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vt.Buzz ~ a political blog

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



Mr. Fisher goes to Washington

State Rep. Mike Fisher, D-Lincoln, has been serving his Addison House district for six years now, long enough to know how things work in Montpelier. On Monday, he got to see how the other half lives the next rung up on the ladder -- in Washington D.C.

Fisher spent Tuesday inside the beltway speaking at a news conference, stopping by (and getting snubbed by) the White House, visiting with members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and hanging out with ex-fellow Montpeculiarite Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., and staffers for Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

The occasion for Fisher's D.C appearance was to represent Cities for Peace, a collection of elected folks from cities, towns and (in Vermont's case) state legislatures that have passed resolutions against the war. Fisher said by phone that 300 different political entities of passed such resolutions, representing some 150 million voters "That's half the country," Fisher exclaimed.

Fisher said his group marched to the White House and even alerted the folks at 1600 Pennsylvania of their pending visit. But when his group tried to deliver copies of the resolutions to the White House, they were turned away by a guard.

Seems the envelope represented a security risk, the guard told them.

"The group was frustrated by that, but I don't think we were surprised," Fisher said.

Also making the trip to Washington was South Burlington lawyer and activist Jim Leas.

-- Sam Hemingway



The photo test

Here's the danger when we start talking about movie stars and how much people do or don't look like them: I don't know squat about movie stars. I can watch a movie and by the time I'm walking out of the theater cannot tell you the names of the actors in them. So when The Hill said Molly Gray looks like Kelly McGillis, that registers nothing with me. Yes, I saw "Top Gun." No, I don't remember anyone who was in it besides Tom Cruise (or was it Tom Hanks) . When you have this kind of celebrity-disability like I do, you generally stay as far away from any such discussions as you can get.
So it wasn't until my husband suggested Molly Gray looked nothing like Kelly McGillis that I even thought to question it. Not to belabor this admittedly non-essential item, but here's the evidence (which also allowed me to practice putting photos into blog items):
Kelly McGillis:

Molly Gray:

It's not like you'd mistake one for the other. I mean, they part their hair on different sides. But then again I'm no expert.

- Terri Hallenbeck


The non-campaign campaign

Vince Illuzzi is getting a lot of phone calls and e-mails these days. Ever since Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin started hawking the idea that perhaps Illuzzi, the maverick Republican senator from the Northeast Kingdom, would make a good independent candidate against Republican Gov. Jim Douglas in 2008.

It's an idea so crazy I didn't include it in my story that ran last week on the 2008 gubernatorial race outlook. The Democratic Party wasn't biting. Neither were key members of the Progressive Party. Without them, the idea had no chance. Even with them, it's shaky.

For his part, Illuzzi is carefully neither opening nor shutting the door on the idea. He will alternately outline the reasons he wouldn't run (he has a 5-year-old son who demands his attention, a law practice and a state's attorney job) and the reasons why he'd make a good candidate (he's always been able to work with people of all parties, he gets a lot of things done, a lot of people look to him for help. He was, after all, the one who fashioned the compromise on educating funding last session even though he was not on any committee dealing with the issue.

He can't deny that it isn't flattering to have his name bandied about in such a way. "It's nice to have it out there," he said. "It's fun to ride the wave." He counters that by declaring, "I'm a realist."

The best part, he said, is he can just sit back and watch it play out. If his name catches on, fine. If it doesn't, well, that's fine too.

The idea behind Shumlin's notion is that if Illuzzi ran against Republican Gov. Jim Douglas as an independent, the Democrats and the Progressives wouldn't field viable candidates (a la Bernie Sanders for U.S. Senate last fall). That's a big if. Democratic Party Chairman Ian Carleton isn't interested in doing that. The Progs would probably not be unanimous either.

There are other catches. What happens if Illuzzi loses? A Legislature without Illuzzi? Hasn't existed since 1980. Where would he be without a place to do what he does - getting in the middle of all the biggest issues and wrangling some unlikely outcome? If he shunned the Republican Party to run against their top dog, would he have any future in politics? And Illuzzi said he wouldn't be inclined to run a bash-Douglas campaign, which might not suit the people who want him to run.

Illuzzi said he's received some calls in support of a run. He's also heard from the governor's office suggesting he should be wary of Shumlin. And from Rep. Peter Welch, expressing gratitude that the race in question is not for Congress.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Creating leaders

Here's a press release that sounds like yada yada yada, Vermonter l goes on cool junket. Great for them. Until you get to the list of alumni of this program. Then it sounds more interesting.

Vermont Democratic Party Executive Director Jill Krowinski, who worked for Rep. Peter Welch's campaign and before that as assistant to House Speaker Gaye Symington, was chosen to the attend the American Council of Young Political Leaders' two-week international exchange program in the Philippines, starting Aug. 3. She and nine others from around the United States will to study the Filipino political system and talk about international issues.

Great opportunity for her, but then comes the list of who's done this program in the past. In Vermont, the alum include Jim Douglas and Peter Welch, both of whom have gone on to positions of stature.

Krowinski's not thinking right now about where it might take her. She said she's interested in getting more women involved in politics and leadership, and looks forward to seeing how women in the Philippines manage to overcome cultural and logistical hurdles that are perhaps even greater than those here.

Whether the program itself will elevate Krowinski herself in politics remains to be seen.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Among the beautiful

Sen. Patrick Leahy wasn't the only Vermonter making waves on Capitol Hill this week. On a lighter side (much lighter than subpoenas of high-ranking White House staff), Vermonter Molly Gray made The Hill's list of 50 Most Beautiful People on Capitol Hill, which you can read here.

Gray, 23, is from South Newberry and is Rep. Peter Welch's scheduler/executive assistant. She's described by The Hill, the Capitol Hill newspaper, this way:

Molly Gray, a former collegiate skier (at UVM) and aide to Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), bears a striking resemblance to actress Kelly McGillis, best known for playing
Maverick’s — aka Tom Cruise’s — love interest in “Top Gun.”

Gray, 23, grew up on a strawberry, dairy and vegetable farm in eastern
Vermont, and said she hadn’t previously been compared to McGillis. “I have to
say, I would take a walk in her shoes if that meant meeting Maverick and driving
a Porsche,” she said.Before signing up with Welch’s bid to succeed then-Rep.
Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Gray was a top-notch cross-country skier at the
University of Vermont. Her father was a two-time Olympic cross-country skier and
her mother, a downhill racer, broke her leg before the 1976 Games. Gray started
racing in high school before attending a ski academy. She was too busy skiing to
sign up for former Gov. Howard Dean’s (D) presidential campaign. In 2005, Gray
interned for Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) in Burlington and, after graduation, she
joined Welch’s campaign.

- Terri Hallenbeck



The politics of gay marriage

I've heard two theories about the politics behind legislative leaders' decision to create a commission to study gay marriage.

Theory A: The commission's work will put the issue out there for the 2008 gubernatorial election. Democrats show that most Vermonters are OK with same-sex marriage, then force Gov. Douglas to say whether he'd support it or not. If he does, he loses people from within his Republican base. If he doesn't he loses moderates without whom he can't get elected. The possible flaw in this theory is that maybe it won't be that clear that most Vermonters are OK with same-sex marriage. Then what?

Theory B: Democratic leaders don't really want to touch same-sex marriage with a 10-foot political poll because they lost control of the House over it in 2000, but their own base is pestering them about it. Thus, creation of the commission allows them to say to the base, see we're doing something. It's not our fault if nothing comes of it.

Perhaps you have theories of your own. Do share.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Changing topics

Legislative leaders Gaye Symington and Peter Shumlin held a news conference this morning to announce they're launching a commission to study how Vermonters feel about gay marriage.

If I had told you all that these two were holding a news conference today and asked you to guess the topic, I'm guessing that gay marriage would not have been among your first five guesses. We have, after all, been spending a lot of time of late hearing about energy, campaign finance, how incompetent the other side is.

But gay marriage it was. The 10-member commission will hold six public hearings around the state about the issue and report back to the Legislature by the end of April 2008. That means it will not be an issue for the 2008 legislative agenda.

At the news conference, VPR reporter Ross Sneyd, who used to attend such events with pad and pen but now shows up hauling a duffle bag full of electronic equipment and wears headphones that make him look like he's launching a space shuttle, smartly asked the question of whether this puts the issue on the 2008 election agenda. Shumlin contended the issue would be there for 2008 presidential and other races whether they had put this commission together or not.

Here's the list of commissioners:
Tom Little, former GOP state rep. from Shelburne, chairman
Sen. John Campbell, D-Windsor
Rep. Johanna Donovan, D-Burlington
Former Rep. Michael Vinton
Former Rep. Helen Riehle
Former Sen. Mary Ann Carlson
Berton Frye of West Danville
Former Gov. Phil Hoff
Johnson State President Barbara Murphy
Episcopal minister Nancy Vogele

- Terri Hallenbeck



Lesson from the west

Mama, don't let our Vermont politicians grow up to be this conniving:

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer reprimanded a couple of aides and acknowledged his administration had “grossly mishandled” a situation in which aides sought to damage his political rival, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, by planting a negative news story about Bruno.

I couldn't help but think this was a little like our Douglas-Shumlin relationship on steroids.

Spitzer's aides planted a story that Bruno had used a state helicopter for personal travel. The Attorney's General's Office concluded that the use was proper. It also concluded, according to the New York Times, that Spitzer's staff improperly used the state police to gather information about Bruno's use of state aircraft, concocting false reasons for needing the information.

Somehow, Spitzer's staff members were not fired for this, but merely suspended or transferred.

Thank goodness our politicians don't wing around in helicopters, on state business or otherwise. But the underlying disdain the two "leaders" have for each other is a hyper-version of the sort of counter-productive disdain Gov. Jim Douglas and Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Shumlin have for each other.

Let New York be a lesson to them. Don't grow up to be this juvenile.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Rising in the ranks

Gov. Jim Douglas has moved from vice chairman to chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee of the National Governors Association. He's been out in Michigan as the association's summer meeting.

Jason Gibbs, Douglas' spokesman, said that as chairman of this committee, Vermont's governor will get to make the case for, but not dictate an agenda for the coming year. "He's all fired up by health IT (information technology) stuff," Gibbs said, but added that the National Governors Association is nonpartisan and decisions on agendas as well as positions on issues require consensus.

What does this appointment entail? "A lot more staff work," Gibbs admitted.

As chairman, Douglas could have to make a few trips to Washington DC to testify before Congress on positions that the NGA has taken on health and human service issues -- such as the group's view concerning maintaining support for the State Childrens Health Insurance Program.

Douglas previously held top positions in the association for secretaries of state and state treasurers. Does he aspire to higher office in the NGA? He isn't on the executive committee, which might be the ladder to the top. The NGA's new chairman is Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Other members include Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell, the vice chairman; Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley, North Dakota John Hoeven, Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle.

Gibbs said he's sure Douglas would consider the association's highest office -- chairman of the executive committee -- "if his colleagues were so inclined."

-- Nancy Remsen


Who's out there?

It was with a little trepidation that I set about writing a story about who's not running for governor next year, which appeared in this morning's paper.

First, there's all the people who told me it's way, way early. Most of them had to admit, though, that it's not way, way early to be hearing about people thinking about running for governor. And that if somebody's really going to get going they're going to have to do it soon. And furthermore that the reality is there probably isn't somebody with a good chance of beating Douglas, as much as it pains many Democrats to admit.

I was more concerned that I might miss the people who are really thinking about running, tucked away somewhere in the hills of Vermont.

So why wait for you all to jump on the bandwagon? I'll open the door myself. Is there somebody else out there getting ready to run? Is there somebody you think should? Are the Democrats who are active in and around the Legislature out of touch with the party's voters out there in the rest of the state? Is Douglas the one who's more in touch? If there any way they can learn to co-exist in a way that benefits the state?

- Terri Hallenbeck



Lining up for Clinton

A passel of Democratic Vermont state legislators (and one independent) have endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, according to Clinton's campaign office. Not a plethora of them, but a few. Will it put Clinton's campaign over the edge? Well, no, but everybody's got to scrap for what they can get.

Here's the list:

Sen. Hinda Miller of Chittenden County
Sen. Sara Kittell of Franklin County
Rep. Donna Sweaney of Windsor
Rep. Johannah Donovan of Burlington
Rep. Kathleen C. Keenan of St. Albans
Rep. Bill Aswad of Burlington
Rep. Steve Howard of Rutland
Rep. Albert "Sonny" Audette of South Burlington
Rep. Daryl Pillsbury, the lone independent on the list, from Brattleboro

Here are the canned quotes Clinton's people issued from a couple of them:

“Senator Clinton’s unmatched experience makes her the most qualified candidate to be our next President,” said Sen. Hinda Miller. “People throughout the county, including those right here in Vermont, will benefit from the Senator’s commitment to government reform, repairing our health-care system, and providing affordable quality education."

“Hillary Clinton has a unique understanding of the issues facing our nation,” said Rep. Steve Howard. “She is ready to lead the country from the moment she takes office.”

As the FEC listings show from Sam's previous posting, none of these people had given Clinton money. But they've lent her their names.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Barack to the future

With apologies to Sally Field, it seems when it comes to Senator Barack Obama, Vermont Democrats like him. They really, really like him.

At least that's what the just-in second quarter campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Elections Commissions suggest. For a look at the FEC's cool interactive USA money map, click HERE.

Obama's got the most Vermont donors (133) of any Democrat running for the White House, and has taken in the most money from Vermont as well, $123,957.

In fact, it's not even a contest, if you're measuring this race by donors and dollars. Senator Hillary Clinton finished a distant second, with 20 donors and $21,722. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson squeaked ahead of former Senator John Edwards in money battle, netting $8,700 to Edwards' 7,789. Both had 17 donors.

If you're wondering where high-profile Democrats are putting their money, State Treasurer Jeb Spaulding has his ($500) on Obama, as does Dem strategist Carolyn Dwyer ($960), and Chuck (husband of Speaker Gaye Symington) Lacy $(250).

Vermont Republicans tipped the scales in favor of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. He pulled down $32,650 from 20 donors, while Senator John McCain got $22,275 from 26 donors and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani took in $8,650 from eight donors.

Big name Republicans were all over the place. Randy Brock, the former state auditor, gave McCain $2,300; former Lt. Gov. Barbara Snelling dropped $250 on the Arizonan. Both donations came in late June as McCain's ship was beginning to sprout leaks. Meanwhile, Jack McMullen, the former Senate candidate, gave Romney $1,000 and long-ago gubernatorial candidate Luther Hackett sent Giuliani $250.

Bottom line, Vermonters ponied up $237,106 for Democratic candidates and $123,957 for Republicans.

-- Sam Hemingway


Passport to anxiety

This is a story with struck home for me - the great, absurd U.S. passport backlog of 2007. My passport was up for renewal in June. I'm planning a trip to Europe later this summer. I applied for my new passport in April, and only then learned how really backlogged they were.

I waited. I heard the stories of ruined trips, of people who got their passports the day before they were to depart, of governmental meltdown. I waited some more. I passed the 10-12 weeks they had said when I applied. I passed the 12-14 weeks they were giving as an updated timeframe.

I was just getting ready to find out how deft our congressional delegation's constituent services were when mine arrived in the mail the other day. Almost 15 weeks after applying.

Rep. Peter Welch reports that the House voted Monday afternoon on a bill that's supposed to alleviate passport-renewal anxiety by beefing up the number of experienced people processing them.

The legislation gives the State Department the ability to rehire retired Foreign Service employees to staff passport processing centers, Welch said. The Senate passed the bill in June. Now it's up to the president to sign it.

In case your bags are packed, you're ready to go and you're still waiting for your passport, I am told that our congressional delegation might be able to intercede on your behalf. Welch said his office has helped dozens. I ran into local immigration lawyer Susan Sussman a few weeks back who gave me hope that if the time came, she knew some people who could make things happen. But my real advice is if you're going to be needing a new passport within the next two years, it's not too early to apply.

Who knew that when the federal government started saying people were going to need a passport to cross the street that there'd be a rush of applications? Apparently no one who was involved in making decisions about staffing and processing. But I gotta tell you, I feel a lot better about it now that I have my new passport.

- Terri Hallenbeck




Politicians know a chance to connect with the little guy when they see one. So it is with the Simpsons.

We all know that Gov. Jim Douglas recently said Vermonters were more interested in the goings-on of Homer Simpson these days than in the Legislature's attempt to override his vetoes. UVM Professor Garrison Nelson suggested it's a statement Douglas might one day regret.

U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., jumped in by sending Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez a tongue-in-cheek letter calling for an investigation of the voting that allowed Springfield, Vt., to win the movie premiere over 13 bigger, though obviously lesser, Springfields, including Oregon's. It's the sort of thing Gonzalez might jump on - a chance to investigate Vermont instead of the other way around.

Now, Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., has responded to DeFazio with this letter:

Well, Hi-Dilly-Ho-Dilly Neighboreeno DeFazio,

This whole thing sounds like a bad case of sour Oregon cherries.

Investigations by U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez?

I trust that Mr. Gonzalez has his hands full with another individual who
calls Vermont home. Okiliydokily?

"What does Vermont have? Maple syrup," you wrote. Homer has made his
roots clear, asserting to Marge "I just want to drink a nice glass of syrup like
I do every morning." Spoken like a true Vermonter.

And cows voting on the internet? That may happen in
Shelbyville, but pure Vermont pride carried us over the

Really, don't have a cow man!

PS: Please
enjoy the accompanying Vermont products and I hope you will join us at the
premier this Saturday in Springfield, Vt. Our 100-seat theatre certainly
can hold one more!

Just a guess, but I think you can expect the politicians to be shouldering their way into the premiere Saturday, each trying to get his or her mug on the screen. Perhaps they are all trying to bank on regular folks' caring way more about the Simpsons than about the mundane issues of government.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Pick your favorite Democrat

The Vermont Democratic Party is taking a straw poll of Democratic presidential candidates from now through July 30. Anyone is free to vote, regardless of party preference -- but only once, of course.

The choices are Biden, Clinton, Dodd, Edwards, Gravel, Kucinich, Obama, Richardson, Other and None. You can find links to Web sites for each candidate (except Other and None) at this link to the poll if you want to study up before voting.

Democratic Party Chairman Ian Carleton said the party is conducting the poll "to provide the campaigns with a measure of support in Vermont." He promises to release the results to the press (that's me), the candidates and the Democratic National Party.

In the meantime, any predictions about who will come out on top?

-- Nancy Remsen


Ranking biz

Forbes Magazine's recent rankings of state business climates puts Vermont at 32, down from 30 a year ago. We beat out New York, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, among others.

They weren't so fond of the cost of doing business in our state (45th) or our regulatory environment (40th), but they liked our labor pool (12th) and our quality of life (10th).

As an aside, when such rankings have come out about Vermont's tax burden, Gov. Jim Douglas blamed the Legislature for our high ranking. Forbes chart that details the ranking lists the above categories plus a few more, including the name of the governor of each state. They do not list any details about who runs the Legislature.

You can see the Forbes chart here.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Other things on his mind

Republican House Leader Steve Adams of Hartland really didn't want to be in Montpelier Wednesday. It's not that he wanted to duck the partisan showdown over the energy and campaign finance bills. He had his crowd in line and they delivered as asked. Neither override succeeded, thanks to House Republicans.

Still Adams was thinking and worrying about his camp on Seymour Lake in the Northeast Kingdom as the stormy weather unleashed another day of rain and wind. Tuesday evening, a severe cell of weather struck the Seymour Lake area, blowing out three windows in Adams' camp, knocking down every tree on the lot and bombarding his truck with golf-ball size hail.

Because of all the fallen trees, Adams said he got up at 4 a.m. on Wednesday. "I had to cut my way out," he said. "I told my wife I've got to be in Montpelier."

If anyone asks Adams how he spent his summer vacation, expect to hear that he sawed a lot of wood.

-- Nancy Remsen


Speaker votes

In the veto session Wednesday, House Speaker Gaye Symington, D-Jericho, cast votes on both the energy and campaign finance override questions even though she was presiding. That was surprising.

Under House rules, the speaker votes only in the event of a tie or to create a tie. Or she steps down and has someone else preside so she can vote. Then the person presiding gives up his or her chance to vote.

Donald Milne, clerk of the House, explained today that the state constitution sets out the procedure for override votes and that trumps House rules. It says that a 2/3 majority of members present is required to override a veto. Since the speaker is a member, the tally of members present includes the speaker. And since the speaker was counted to determine how many votes were needed to override the two bills, Milne concluded her vote should count, too.

"I felt, and others agreed, that she is not only entitled to vote but obligated to vote," Milne said.

The override vote on the campaign finance bill fell short by a single vote, with one Democrat joinng the Republican caucus to support the governor's veto and three Democrats absent. It would have been a two-vote loss without Symington's vote. Democratic leaders say the three absent lawmakers support campaign reform, so they predict passage of a comparable bill next winter and say they will have enough votes to sustain a veto -- should Gov. Jim Douglas again reject the measure. On any vote to pass to the bill, however, Symington wouldn't be voting.

-- Nancy Remsen



Barnett update

Perhaps you've heard - these are not the best of times for John McCain's presidential campaign. Two top advisers departed the campaign Tuesday. McCain has laid off scores of staff. Money is tight. The polls aren't looking good.

What if you're a Republican political junkie who left his home state to cast his lot with the 2008 McCain campaign?

"I'm hanging in there," said Jim Barnett, the Barre native and former chairman of the Vermont Republican Party who is New Hampshire campaign manager and New England political director for McCain's campaign.

The Los Angeles Times quoted Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report as saying, "I don't know how they right the ship." You can read about that HERE.

Is the Bulldog discouraged by recent events? "Not at all," he said Tuesday. If he were discouraged, it's not like he would say so to me, but he's also the sort to keep bouncing back up like one of those inflatable punching bags.

Sounding like a corporate executive trying to appeal to Wall Street, Barnett said McCain had to make some changes to show he was righting the ship. "The signal that is being sent is there does need to be a change of course. We need to get back to the John McCain core message," Barnett said.

Barnett reels off pieces of that message: Ending fiscal irresponsibility, winning the war against Islamic terrorism, making the country secure. He is living and breathing John McCain. So I asked him if he could get used to touting someone else's message. Could be substitute the McCain, McCain, McCain in his every sentence with Romney, Guiliani or Thompson?

"I expect to be working for Senator McCain right through the Republican National Convention and into November," Barnett said.

- Terri Hallenbeck


And the winner is...

One Vermont campaign is over faster than you can say Cowabunga, baby. Our Springfield has won the chance to host the premiere of The Simpsons Movie, beating out all those other states with lesser Springfields.

Gov. Jim Douglas released this statement upon receipt of the good news this afternoon: "To all the other Springfields, I say, 'Don’t have a cow, man.'"

Now you might think Douglas is the sort never to have seen The Simpsons, but gubernatorial spokesman Jason Gibbs says that's not so. Douglas recalls fondly the episode in which George H.W. and Barbara Bush move in next door to the Simpsons after leaving the White House.

Imagine if that were true, that the elder Bushes moved to Springfield, Vt. Then, it would seem, their son, George W., would have had to visit Vermont and ours would not be the only state the president has not visited.

The movie will premiere at the Springfield Movie Theatre on July 21, when the filmmakers will walk the yellow carpet. You can view the nail-biting results HERE.

In the interest of full disclosure I am the one who has never seen the Simpsons. Doh.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Your best guess

Two days until the Montpelier midsummer drama - aka the Legislature's veto session.

So what will it be - the Case of the Futile 520 Override? Or will Batman swoop in and save the bill from the claws of veto death? Is campaign finance cooked for the year? Will our combatants continue with their slings and arrows or set their weapons down over glasses of sweet summer tea?

- Terri Hallenbeck



Vote Springfield

Next week, partisan politics will reign as the Democrat-led Legislature returns to try and override two controversial vetoes issued by Republican Gov. Jim Douglas.

But today, the Douglas administration and Vermont Democrats agree on a vote -- a vote to make Springfield, Vermont the site for the "hometown" premier of The Simpsons Movie on July 26. Vermont's Springfield is one of 14 competing for this honor.

Gubernatorial spokesman Jason Gibbs sent out an email this afternoon to rally support. He wrote, "Early returns show Vermont’s Springfield locked in a three-way tie—a dead heat! Springfield, Vermont needs every vote it can muster! Please vote and pass along to others."

Over on the Vermont Democratic Party website, they put up this message. "As much as we at the VDP love politics—and we do—sometimes, another worthy cause presents itself and we feel compelled to dedicate some of our grassroots energy to a cause of a different sort. This weekend, we’re encouraging all Vermonters to exercise their democratic right and support Vermont’s own Springfield in what may be the most important election in the history of the town."

So if you want to participate, go here and cast your vote.

-- Nancy Remsen



Political parades

The Fourth of July is, at its root, a political holiday. Still, in a year between elections, one might expect less politics in parades. However, where a crowd gathers, political people see opportunities.

I took in the parade in Richmond. The theme was honoring farmers -- a pretty apolitical focus. There were people dressed as cows, folks on horses, leading goats, folks handing out flowers and the usual array of fire trucks from all the neighboring towns. (I couldn't quite understand the signficance of one float with "cows that shoot" other than it offered the opportunity to shoot squirt guns at parade watchers.)

Still, between the trucks and animals, a group of Veterans for Peace marched quietly. Richmond is home to a weekly peace vigil. This small band handed out information sheets, rather than candy -- which kids and parents weren't as eager to grab.

It looked like a lot more politics played out in the parade in Waitsfield -- based on my viewing of one television clip. That's always the case. One float tried to symbolically suck up carbon polluters and folks advocated for passage of the energy bill that Gov. Jim Douglas vetoed. (The override session is set for July 11.)

It's a lot more interesting to see political issues paraded down Main Streets than political candidates -- unless candidates are creative. Of course then they run the risk of being seen as silly -- well they run that risk anyhow, don't they.

-- Nancy Remsen


"Fighting 49"

By this time next week the "Fighting 49" will have fought their fight at the Statehouse. That's the 49-member House Republican caucus.

The battle, of course, is over the energy bill that Gov. Jim Douglas vetoed. What's interesting is that the Vermont Republican Party sees a fundrasing opportunity in this fight and the companion battle to block an override of the Douglas veto of a campaign finance bill.

"Help fortify the fighting 49" urges the Vermont Republican Party on its website. How? Donate. There are "sustain the vetoes receptions" you can attend or you can donate directly. Here's the message: "If you believe we need more fiscally responsible Republicans in Montpelier and want to send a message of encouragement to our "fighting 49" now is the time to make a contribution to the Vermont GOP."

Over at the Vermont Democratic Party's website, a big red button at the top of the home page urges visitors to click for more information on the campaign finance bill -- which the party wants passed despite the veto. The energy bill didn't get a button. No direct appeal for money by the Vermont Democratic Party to help the "-------" 93, who will be entering the July 11th battle short a few members. Despite their greater numbers, Democrats face an uphill fight to find enough allies to achieve a two-third's majority to override vetoes.

By the way, I couldn't come up with a good adjective for the 93-member Democratic caucus. I flipped through a thesaurus in search of an alliterative word but nothing fit -- since I was looking for something neutral. I'm sure, though, that some of you will have suggestions.

-- Nancy Remsen

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