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vt.Buzz ~ a political blog

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



Address on a bill

Gov. Jim Douglas allowed the hemp bill to become law yesterday without his signature. His staff had sounded the alarm earlier this month that because the Legislature had left town without creating a veto session, the governor didn't have the option of letting something become law without signature.

They found a way to do it, though. By sending the bill to the Secretary of State's Office without a signature it becomes law By sending it to the Senate office without signature it's vetoed. The address on the hemp bill: the Secretary of State's Office.

Douglas spokesman Jason Gibbs said he doesn't expect any more bills to travel that route.

Douglas doesn't like the hemp bill, noting that it doesn't do anything as long as the federal government considers hemp illegal.

Advocates for the bill say it will put the state in a position to take advantage of an agriculture boon once the feds legalize it.

The purpose of allowing a bill to become law without signature thing eludes me. But now Douglas will be able to say he had nothing to do with it if it ever becomes troublesome.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Let them eat ice cream

The ice cream, by the way, was Ben & Jerry's, not Vermont Milk Co.


Not ahead

"We're not going to hear anymore about Democrats and Progressives syphoning off votes. I'ts not true," Pollina said.
Hedging what will surely be used by Democrats to try to urge Pollina out of the race, he said the next poll will probably not show him winning.
"I will be the first to tell you we will not be ahead in the next poll," he said. "We will not be ahead in the money race."

"I ask you what would happen a few years ago if the New England Patriots if they gave up in the third quarter."



Pollina slammed his opponents as "insiders," who have led to a loss of jobs, the inability to afford homes, higher health care costs and other problems facing the state.

"Let's all thank the insiders for that," he said angrily.


Still believing

"Having another person in the race does not make me believe any less in the need for for a governor to stand up for real health-care reform," Pollina said. "Having another person in the race does not make me believe less in myself."


Staying in

Progressive Party gubernatorial candidate Anthony Pollina reaffirmed his plans to stay in the race Thursday at a mid-day rally on the steps of Burlington City Hall.
" We launched a campaign for govenror back in March," Pollina said. "As far back a August I made an effort to reach out to a broad coalition of people."
Battered by question of whether he should withdraw from the race since Democrat Gaye Symington announced her candidacy early this month, Pollina said he wanted to "end the speculation and tio outline a strategy for winning the office of governor of Vermont."
Pollina and Symington are challenging three-term incumbent Republican Jim Douglas and would likelu draw from the same pool of voters.
Pollina told the crowd he has not heard any leadership from Montpelier.
"We need somebody who can bring Vermonters together," said Jane Knodell, who introduced Pollina. "We need somebody who is not afraid to put new ideas on the table."

- TH



If you thought the reason Pollina might be fueling mystery about what he's going to do just to get the media to show up for his news conference, well the thought's crossed my mind a few times too.

A small girl has just discovered that the Progs' moose is not a real moose. That's not keeping other kids from hugging the moose or jumping at notion of free ice cream.

And yes, the Republicans have their camera rolling.

- TH



The Democrats are here to film. Haven't seen the Republicans setting their camera up yet, but wouldn't be surprised if they did.

During the legislative session, it was not uncommon to have all three parties taping each other's events. Everything they say can and will be held against them during the election.

- TH


Sunshine, balloons

Far be it from me to begrudge the sun from shining, but it's a taf hard to see a computer screen with the noon-day glare.

As Pollina's people set up here in front of City Hall in Burlington, the signs say Pollina Governor 08. So do the shirts and the balloons. So if you thought he was going to change races, what's he doing with all this stuff that says governor?

One could say all signs point to him sticking to the race he's in.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Live from Burlington

Can't make it to Burlington's City Hall for a little free ice cream, yet you're curious what it is Anthony Pollina might have to say? Fear not.

We're going to try a little live blogging from Church Street this afternoon, technology willing. So check back here to vt.Buzz.

My bet? Pollina stays in, declares himself insulted that anyone would suggest otherwise.

I have been wrong before, though.

- Terri Hallenbeck



A campaign announcement???

What does this mean? The Pollina campaign just sent out a notice for a press conference tomorrow (Thursday) to discuss the status of his 2008 campaign.

He's going hold forth to the media -- and his supporters -- at 12:30 outside city hall in Burlington.

He notes that he's just completed a tour of the state, hitting 29 communities. While he was touring, Democrat Gaye Symington jumped into the gubernatorial race.

Did her decision change anything for him? Did he hear something on the campaign trail that has made him change his mind about running? Democrats were certainly hoping he might change his mind, while Republicans, I'm sure, would prefer he stay in the race.

I guess we will have to wait until tomorrow to find out. It's kind of ho-hum if he's still in, but oh, my gosh if he drops out.

-- Nancy Remsen


On the trail

If you think Gov. Jim Douglas hasn't kicked off his re-election campaign, consider his schedule for today, some of which is included on his official schedule and some of which came as an extra media advisory. It's a long day:

9 a.m.: Gilman Housing, 316 Main Street, Newport
9:30 Newport City Motel, 444 East Main Street, Newport
10:00 Chamber of Commerce Construction Project, 246 The Causeway, Newport
10:30 Press Conference on Housing, Vermont's North Country Chamber of Commerce, 246 The Causeway, Newport
11:00 Press Conference on Sales Tax Holiday, Pick n' Shovel, 54 Coventry Street, Newport
1 p.m.: Signing of Bill H.863 – An Act Relating to Municipal Planning, Creating Vermont Neighborhoods, Encouraging Smart Growth Development, Purchasing of Mobile Homes, Closure of Mobile Home Parks, and Landlord-Tenant Relations and State Residential Lead-Based Paint Poisoning Prevention, Cameron’s Run, Hillary Street, Milton
3:00 p.m. Signing of Bill H.748 – An Act Relating to Permitting Students to Possess and Self-Administer Emergency Medication, Allergy and Asthma Associates, Timber Lane, South Burlington
4:30 p.m. Signing of Bill S.284 – An Act Relating to the Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities, and Health Care Administration, Dwight Asset Management Company, Bank Street, Suite 800, Burlington
5:15 p.m. Turning Point Center Open House, South Champlain Street, Burlington
6:45 p.m. Vermont Fuel Dealers Association Annual Conference, Basin Harbor Club, Ferrisburgh

Within the media advisory, Douglas refers to his economic stimulus package as a $200 million package, a figure some have disputed and that because the proposal changed in the Legislature is no longer in play, except on the campaign trail.

He also refers to the housing bill as establishing "New Neighborhoods," as his proposal called them, disregarding the fact that the Legislature renamed them "Vermont Neighborhoods."

- Terri Hallenbeck



Down on the farm

A story on the national progressive Web site TruthDig suggests that Vermont is leading the way with the Progressive Party movement and having a smashing success at it.

It starts out:

The Web site of the Vermont Progressive Party, with its moose silhouette as
its party symbol, looks like something put together by a bunch of Eagle Scouts
trying to earn a merit badge. One of its party stalwarts, state Rep. David
Zuckerman, could not be reached during the day because he was tending his 16
acres of organic vegetable fields. And the party’s populist message, in the age
of corporate money and slick campaign slogans, seems lifted from the era of Eugene Debs. But the party is slowly succeeding at a time when other progressive movements are failing. And maybe, just maybe, this movement in Vermont signals a crack in the political landscape that could allow American progressives to rise from the dead.

You can read it HERE.

You end up wondering: Is it the Vermont Progressive Party the writer finds quaint, or would he find the rest of Vermont's politics equally as quaint? Don't a bunch of Eagle Scouts put together all the party Web sites? Has he never reached other politicians in their barns?

But anyway, a quote from farmer Zuckerman indicates the Progs and the Dems are not moving closer to working together.

“A lot of us do not believe that working within the Democratic Party is
possible,” Zuckerman, who has served 12 years in the Vermont House, told me one
evening from his farm in Burlington.

Here's another indication from the story of why Progressive gubernatorial candidate might not walk quietly into the good night:

Our hope lies in first capturing seats on city councils and town boards.
Our hope lies in building a party from the bottom up. We will have to be
patient. It will take time. But it might work. And that is why, in some ways,
the campaign for Vermont governor, which pits the progressive candidate Anthony
Pollina, a community organizer, against Democrat Gaye Symington and three-term
Republican incumbent Gov. Jim Douglas, is one of the most important races in the

- Terri Hallenbeck



Dean and the DNC, part II

I stand corrected, I think.

Damien LaVera, a regional press secretary for the Democratic National Committee, called to say former Vt. Gov. Howard Dean won't be out of a job as DNC chairman when (and it's only a matter of time now) Barack Obama clinches the party's presidential nomination.

In a blog entry a few days ago, I flagged an AP article that said Obama's folks are already in negotiations to put their people in charge of the DNC once the nomination is secure, as nominees are inclined to do in order to better coordinate the party's national committee with the candidate's national campaign. I made note that AP had reported that Obama strategist Paul Tewes was "in discussions to run the party."

LaVera says that doesn't mean what it sounds like it means. Instead, while Tewes or other Obama loyalists may be plugged into the DNC apparatus, Dean himself will not be repleaced. Dean wants and plans to stay on through the November election and, says LaVera, that's what will happen .

-- Sam Hemingway


Having a gas of a time

This week, Sen. Patrick Leahy was giving oil executives a hard time about their salaries and their profits.

Rep. Peter Welch's bill to stop filling the oil reserves was signed by the president.

OK, so prices took a breather from their ever-ballooning ways, right?

Not in my neighborhood. Yesterday I had the pleasure of paying $3.89 a gallon, putting my total over $45 for the first time ever. Silly me, if I had filled up in the morning it would have been $3.77, but from morning to evening the price rose 12 cents a gallon. Had to rise that quickly or they wouldn't have been able to get it to $4 by the holiday.

You can tell by the increasingly creative ways people park at the increasingly crowded Richmond park and ride that some are changing their ways. You can also tell by the way one car company is retreating on its profit projections and another is advertising $2.99 a gallon gas for new cars knowing they can't advertise those cars as fuel efficient because they didn't bother to make them that way.

Have you changed your habits? Thought about selling the Sequoia? Started taking the bus? Driving slower? Forgoing trips? Has the price of gas changed your Memorial Day plans?

- Terri Hallenbeck



Uphill races

Before we all move much farther into the future, we’ll undoubtedly have a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor and a Republican candidate for Congress.

Neither of those races are easy sells to anyone who actually wants to win.

I would not be going out on any limb to say first-term Democrat Peter Welch will be tough to beat for Congress. Even Republican state Rep. Rick Hube of Londonderry locked arms with Welch at a recent local event and praised him so much to make one do a double-take.

In a recent e-mail newsletter, Hube said:

"As a state, we are very lucky to have Peter Welch as our representative in
Washington. His ability and willingness to work with others brings a different
style of politics to Washington - a Vermont approach. It is this approach that
will ultimately make our state and our country a better place to live, work and
raise our kids."
Republican Gov. Jim Douglas, at his news conference today, said he thinks it’s important for a Republican to challenge Welch and that he expects somebody will. It’s good for democracy and good for Welch, he said. "He’ll do a better job if he’s tested."

As for Lt. Gov., Dems apparently have a candidate in the wings.

At the same time, one Democrat told me that beating Republican incumbent Brian Dubie could be harder than beating Douglas for governor. And here’s the argument why: The lieutenant governor casts almost no votes, and as such does nothing to anger anyone. An enviable position. Dubie also happens to be a likable guy who connects with a lot of people.

That’s not to say Democrats have no beefs with him. Party Chairman Ian Carleton, speaking the other day when it became clear Deb Richter would not run for the office, said the light guv should use the position to speak out on public matters, as Richter presumably would have tried to do with health care. "The real failure of Brian Dubie in that office is he hasn’t used the symbolic merits of the office to raise issues," Carleton said.

Last session, Dubie did speak up against decriminalization of marijuana, but it was a rare moment for him to take on a cause publicly.

To make the argument stick with voters, though, Democrats would have to prove that the raising of issues could be more than symbolic.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Dean leaving DNC?

Looks like Howard Dean's three-year ride as chairman of the Democratic National Committee is about to get hit by the game-over button.

Aides to Barack Obama are already in negotiations to put their own people in charge of the DNC once Obama formally and finally clinches the party's presidential nomination, and that means replacing Dean with an Obama loyalist like Paul Tewes, a key architect of the Illinois senator's victories in Iowa and elsehere. That's according to AP writer Nedra Pickler's story on the wire today (Click HERE for the full story).

The irony of all this is that many political observers see Dean's own upstart bid for the presidential nomination in 2004 as the precursor to Obama's success, in terms of the netroots' connection, the appeal to the young, and the similarity between Obama's "Yes We Can" chant and Dean's "You've got the power" mantra.

So what's next for Dean? He's managed to turn himself into a national figure and has been in politics now for nearly 30 years, but he's only 59 years old and undoubtably doesn't want to fade into the sunset just yet.

So how do he do as DNC chairman? What's up next for him? A post in an Obama administration, if it happens? A return to Vermont politics? A return to Democracy for America or something like it?

-- Sam Hemingway



Disorder in the House

Today in Washington, Rep. Peter Welch's interrogation of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson led to a little disorder in the House.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Henry Waxman ended up gaveling things back to order.

Welch was asking Johnson about whether he had met with the president over the EPA's decision not to grant California (and Vermont and a bunch of other states) a Clean Air waiver that would have allowed them to put into place stricter car emissions standards. Johnson was not sharing much in the way of information.

Then Waxman sets in on the inquiry over the objections of Republican Rep. Darrell Issa.

Here are the You Tube links, in case you missed it on CSPAN 3 (yeah, I don't get CSPAN 3 either), you can view the action HERE.

The event, minus Welch's participation, is also the subject of a Wall Street Journal blog item you can see HERE.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Who's not running for lt. gov

Deb Richter, the medical doctor who's been fighting for universal health care in the state, has decided against running for lieutenant governor.

Richter delivered the news to Vermont Democratic Party Chairman Ian Carleton on Sunday, Carleton said.

He said he's unsure who else might be a prospective candidate to challenge three-term Republican incumbent Brian Dubie.

The search for a lt. gov candidate comes at a time when the party is also trying to fill several administrative positions. The party's executive committee will meet Thursday to consider appointing an interim executive director to replace Jill Krowinski, who is taking a leave of absence to manage Gaye Symington’s gubernatorial campaign.

The party has two other vacancies in its five-member staff, as fund-raising guru Adam Quinn went to Democracy for American and techno guy Reid DeWolfe is going to work for Maine Democrats.


Super lot of work

Confused about super delegates, their role and their affiliations?

So was Vermonter Eric Warren, who has put in the time to sort it all out for you. Warren, who works for a technology company by day, has spent the last three months working deep into the night to compile info from newspaper articles and party sites on all the super delegates and putting them together on one Web site. Click HERE to get there.

He did this not because he had a great fondness for these people, but because he, like many, was unnerved that these super delegates felt like they had the super powers to choose who will be the Democratic candidate for president.

When he launched the idea it was hard to tell whether the Democratic Party might really let a handful of self-appointed powerful people go into a back room and decide who the candidate should be. Since then, it appears that maybe just about everybody realizes what a bad idea that would be, but still the battle over super delegates is key to the presidential race.

Warren is also collecting signatures for a petition on the site from Democrats who want to declare that the people should decide the candidate. It goes partly like this:

What we are calling for is simply this - the Democratic Party leadership must not overturn the ultimate choice of the people. We can wait until every state primary and caucus event has occured to count those pledged delegates, but at the end of the process they are ultimately what must be counted.

Warren, who lives in Bradford and has a family and a life, realizes this info only has a shelf life of a few months, but he's thinking the Web site could evolve into a political information source. Check it out.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Governor's right-hand man leaving

The governor's right-hand man, Mike Smith, is retiring at the end of August. Smith has been by the side of Gov. Jim Douglas since they were young legislators still getting acquainted with shaving (slight exaggeration intended).

Smith will be replaced as Administration secretary by Neale Lunderville, the Agency of Transportation secretary who probably also learned to shave while he was helping the governor win election.

“Mike is an invaluable member of my team and a close personal friend. I cannot thank him enough for the top-quality work he has done for Vermont,” Douglas said in a statement.

Douglas spokesman Jason Gibbs joked that he will probably still be getting 5:30 a.m. calls from Smith with complaints about the misguided news coverage Gibbs allowed to happen. On those occasions when Smith's discontent boiled beyond the usual, we in the media were apt to get a 5:35 a.m. e-mail from him.

Lunderville, who's old enough now not to be called the boy wonder, will take over the job that oversees the state's budget.

Deputy Secretary of Transportation David Dill will take over the task of overseeing the patching of the state's roads.

In other transactions, Health Commissioner Sharon Moffatt, whom the Legislature had just given the right to the full-fledged commissioner title even though she's not a doctor, will be stepping down for family reasons.

Are those a lot of changes all at once with an election pending? Well, that was what Jill Krowinski, campaign manager for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gaye Symington, was suggesting.

The bigger question is what impact the change will have on Douglas because Mike Smith has been a key player in everything Douglas has done.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Strategic oil

It was a cold day in Vermont when Peter Welch and his dog, Pepper, came to the State Street Gulf station to declare that the federal government should stop putting oil into the strategic reserve given prices where they are.

It seemed like a cold day in another place before the president would go along with that, but the legislation passed handily in the House and Senate, perhaps leaving President Bush with little choice but to go along. And Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave Welch credit.

In a statement, she said:
"I want to commend Congressman Peter Welch of Vermont and Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota for their tremendous leadership in shepherding this legislation through the House and Senate."

Now, we will wait to see if the strategy succeeds in reducing prices at the pump, or if the oil producers have a strategy to out-strategize Congress.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Douglas' dear friend letter

Jim Douglas has wasted no time getting out a letter asking for support (read that money) following Gaye Symington's announcement that she will challenge him for the state's top job.

Here's his take on the final weeks of the session. Douglas writes:
"Republicans in the Legislature and I accomplished a great deal in the final weeks of the legislative session by refocusing Gaye Symington and her Democratic supermajority on what matters most to Vermonters, and away from the secondary issues that consumed so much of their time."

Democrats would say the "secondary" issues on which they were focused included all the money bills, which had to be adjusted in the final weeks because of a $25 million revenue downgrade.

The accomplishment he's touting is the economic stimulus package he whipped out at a home and garden show. It carried a price tag without a source as they were considering cuts to programs -- which created a bit of tension.

Douglas writes, "Despite push back from Gaye Symington, my Economic Growth Initiative was adopted by the Legislature - providing more than $214 million in economic stimulus. These initiatives will help more Vermonters achieve the dream of owning a home; stimulate job growth while protecting existing businesses and the environment; provide tax relief for consumers; and make responsible investments in our infrastructure."

What was Symington's push back? She didn't like the two-day sale-tax holiday, which will cost taxpayers $2 million to save individual consumers $6 on their $100 purchases. Remember no sales tax is paid on necessities such as food and clothing.

Tom Kavet, the economist who works for the Legislature, advised lawmakers that "there is no credible literature, however, that suggests such holidays result in anything but net revenue losses at the state level and therefore produce no net stimulus to the economy." He went on to say, "This program component may serve other political and social objectives, but it will do nothing on balance for the Vermont economy during a time of recession."

Kavet also disputed Douglas' claim that his total package would result in $214 million in economic stimulus. "Based on available research to date, actual net direct impacts of the proposed programs are likely to be in the range of $40-$60 million, depending on the maximum bonding capacity that may be allowed."

For the record, Douglas' plan wasn't adopted as proposed. Many of the suggestions were revised by a legislative panel.

It's clear from the letter that Douglas plans to put Symington and Pollina in the same basket and suggest that both are far from mainstream. He's reaching out to centrist Democrats with that message. He writes, "If you're a Democrat who supports my vision of a more prosperous and affordable Vermont, please join the Democrats for Douglas team today."

I can hardly wait to see her letters.

-- Nancy Remsen



Full dance card

After a long winter of not having a candidate for governor, Democrats now have not only someone for the top job -- Gaye Symington -- but a full dance card for the fall election.

All the incumbent Democrats will run again. That's Secretary of State Deb Markowitz, Treasurer Jeb Spaulding, Attorney General Bill Sorrell and Auditor Tom Salmon.

Deb Richter, a doctor who lives in Montpelier, has confirmed her interest in being a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor. Democrats say they have other people interested in running for that job, too. I'm sure there are some behind the scenes talks going on -- not that anyone should be discouraged from running, but primaries can be messy.

Republicans, of course, have both incumbents running again. That's Gov. Jim Douglas and Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie. The question is how many more Republicans the party will field for statewide offices. Republican Party Chairman Rob Roper said he has heard from people interested in running for a couple of the other spots. He doesn't expect to have a full dance card. Look for Republicans to try to rebuild their numbers in the Legislature.

Progressives have their candidate for governor, Anthony Pollina. Morgan Daybell, Progressive Party executive director, predicted there would be someone for lieutenant governor. He's had inquiries. He didn't expect to see party candidates in the other statewide races -- but there's still time.

Candidates from major parties have until July 21 to decide. (Of course they would have to work fast on that day if they waited until the last minute, since they would need signatures on petitions.)

-- Nancy Remsen



Announce, she did

Gaye Symington made her announcement this morning, saying it was time for a change in the governor's office.

"Vermont is stuck in neutral," she told the crowd of about 150. "And the failure to move forward is a failure of leadership."

That, you can expect, will be a familiar theme in the race, criticizing Gov. Jim Douglas' leadership.

You can also expect Republican incumbent Jim Douglas to defend his leadership and to characterize Symington's record as one of willingness to spend.

Many Democratic legislators turned out, some party officials and elected leaders such as Rep. Peter Welch, Secretary of State Deb Markowitz and former Gov. Madeleine Kunin, none of whom spoke.

Instead, little-known Rep. John Malcolm, D-Pawlet, was among those who introduced Symington. He acknowledged that the crowd might be wondering why John Malcolm. He was a legislator Symington recruited and who said she always made him feel like he was being heard.

In the end, the weather was perfect. Just goes to show you not to put too much stock in a four-day weather forecast.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Who's not running for governor

Hold onto your seats while I prepare you for this news: Peter Galbraith is not running for governor.

Galbraith, the former ambassador to Croatia who has a home in Townshend, was the Democratic candidate-in-thinking for a few months this winter until House Speaker Gaye Symington took over that role.

On the eve of Symington's campaign kickoff, Galbraith announced what has been clear for a while now: He's not running and is supporting Symington.

"I've already written her a check," he said Sunday.

At the recent Democratic Party dinner at which Symington gave a sort-of practice announcement speech and Democrats practiced rallying for Symington, she sat next to Galbraith at a table he had sponsored.

The Democratic Party ended up doing a pretty good job of keeping their faithful (and the media) placated while they came up with a candidate. Last fall, party officials were wilting under the strain of people questioning why they didn't have a gubernatorial candidate.

They finally came up with the names Matt Dunne, John Campbell and Doug Racine, and tossed those names out every time anybody asked that question. When those people stopped saying they were even vaguely considering a run, they came up with Galbraith.

Galbraith made an interesting and yet odd possible candidate. Tremendous international experience, so much so that when Pakistan's Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, Galbraith's attention was completely diverted. He was a personal friend. That didn't quite add up to someone who was ready to buckle down for a Vermont gubernatorial race.

Indeed, Galbraith said he will focus most of his attention on the international hotspots that happen to be his areas of expertise. But he also says he'll be active in national and Vermont politics.

Galbraith put out this statement Sunday:

I will be supporting Gaye Symington to become Vermont's next governor.

Gaye's thoughtful approach to bringing people together and crafting concrete, responsible solutions is exactly what Vermonters need in Montpelier. We face big challenges in Vermont. Our state is less affordable than it was six years ago, we don't have the jobs we need, too many Vermonters have unmet health care needs, and we are not the leader on the environment and energy that we should be.

As a legislator and the Speaker of the Vermont House, Gaye Symington has fought for working Vermonters. She is exactly the leader we need for the difficult economic times we now face.

Given challenges the United States faces in the the countries I know best--including Iraq, Iran and Pakistan-- I have decided that this should be my focus in 2008. I will be working to help elect a Democratic President as well as on how to restore American leadership and prestige after eight years of reckless policies and ill-conceived actions.

I will remain actively involved in public life in Vermont including doing all I can to help elect Gaye Symington Governor.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Monday's announcement

The weather forecast is 54 degrees with a 40 percent chance of rain Monday when House Speaker Gaye Symington will be announcing her plans to run for governor from the Statehouse steps.

The official word from Symington and the Democratic Party is that she will be announcing whether she'll be running or not at that time and place. Don't let them kid you, though. She's running.

I might have thought the announcement would be at the Jericho Elementary School, where she would talk up the quality of Vermont's schools and the issue - how schools are paid for - that launched her political career more than a decade ago. Perhaps that would conjure a little too much Act 60.

This will give Gov. Jim Douglas a chance to watch from the fifth floor of the Pavilion Building overlooking the Statehouse.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Bernie's troubles with the neighbors

Plenty of people thought Bernie Sanders wouldn't fit into the Senate. It appears, though, he's having a harder time fitting into the neighborhood, where they apparently expect him to either tend to his yard, hire a gardener or spray his yard with weed killer.

This from The Hill newspaper (you can read the whole thing HERE):

Like senator, like home: Sanders’s yard is an eyesore
By Betsy Rothstein

A senator lives next door. That should increase the property value, right?

Not so in the case of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who lives in a northeast Capitol Hill neighborhood just blocks from his office in the Senate Dirksen Office Building. Sanders lives at a beautiful historic address, but some of his neighbors are fed up with the overgrown weeds they say make his yard a monstrosity, not to mention the talk of the street. Some were joking about the matter one evening earlier this week, but there are serious undertones.

“I understand he’s a busy man, but can’t he afford a gardener?” one neighbor asked. “Or [Ortho’s] Weed-B-Gone? Basically spray the whole yard with weed killer.”

Some may note that the senator with the socialist standpoint is as rumpled as his yard. “Like house, like senator,” the neighbor said. “If you look at the four yards surrounding his, everyone takes care of their yard. I think it’s an eyesore.”


“I’m glad I come from Vermont where neighbors actually talk to each other," he said. "In the four days a week that I usually spend in D.C., most of my time has been spent trying to address the war in Iraq, the oil crisis, global warming and the collapse of the middle class. My so-called garden is about two square feet. I’m sorry if I offended anyone and I will do my best to get rid of the 12 weeds so anyone who might want to can see the McCain sign in my neighbors’ yard.”

- Terri Hallenbeck


Coppenrath not running

Sen. George Coppenrath announced this morning that he will not seek re-election to his Caledonia County seat. He said it's too hard to pull off the part-time legislative gig alongside his insurance business.

Coppenrath, a Republican who is the father of former UVM basketball standout Taylor Coppenrath, was appointed three years ago to fill the seat of the late Sen. Julius Canns. He typically asked thoughtful questions in committee and on the Senate floor.

"The competing demands of my insurance business and my legislative duties have forced me to conclude that I must focus my attention on what is best for my family and my business. Thus I am, with considerable regret, retiring from public service."

John Hall, a former Republican state representative who just stepped down as housing and community affairs commissioner, has indicated he'd like to run for the seat.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Pollina on the move

While House Speaker Gaye Symington, D-Jericho, and Gov. Jim Douglas trade shots over the Legislature's aborted veto session and the political ramifications for both of that decision, Progressive gubernatorial candidate Anthony Pollina is on the stump.

He's launched a tour with stops in every country and he's put up a radio ad. No doubt a critical strategy -- get some air time and publicity going before the R's and D's put their candidates in play and grab headlines.

If you want to hear Ben Cohen endorsing Pollina, check here.

If you want to see Pollina in person, check here for the schedule.

-- Nancy Remsen



Decom debate

Tomorrow (Wednesday), the governor vetoes the Vermont Yankee decommissioning bill.

Gov. Jim Douglas will be cheered by a number of Vermont business leaders who feared that requiring the commitment of more money to the decommissioning fund will hurt the deal Vermont utilities will get when they renew their contracts with the nuclear power plant in 2012, (provided Yankee wins approval from the state to keep operating). These businesses consume a fair amount of electricity and so have a fair amount at stake.

He will be jeered by those who fear there's not enough money in the fund to pay for much beyond a padlock to put on the front gate when it's time to shut the plant down. There's $427 million in the fund (slightly less if it's going in the same direction as your 401(k) and VY owner Entergy estimates it'll cost $800 million to tidy the grounds up (more if the cost goes up like the cost of everything else does).

Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin said Saturday it'll be up to the voters in November to decide who's right on this - Douglas or the Legislature in the form of his election opponent, House Speaker Gaye Symington. That might be over-simplifying things as this might not be the only issue every voter will hinge his/her decision on.

But for the sake of argument, who do you think wins that argument?

- Terri Hallenbeck




The Legislature gaveled on out of the Statehouse at about 4:30 p.m. amid a tone of peace, love and understanding.

Gov. Jim Douglas ducked into each chamber, gave a short speech in which he mostly complimented them on the session. Then he ducked out of town. None of the usual press conference though spokesman Jason Gibbs had said there would be some sort of media session.

Legislators declared there would be no veto session. If the governor vetoes Vermont Yankee decommissioning they'll appeal to the voters in November to decide who was right, said Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Shumlin.

Easy for him to say. House Speaker Gaye Symington is likely the one who will be trying to appeal to voters. She said she's not seeking re-election to her House seat. Said she won't decide until after she's had a chance to take a few deep breaths whether she'll run for governor. Wouldn't say how long those deep breaths might take.

Shumlin, however, said she'll run. Easier for him to say.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Inching toward adjournment

It's not a last-day-of-the-session like most last days of the session. Instead of feverish meetings to resolve pointed differences, there are leisurely lunches and scrapbook photographs being taken.

Some of those scrapbook photos are legislators posing with the speaker of the House, who won't be in that role when the gavel falls in January. Speaker Gaye Symington, D-Jericho, said it outright today that she won't be running for re-election to her House seat. She didn't say what she will be doing instead, though one big possibility is running for governor.

Those of us with deadlines to think about wouldn't mind if they felt a little more feverish about adjourning sooner rather than later, but we are guessing late afternoon/early evening.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Lunch will be served

Here's one way to figure out when the Legislature will adjourn. I am told that one of the Statehouse cafeteria staff asked the House speaker whether to plan on lunch Saturday. She said yes.

- Terri Hallenbeck


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Run, Welch, run

Congressman Peter Welch was running yesterday, and it wasn't for re-election.

Instead, the first-term House member was competing in the annual charity run in the nation's capital for folks from all three branches of government and the fourth estate -- the media. The event was staged by the American Council of Life Insurers, a trade association that represents the insurance industry on Capitol Hill.

Welch and a team from his office did okay, actually more than okay. Welch himself did the three miles in 22:39 and finished 119th out of more than 600 racers. Hey, he got 3rd place in his age group.

BTW, he's 61 tomorrow, so happy B-day, Pete.

As for the four-person Welch team, who ran under the name the VerMonsters, it finished 6th overall among teams from the U.S. House.

Clearly Welch, a regular jogger, was up for the race yesterday. He's appears ready to go on a re-election run too this fall, and it's a good bet he'll leave his competitors in the dust. Anyone heard who the GOP offer plans to trot out to run against him?

-- Sam Hemingway


Dubie's in; Shumlin's not

Brian Dubie announced today he's running for re-election, seeking a fourth term. The Republican from Essex chose to make his announcement with his friends on talk radio, Charlie and Ernie.

He said later in his Statehouse office that he's got a number of projects he's excited about, including increasing telecommunications around the state and developing a new "green" car with Detroit automakers. The mechanical engineering major and airline pilot has a magnet for all thing technical.

Dubie is a sort of reluctant politician. He said it took until now for him and his family to figure out another term was the right way to spend his time. Apparently all family members have veto power and none did.

So what about those rumors that Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin would run for lieutenant governor? Shumlin said flat out today he's running for re-election to the Senate, not lt. gov.

- Terri Hallenbeck

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