commitment to her Vermont roots," Welch said.

Coates will move back to Vermont, likely taking up residence near the district office Welch will open at 30 Main Street in Burlington. Welch is taking over office space retiring Sen. Jim Jeffords, I-VT, has occupied.

Andrew Savage, 25, will become Welch's communication director in Washington, D.C. Savage has worked with Welch for most of the time since graduating from Middlebury College. He served first as director of the Democratic state senate campaign. Then he managed the office of the Senate Pro Tempore for Welch. This past year he served as communications director for Welch's congressional campaign.

Welch described Savage as "an outstanding communicator with a thorough understanding of Vermont."

Andrew, a nordic ski racer in college, will be doing a lot less cross-country skiing based in DC -- the price of success in politics.

-- Nancy Remsen



No election chaos

Deb Markowitz isn't just Vermont secretary of state. She's also president of the National Assocation of Secretaries of State. As such, she's testifying today before the U.S. Election Assistance Commisison in Washington, D.C., on how the 2006 election went.

"Predictions of Election Day chaos were overblown," she's expected to tell the commissioners.

There were predictions of problems because states were trying out new voting equipment and procedures mandated under a 2002 federal law. Markowitz will tell the federal oversight panel that the midterm elections "went well overall."

She will report that there were a few problems:
  • votes were lost in some districts
  • some new electronic voting equipment malfunctioned
  • no every statewide voter database worked as expected
  • some voting equipment vendors failed to provide the assistance they promised

Markowitz must count her blessings as she reports some of these problems, coming from a state that has no voting machines and still relies on paper ballots.

-- Nancy Remsen



Not afraid of cows

Getting revved up for the legislative session, us news-types gathered around the table this afternoon for a news conference with Gov. Jim Douglas.

Here's something he revealed:

He's not afraid of cows. The governor was photographed for an article in AARP magazine, sitting in a chair on a farm in front of a few black and whites. Apparently the photo crew was a bit timid around the cows, but the governor was only mildly concerned about slobber on his suit. You can see it here.

The chair he is sitting in was taken from the very conference room where the news conference was taking place. Perhaps even the very chair I was sitting in. I was not afraid.

The focus of the AARP article - Douglas was given a 2007 Impact Award for signing Vermont's Catamount Health Plan - went over with some of his political opponents more poorly than cow slobber on a suit. Douglas, after all, vetoed the Legislature's 2005 health-care reform plan and tussled mightily with the legislators over the 2006 plan. The AARP story says:
"While the bill was clearly a bipartisan effort, much of the credit goes to
Douglas, 55, for refusing to give up."
That's not exactly how some people see it. Douglas was reluctant to comment on the article. He said it would be a dangerous precedent to comment on news articles written about him, given that it might cause him to disagree with what some of us write about him.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Sanders' victory tour

Senator-elect Bernie Sanders is going on tour around Vermont to thank voters for their support and to discuss the state's priorities.

If blog readers can be predicted, my posting of this information allows you to have the usual contentious give-and-take about whether Sanders is a) the best thing ever or b) the worst thing ever, along with whether Election Day opponent Rich Tarrant is a) the best thing ever or b) the worst thing ever.

Nothing gets blog-reader response like the mention of the words Sanders and Tarrant. Sorry, I'm feeling overly cynical today. Here's Sanders' tour schedule:

Saturday, December 9th
6:00 pm--St. Albans Historical Museum
9 Church St., St. Albans

Sunday, December 10th
10:30 am--Barre's Old Labor Hall
46 Granite St., Barre

2:00 pm--Barton Village Memorial Building
17 Village Square, Barton

7:00 pm-Hotel Coolidge
39 South Main Street, White River Junction

Tuesday, December 12th
6:00 pm-South Burlington Doubletree Hotel
1117 Williston Road, South Burlington

Sunday, December 17th
10:30 am--Middlebury High School cafeteria
73 Charles Avenue --Middlebury

2:00 pm--Rutland Holiday Inn
476 US Route 7 South, Rutland.

6:00 pm-Mt. Anthony Union Middle School cafeteria
747 East Road, Bennington

Tuesday December 19th
7:30 pm-All Souls Church
29 South Street, Brattleboro

- Terri Hallenbeck



From the too weird department

This is just too weird to believe. But I'm told it's true.

Ed Flanagan, the state senator who survived 18 hours hanging upside down in the freezing cold after a car accident in November 2005, went off the road and flipped upside down in his PT Cruiser this morning.

Thanfully, this time was a lot better than last. A South Burlington police officer was right behind him. No 18-hour wait for someone to discover him. No unconsciousness. No real injuries - just a cut on his hand from pulling himself out of the car when it was over.

A short while ago, he told Free Press Staff Writer Vickie Welch, "I remember taking that turn, I remember beginning to go around that bend and the next thing I remember, honest to goodness, is being upside down and trapped in the car."

If anybody's looking for a Christmas gift for Ed, a CCTA bus pass might be just the thing.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Counting party

In a room at the Chittenden County Courthouse on Main Street in Burlington, groups of four people are seated at seven tables. More tables are out in the hall. Three coffee pots are on. It looks like a bridge club tournament. Except there's a deputy standing in the corner.

Instead of playing cards, these foursomes are playing count-the-auditor-votes. It's a time-consuming game with lots of rules.

Two Republicans and two Democrats sat at each table. The Republicans were short three people because of last-minute illness and personal conflicts, rendering some groups useless. Two Democrats and one Republican does not a fair counting group make. County Republican Chairman Jon Hughes was working his phone fast and furious in search of replacements.

After county Clerk Diane Lavallee opened the first box of ballots about 9:30 a.m. today, the first foursome got the task of counting the ballots into bunches of 50. The next table's job was to double-check that count. Once the whole box was separated into bunches of 50, other tables finally got to stop chit-chatting and start counting.

One person read the auditor vote off the ballot while another watched. The other two marked which person received the vote - Progressive Martha Abbott, Democrat Tom Salmon, Republican Randy Brock, Liberty Unionist Jerry Levy, other, blank, spoiled, whatever. During the brief time I was watching, it looked like a bunch of voters opted out of the auditor race.

The crew assembled in Chittenden County has 62,000 ballots to count, 50 at a time. They and their counterparts in every county in the state will count about 250,000 ballots before they can declare who won the auditor's seat.

We'll have a look at how the count is going in Tuesday's paper.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Douglas meets McCain

Gov. Jim Douglas, who's down in Florida for a Republican governor's conference, was among those cited in a New York Times article as meeting with Sen. John McCain to talk presidential inklings.

Douglas isn't committing to McCain, at least not yet, spokesman Jason Gibbs said today, but he has "great admiration and respect" for him. Douglas also appreciates the work of outgoing Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, is "very, very good friends" with outgoing New York Gov. George Pataki, notwithstanding their major disagreement over International Paper's tire-burning experiment, and he thinks highly of former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani.

You'll have to read between the lines to see which one Douglas might be apt to support - the one he has great admiration and respect for, or the one with whom he is very, very good friends or what.

"There's a real possibility he may decide to support one of those individuals," Gibbs said.

There's no possibility he's willing to support Sen. Hillary Clinton. He disagreed with her over the tire burning and is not very, very good friends with her. That's at least two strikes. Her party affiliation would make the proverbial third strike.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Tracy officially moves on

It's easy to forget that legislators who didn't run this year are still members until the end of the year. On election night, I saw in passing that one of the TV stations referred to Sen. Jim Leddy as former senator. Not so fast. He's still in there, still attending oversight commission meetings on which he is a member.

Well, Rep. John Tracy's not in there anymore. He submitted his resignation to Speaker Gaye Symington, as he has gone to work for U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy in Montpelier.

Symington said of Tracy:
"John’s irrepressible optimism, his delight in working with all kinds of
people, and his fine leadership abilities not only make him a joy to work with,
but have been essential in creating and passing such challenging legislation."

Tracy will be replaced for the next month s on two commissions. Symington appointed Rep. Michael Fisher as an interim member of the Health Access Oversight Committee, and Rep. Harry Chen as an interim member of the Health Care Reform Commission.

- Terri Hallenbeck

Recent Posts

Recent Comments


June 2006   July 2006   August 2006   September 2006   October 2006   November 2006   December 2006   January 2007   February 2007   March 2007   April 2007   May 2007   June 2007   July 2007   August 2007   September 2007   October 2007   November 2007   December 2007   January 2008   February 2008   March 2008   April 2008   May 2008   June 2008   July 2008   August 2008   September 2008   October 2008   November 2008   December 2008   January 2009   February 2009   March 2009   April 2009   May 2009   June 2009   July 2009   August 2009   September 2009   October 2009   November 2009   December 2009   January 2010   February 2010   March 2010   April 2010