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vt.Buzz ~ a political blog

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



Debate on debates

You know it's campaign season when the candidates start squabbling over debates.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gaye Symington sent out a press release this morning calling on Republican Gov. Jim Douglas to debate her in every county of the state this fall. And she proposed a format -- called the cumulative time debate -- that has been used in elsewhere. The idea is to let the candidates debate among themselves, but have neutral parties make sure everyone gets an equal amount of time for their say.

The problem -- and with debate negotiations, there is almost always a problem -- is that Symington's staff sent the new release out about the debate "invitation" before sending any request to the Douglas campaign. And Anthony Pollina, the Progressive Party candidate for governor, wasn't copied either. He also wasn't mentioned in the news release.

So if there were (are) going to be negotiations, they have gotten off on the wrong foot.

Oh well, at least the debate on debates is starting early.

Here are some questions that the public should answer -- before the candidates lock in on debate schedules and formats. What would be helpful? Should there be lots of debates, a few that are widely broadcast? Should debates focus on different topics or all span the waterfront? What topics are worth debating in the gubernatorial race?

-- Nancy Remsen



Anthony's Ag-ony

Progressive gubernatorial candidate Anthony Pollina is under attack from a group you'd least expect to have it out for him -- the Northeast Organic Farmers Association. Note to fans of political irony: Pollina himself once served on NOFA's board of directors.

Here's what happened. On Wednesday, Pollina put out a statement asserting that Gov. Jim Douglas, or at least his administration's Agriculture Department, was wrongly taking credit for encouraging Vermonters to "buy local" when it came to grocery shopping.

Pollina's statement cited a remark made in "Vermont Harvest" a department publication, that the buy local movement was initiated by Douglas in 2003. "The idea that Jim Douglas started the buy local movement ranks right up there with the idea that Al Gore invented the Internet. It is simply not true," Pollina fumed.

He goes on to tell how he was in on the ground floor of the buy local movement more than 20 years ago and doesn't recall Douglas being a colleague in the cause.

Exactly how Pollina sees this as a front-burner issue in the gubernatorial campaign is a discussion for another day.

Thursday, Enid Wonnacott, NOFA-Vermont's longtime executive director, told PolitickerVt's Zach Silber that Pollina's comments were and "severe exaggeration" and that Douglas and his Ag folks had been "incredibly helpful" in promoting the buy local effort.

Wonnacott agreed that the buy local movement has been around for a long time, but said Douglas deserves credit for having the Ag Dept. institute a Buy Local Program in 2003.

"The Agency of Agriculture has a massive promotional arm that was incredibly helpful," she said. "I understand that this is a political campaign and the goal is to raise conflict, but I see this with a much different message ... I think about how exciting it is and how strong this program is that the governor would want to take credit for it." For PolitickerVt's full post on the matter, click here.

Both the Douglas campaign and the Vermont Republican Party have quickly trotted out separate press statements gloating about Wonnacott's rebuff of Pollina. Not exactly a boffo moment for the Progressive, who is having his troubles being heard in the ongoing back-and-forth between Douglas and his Democratic rival, Gaye Symington.

FYI: A word about PolitickerVt, a relatively new kid on the political blog landscape in Vermont. It's a "chain" blog, one of 13 state political blogs owned and operated by the New York Observer around the country.

-- Sam Hemingway



Tele- transport

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson did there what state Sen. Vince Illuzzi suggests should be done here. Richardson directed his administration to look into allowing state workers to telecommute to save gas. Illuzzi has proposed a four-day work week for state employees here along with increased use of telecommuting.

"Rising gas prices are hitting New Mexicans hard and as the largestemployer in the state, I am directing state government to alleviate someof the costs associated with soaring fuel prices," Richardson said. "

According to the executive order signed by Richardson, State Personnel Director Sandi Perez will report back to the governor with policy guidelines for the New Mexico State Telework and Alternative Work Schedule Program by July 15.

No question, telecommuting is an enticing idea. I've done it a couple of days here and there and I probably get more done. There are issues in any place of employment with the concept. To wit:

- Does it increase the burden on the poor schleps who schlep their way to the office and have to answer all the calls?

- Some workers are more industrious than others. Unless your job is to something really specific like creating 442 widgets a day, can your employer be sure you're working all day?

- Technology is wonderful but also poses security risks. Can the employer be sure your computer is safe?

- Would we all eventually regret breaking down the wall between home and work? There's something to be said for walking out of the office for the night.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Chen won't run

Rep. Harry Chen, D-Mendon, has decided he won't run for lieutenant governor.

"I'm not going to do it," he said Tuesday. "I'm gratified I had a lot of people supporting me."

He admitted he had been tempted to run as a team with House Speaker Gaye Symington, who is the Democratic Party's candidate for governor. At the end of the day, or in this case the campaign trail, if he had been successful, he would have been back in Montpelier for another legislative session with all the same conflicts with his personal and professional life. That's why he had decided against running for re-election, he said, and also why he decided against seeking the lieutenant governor's job.

"I'm open to coming back and continuing in politics at some point," Chen said. "I think I made a difference."

So what Democrat is going to run for lieutenant governor? Anybody?

-- Nancy Remsen


The weird unchanging world

Took a quick trip to the Windy City of Chicago over the weekend. It was lovely really and not all that windy.

But look at all the things I missed:

- Westmore decided not to ban nudists from the nude beach.

- Harry Chen decided not to run for lt. gov.

- The AG's office decided the hemp bill could indeed become law without the governor's signature.

- Steve McQueen is back to being Winooski police chief.

It's a weird world in which I went away and when I came back things were the same as before but people had met and made decisions not to change things.

- Terri Hallenbeck



The catch with Salmon

Auditor Tom Salmon, a U.S. Navy reservist, is being deployed Sunday to the Middle East.

That presents would-be election challenger Randy Brock with a sticky wicket. Brock lost the job to Salmon two years ago by a fiberoptic-thin margin.

Here's what Brock told the Associated Press today:

“To be honest, I have some reluctance to run against someone who is serving his country, possibly in a war zone. And he is someone who is not in a position to be able to respond in a normal campaign debate."

So does that leave room for Brock to run for Congress?

- Terri Hallenbeck


Pinball wizard?

Vince Illuzzi - he of the four-day work week proposal - says he's getting a lot of response, the majority of it favorable, for his idea, which is meant to save on commuting and heating costs.

One of the e-mails he received said in part:

"I am a state employee and fully support your initiative on a 4 day
work week While there are a number of obstacles that need to be
addressed prior to deployment, it is more than doable, given some creative
and bipartisan collaboration."

The senator said he knows there are others out there who say it can't be done - lengthening the school day and the state office day to lop one day off the work week. The school part particularly has its share of naysayers.

Illuzzi is the sort of legislator who tosses out a lot of ideas, some of them unusual, and lets them pinball their way through the system. Sometimes they eventually reach the stage of lighting up the board. Does this one have the legs to do that - to launch a discussion about how things can be done differently in the era of $4 a gallon (or $45) fuel?

Tell us, as you all head into Friday, that fifth day of the week that would likely be the one most would choose to lop off.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Chen: Decision in week or two

Just spoke to Harry Chen about his possible run for lt. gov. He says he expects to make a decision in the next week or two.

First , he wants to talk further with Vermont Democratic Party officials to gauge the level of support he'd have, he said. But he also needs to decide if this is the right thing for him to do. "It's not an easy thing to do."

He had already decided not to run for re-election to his House seat from Mendon he said. "Part of me wants to take a break from politics. If I do this I would have to take an about-face."

Health care would be the key topic for the emergency room doctor who worked on the legislation that resulted in the Catamount Health Plan. He would want to work with the new administration in Washington - one that he thinks will be Democratic - on expanding health care coverage. "There's opportunity there," he said.

As for challenging three-term incumbent Brian Dubie, "I think really what I would hope is people look at our records, our accomplishments in and out of the Legislature, and make a decision on who they want," he said. "It's going to be an uphill battle."

Among his other options, Chen said, are to go back to school for public policy in health care.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Chen a possible run for lt. gov

Rep. Harry Chen is said to be off hiking somewhere in the final stages of contemplating a run for lieutenant governor.

Chen is an emergency room doctor at Rutland Regional Medical Center who has been in the Legislature since 2003. He was vice chairman of the House Health Care Committee this past biennium. He's the one who reported the Catamount Health Plan bill on the House floor a few years ago, unflappably withstanding lengthy inquiry.

He certainly does not have the name recognition that incumbent Brian Dubie has, he'd offer a more viable candidacy than many expected the Democratic Party would come up with.

Why so many doctors think lt. gov. is the place to be is unclear (Deb Richter thought about it, then thought better of it. Howard Dean did it.).

- Terri Hallenbeck



14 counties in two days

The list of places Gov. Jim Douglas is going Wednesday and Thursday to kick off his re-election campaign is long. It is dubbed, after all, as "Every County Counts."

Some of the stops are brief - a cup of coffee in Middlebury, a honk-n-wave in South Burlington. Others are a little longer - a panel discussion in Bradford, a BBQ with wiffle ball in St. Albans. He's going very light on Chittenden County, with only the roadside waving.

The sked goes like this:


7:00am – 7:25am Addison County
Rosie’s Restaurant
886 Route 7 S

8:00am – 8:20am Rutland County
Sign Wave
Corner of West Street & Route 7

10:30am – 11:00am Bennington County
WBTN Radio
407 Harwood Hill, Route 7A
11:00am – 11:15am
Town Clerk Office
205 South Street

12:15pm – 1:00pm Windham County
Top of the Hill Grill
632 Putney Road

1:45pm – 2:30pm Windsor County
Jonathan’s Family’s Restaurant
244 River Street

54 Route 106
North Springfield

3:30pm – 4:15pm Orange County
Valley Vista
23 Upper Plain

5:45pm – 6:30pm Chittenden County
Sign Wave
Sheraton Hotel
870 Williston Rd.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

7:30am – 8:15am Washington County
Meet with Summit Catamount Construction Crew
Harwood Union High School
458 Vermont Route 100
South Duxbury

9:30am – 10:30am Caledonia County
Saint Johnsbury House
1207 Main Street
St. Johnsbury

10:45am – 11:30am Essex County
Barney’s Market Route 2 Concord
Town Clerk’s office Route 2 Concord
Mooselook Restaurant Route 2 Concord

12:30pm – 1:30pm Orleans County
Sears Roebuck & Co
2609 US Route 5

2:45pm – 3:30pm Lamoille County
Boyden Valley Winery
Junction of Route 15 & 104

4:15pm – 4:40pm Grand Isle County
Keeler’s Bay Store
500 Route 2
South Hero
4:40pm – 5:10pm
AB Beverage
Route 2
Grand Isle

5:45pm – 8:00pm Franklin County
BBQ @ Frank Cioffi’s Barn
148 Congress Street
St. Albans

- Terri Hallenbeck


Disagreeing with the senator from Vt.

Bear with this tidbit from today's White House press conference. The payoff is there at the end.

Q Two questions. Last week, Senator Leahy told the American Constitution Society -- and this is a quote -- "We need a President who has actually read the Constitution, understands the Constitution, and will respect the Constitution." Now, my question: Aside from this slur that the President has neither read nor understands the Constitution, how does the President imagine that this Judiciary Committee Chairman can expect any respect for what Mr. Leahy alleges is neither read by, nor understood by the President?
MR. TONY FRATTO (White House spokesman): Les, I'm not sure I followed the whole line of the question, but let me just say, the President has read and is sworn to defend and protect the Constitution, and he does that.
Q Senator Leahy also said the Guantanamo decision was a stinging rebuke of the Bush administration. "I'm in support of the Constitution of the USA. If we turn our backs on the Constitution where would we be?" And my question: How can this be interpreted as anything but a charge that the President has turned his back on the Constitution? And is that either accurate or fair?
MR. FRATTO: Again, I think you lost me somewhere along the long line of that question. I'll just tell you that we expressed our views on the Boumediene decision. We disagreed with it. The President said he would --
Q And you disagree very strongly with the Senator from Vermont, don't you?
MR. FRATTO: But that's usually where we are, is disagreeing with the Senator from Vermont.

- Erin Kelly


Web site redux

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gaye Symington has updated her Web site today. You could try to say that they rolled it out in response to my posting of yesterday, but they could not have possibly pulled it off that quickly if they hadn't already had it in the works.

Anyway, they have gone from bare bones to a more thorough display.

There are some flaws. The link to her speech at the state convention in Barre is accompanied by a photo of her speaking at her kickoff on the Statehouse steps.

The calendar is a little awkward - it's hard to see the title of the event without having to click on it.

The media stories on her site appear to be switched - with VPR's Steve Zind's name on a Times Argus story and Sue Allen's name on a VPR story.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Looking for a candidate?

We've already noted the Republican incumbent Jim Douglas kicks off his re-election campaign tomorrow and Thursday with his "every county counts" tour.

Democrat Gaye Symington crisscrossed the state introducing her challenger campaign after drawing a crowd to the Statehouse steps for an opening event.
Progressive Anthony Pollina has held two kick off events -- including a recent rally on a sunny day in downtown Burlington.

But have you met some of the other gubernatorial candidates?

There's Sam Young, 30, of West Glover, who is running his campaign largely online. With a background in computer science and debate, he no doubt brings some skills to campaign strategy. Young is running as an independent. It will be a long time until we know if he actually has the signatures to be on the ballot, but in the meantime, check out what he has to say here.

And do you know Tony O'Connor, another independent? O'Connor, 57, lives in Derby and has a passion about energy as an issue for this gubernatorial race, but also has views on everything from rest areas to how to lure doctors back to rural communities. Take a look at O'Connor's bio and ideas here.

At some point I foresee some interesting debates if these two independent mixing it up with the party candidates above. Tune in.

-- Nancy Remsen



Tangled web

It's early in the campaign and lots of real people (not people like you) are not paying attention with precision detail yet, but let's take a gander at the candidates' Web sites.

Ever since Al Gore invented the Internet, campaigns have had this device that can be both a boon and a curse.

On the one hand, it gives candidates a way to reach voters directly, lure money out of their pockets and post only the information that looks most favorable to them.

On the other, it's a bear to prepare. Before you can post issue papers, you've got to write issue papers. To have an events calendar, you've got to have somebody feeding it with current events (or you risk looking outdated as some of our candidates already do).

That's one thing you will find lacking at this stage in the game - a calendar that tells you where and when you might see the candidate.

You're also not going to see much in the way of details about their stances on specific issues.

So this is your chance to offer up ideas for what info you'd like to see candidates post on their Web sites.

Here are the links to the highest state offices you'll be voting on this year:

- Terri Hallenbeck



On the road again

Next Wednesday, Gov. Jim Douglas will launch his re-election campaign with an "every county counts" tour. He'll hit about half the state Wednesday (the southern half) then cruise through the rest, winding up in St. Albans for a barbecue.

Dennise Casey, his campaign manager, wanted something other than the customary balloon decorated rally to kick off Douglas' fourth run for governor.

Hope the campaign coffers are full, but a state tour is costly these days. Of course, Progressive Anthony Pollina and Democrat Gaye Symington, his challengers, also took to the road. It's hard to get face time with Vermonters without driving around, but yikes that's going to hurt when they pull up to the gas pumps this summer and fall.

Years ago, when I was a reporter in Maine, Republican Bill Cohen donned jeans and a blue workshirt and "walked" around that state's giant second congressional district to meet voters. Cohen would serve first in the U.S. House of Representatives and then the U.S. Senate. Walking worked for him. Trekking around that district, by the way, makes walking Vermont look like a stroll in a pocket park.

So how about it gubernatorial candidates? Up for some walking? Some bike-riding?

-- Nancy Remsen


Russert farewells

Senator Patrick Leahy and former Vt. Gov. Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, were quick to issue statements of condolesences Friday afternoon after learning that Tim Russert, host of NBC's Meet the Press, had died from a massive heart attack while at work in Washington D.C.

"Today we lost one of the true giants of American journalism and a tremendous public servant," Dean's statement said in part. "A tough interviewer, Tim delivered the news with authority, in a plain-spoken way that made the great issues of our day accessible to everyone. His love of politics and our country came through in his relentless pursuit of the truth and in the quality of his work as a journalist."

Leahy's remarks were more brief: "He was a national treasure, and the news of his passing came with shocking suddenness and deep sadness. He never lost his enthusiasm, and he lived every realm of his life with gusto. Tim threw all of himself into his family, his faith, his newsroom, the world of politics, and even his teams. His zest was infectious, and no one could help but like and admire him.

Both Leahy and Dean were guests on Meet the Press multiple times. Leahy was often queried by Russert on the program regarding national security, anti-terrorist and judiciary issues.

Russert's combative interview with Dean in mid-2003 was seen as a turning point in Dean's presidential campaign, sparking an unexpected influx of donations to the Dean for America campaign from viewers who thought Russert was disrespectful toward the ex-Vermont governor.

Whatever you thought of Russert, the man was a journalist who did his homework. I'll miss him.

-- Sam Hemingway


Tim Russert dead at 58

For those of you who are political talk show junkies, some sad news:

Tim Russert, the Washington bureau chief of NBC News and the host of the program "Meet the Press," has died of a coronary embolism at the age of 58, NBC has confirmed.

He gave plenty a politician a hard time, including former Gov. Howard Dean. The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz wrote in 2003 that on a June 22 show, Dean's allegedly poor performance elicited a barrage of "negative commentary" from the media.

Dean issued this statement late Friday:
"Today we lost one of the true giants of American journalism and a
tremendous public servant.
Tim Russert will be remembered for many things. A
committed family man, devout Catholic, devout sports fan, author, mentor.
A tough interviewer, Tim delivered the news with authority, in
a plain-spoken way that made the great issues of our day accessible to
His love of politics and our country came through in his
relentless pursuit of the truth and in the quality of his work as a journalist.

On this sad day, our thoughts and prayers are with his family
and loved ones."

From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Tim Russert, who pointedly but politely questioned
hundreds of the powerful and influential as moderator of NBC’s “Meet the Press,”
died Friday of an apparent heart attack. (The New York Times reports that it was
instead a coronary embolism.)
The network’s Washington bureau chief was 58.
In addition to his weekly program, Russert made periodic
appearances on the network’s other news shows, was moderator for numerous
political debates and wrote two best-selling books.
NBC interrupted its regular programming to announce Russert’s
death, and in the ensuing moments, familiar faces such as Tom Brokaw, Andrea
Mitchell and Brian Williams took turns mourning his loss.
Williams called him “aggressively unfancy.”
Russert, of Buffalo, N.Y., took the helm of the Sunday news
show in December 1991 and turned it into the nation’s most widely watched
program of its type. His signature trait there was an unrelenting style of
questioning that made some politicians reluctant to appear, yet confident that
they could claim extra credibility if they survived his grilling intact.

- Terri Hallenbeck


15th place finish

As an update to the car talk of yesterday, Gaye Symington's car came in 15th out of 26th in the Tiger Sportsman race at Thunder Road. Sort of back in the pack, as they say.

In what the Thunder Road Web site as a wild finish, the car was not mentioned.

Chances are there will not be 26 candidates in the governor's race. Too early to say whether it will be a wild finish.

Symington said yesterday that the campaign has purchased carbon credits to offset the emissions produced by the car she is sponsoring.

- Terri Hallenbeck


D.C. dance

As Gov. Jim Douglas and Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie announced their ideas related to handling high fuel and food prices this week, each went out of his way to say how much they appreciated the work the congressional delegation was doing.

Dubie said speculation of fuel prices was creating a breakdown in market forces and he encouraged Congress to investigate.

Douglas walked a tighter line. As the Senate was voting on an excess profits tax this week, Douglas praised Congress' efforts. So was he for the excess profits tax that Republicans in the Senate squashed? Well, said spokesman Jason Gibbs, he was for debating the excess profits tax.

"He certainly would have voted to allow the bill to come to the floor," Gibbs said. "The governor supports having all ideas discussed."

It was hard to tell exactly why Douglas and Dubie were making a point of praising Congress' efforts, particularly given that Congress' efforts haven't succeeded in making any headway, although I did pay only $3.99 a gallon for gas yesterday.

Certainly, they wanted to make it clear that Washington, not Montpelier, should be the one solving these problems. Were they also trying to distance themselves from D.C. Republicans?

- Terri Hallenbeck



DNC's new home:Chicago

Looks like Howard Dean will be seeing a lot of the Windy City over the next few months.

Our former guv has been making the Burlington-Washington D.C. commute on a regular basis since becoming chairman of the Democratic National Committee after his aborted 2004 presidential bid. Word out of DeeCee today is that most of DNC's operations are going to be moved to Chicago and be folded into Barack Obama's campaign organization for the fall presidential campaign.

The Politico web site has the story and you can too if you click HERE. According to the report, Dean's precious baby, the 50-state organizer effort, and DNC's "political department" will be shifted to Chicago. No word on whether Dean himself will be headed west, but I don't think he's in a position to object if Obama wants him there.

Makes you wonder all over again about what it would have been like if Dean had won the 2004 Democratic nomination. Would Burlington have been the home base for his fall campaign, and would he have had the DNC under his intra-party rival Terry McAuliffe move to the city by the Lake Champlain shore?

-- Sam Hemingway


At the races

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gaye Symington is in a race of another sort tonight. Her car - the one she's sponsoring with her name on the side, not the one she drives - makes its debut at Thunder Road in Barre.

Number 90 will compete in the Tiger Class Sportsman Division. It will not be driven by race car driver/state senator Phil Scott, (a Republican), but instead by Barre native Tony Rossi, also a regular on the circuit.

Republican Gov. Jim Douglas also sponsors a car at Thunder Road. It will debut this year at the Governor's Cup later this month.

Progressive Anthony Pollina also has a car, which will be racing June 21 at Riverside Speedway in Groveton, N.H.

In the form of a news release, Symington said:

"It will be fun to be at such an exciting sports event with so many other
Vermonters, especially because I'll have a chance to root for Tony Rossi and the
Symington car.

The release also says, when asked whether she thought Rossi would win, Symington said, "I'm only prepared to predict the winner of one race this year in Vermont, and that one happens in November." She did not divulge who she is predicting will win, however.

No doubt Symington is trying to reach a crowd she might not normally be tight with. Is it hypocritical for Symington, who drives a hybrid Camry, to embrace the race-track burning of high-priced fuel?

- Terri Hallenbeck


The heat is on

I don't know about you, but the price of heating oil had me thinking about the winter's bills this week even as the humid 90s had us sweating.

Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie announced some ideas yesterday. Gov. Jim Douglas is announcing more today, though a fair share of them are things that were happening already.

After our story on those items ran, a 70-year-old woman wrote to me today, saying that she and her disabled husband have weatherized their house, turned the heat down to 55 last winter and used an electric space heater. She doesn't know what moves they can make this year to cut further.

She suggests:

"I think that the weatherization program should be expanded to assist homeowners
to convert from oil heating systems to another source of heat, such as wood or
wood pellets. Because I am paying so much for food and fuel oil, I do not have
the funds to purchase a wood pellet stove. Tax credits to convert from oil will
not help seniors who do not owe income taxes."

She goes on to say:

"I have worked all my adult life and thought we were ready to retire with
dignity, but this is not something that I anticipated. It made me furious last
winter to be confined to one small room while speculators and big oil make
obscene profits. This winter we may have to consider a shelter. This is just not

What do you think the state should be doing? What do you think regular folks should be doing?

- Terri Hallenbeck



Vermonter who made her mark

Today the Vermont Republican Party announced the death of Sara Gear Boyd of Colchester, longtime Republican activist here and with the national party. She lost her battle with cancer, although in some ways her death was unexpected. She had fought back to many times and had planned to attend the Republican political convention in Minneapolis later this summer. She had been a delegate to every national convention since 1992.

For the past 16 years, Sara Gear Boyd served as Vermont's Republican National Committeewoman, one of the state's two representatives to the national party. She was serving the last months of her final term. Throughout her service she was active -- read that in leadership -- on committees such as budget, executive and platform.

She also had lengthy service in the Vermont Legislature, serving in both the House and Senate. She moved up quickly into leadership roles in both chambers, becoming House Majority Leader and later Senate Majority leader.

During her Senate years, she tangled with then Gov. Howard Dean, over property tax reform. He noted today that they had their differences, but noted, "I was saddened to learn of the passing of Sara Gear Boyd, who I had the honor of serving with for many years in the Vermont state legislature. We may not have always agreed on politics, but I always respected her commitment to our state and enjoyed working with her. Today, I join Vermonters in mourning her passing and offering my thoughts and prayers to her family."

Of course, Republican national leadership mourns her passing. RNC Chairman Robert M. "Mike" Duncan noted in a statement, "It is with great sadness that we mark the death of a true Republican leader, RNC Secretary Sara Gear Boyd. Her dedication and contributions to Vermont, the United States, and the Republican Party are vast.

He continued, "It is rare such a kind and driven person comes along – Sara will truly be missed by her colleagues here in the Republican Party as well as the Vermont Legislature."

-- Nancy Remsen



Weighing in with Obama

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy says he'll be sitting down this week with Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama to talk about who Obama should choose for a vice presidential running mate.

What would you like Leahy to tell him?

Leahy told WCAX that Obama needs someone who can help make policy decisions, and work with Republicans and Democrats in Washington to help get his agenda through Congress. Leahy says he has about a dozen people on his short list, including Senator Hillary Clinton, various governors and people outside of government.

- Terri Hallenbeck



First day on job

Today is Dennise Casey's first day on the job as Gov. Jim Douglas' 2008 campaign manager. Last week, she was his secretary of civil and military affairs (i.e. general all-around staffer), but now she has switched over to the campaign, as she did two years ago.

Casey didn't waste much time in putting out an e-mail criticizing Democratic challenger Gaye Symington over the upcoming sales-tax holiday. Douglas proposed it. Symington went along with it while saying it wouldn't do much. Says Casey:

"Gaye Symington’s opposition to the sales tax holiday is proof positive
that she is out of touch with the needs of Vermonters. During these difficult
economic times, we can and should take steps to give working families tax

The e-mail includes comments from people quoted in the media who think the sales-tax-free weekend in July is the bee's knees. It conveniently does not include comments from people who were quoted who were more luke warm or thought it's much ado about nothing, though those comments existed in some of those same stories.

Keeping in mind that the sales tax holiday does not include cars, gasoline, items over $2,000 and business purchases (you still pay the tax on those) or clothes and food (you already don't have to pay taxes on those), will you be going out of your way to make a purchase and save the tax money July 12-13?

Do you take sales tax into consideration when pondering a purchase?

If you typically travel to New Hampshire to avoid sales tax, do you figure the gas mileage involved in the trip?

- Terri Hallenbeck


Fueling talk

How was your train ride to work this morning? In a story on gas prices, the New York Times says:

With the exception of rural Maine, the Northeast appears least affected by
gasoline prices because people there make more money and drive shorter
distances, or they take a bus or train to work.

The story is about the impact of fuel prices on the rural south, where people spend a greater percentage of their income on gas than elsewhere.

The survey showed that of the 13 counties where people spent 13 percent or
more of their family income on gasoline, 5 were located in Mississippi, 4 were
in Alabama, 3 were in Kentucky and 1 was in West Virginia. While people here in
Holmes County spent an average of 15.6 percent of their income on gasoline,
people in Nassau County, N.Y., spent barely more than 2 percent, according to
the survey.

If you want to beef about gas prices, or talk about what might be done about it, you'll have your chance Tuesday in a new-fangled telephonic town meeting with Rep. Peter Welch, from 7:30-8:30 p.m. by calling toll-free 1-866-447-4149 and using PIN code 13785# any time during the one-hour forum.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Welch joins new caucus

Freshman Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., joined a new caucus this week.

Welch will be one of the vice-chairmen of the just-created Bi-partisan Congressional Caucus on Equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Americans. The caucus, led by openly gay Reps. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., has more than 50 members, most of them Democrats.

The group hopes to raise awareness of issues that affect the gay community and push for laws to outlaw hate crimes and end workplace discrimination.

- Erin Kelly


Dems name interim chief

Kristina Althoff will serve as interim executive director and coordinated campaign director of the Vermont Democratic Party.

She will fill in for executive director Jill Krowinski while Krowinski manages Gaye Symington's gubernatorial campaign.

She worked on Barack Obama's presidential campaign for 15 months in Vermont, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky.

From 2005 to 2006, she was director of the Vermont Democratic House Campaign. In 2004, Althoff was a field organizer for the Vermont Democratic Party Coordinated Campaign in Chittenden County.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Primary schooling

Some Lamoille County Democrats will gather at the Appletree Natural Foods Market in Morrisville this evening in support of Progressive gubernatorial candidate Anthony Pollina.

John Burgess is one, and he will be asking Pollina if he'd accept the Democratic nomination if he were to win it by write-in at the September primary. If Pollina says yes, Burgess will write his name in and encourage others to do the same. (Burgess said he's not necessarily against Democratic Gaye Symington, but he's supporting Pollina.)

Pollina's name won't be on the Democratic ballot in the September primary for two reasons:

1. You can only run in one party's primary and he's committed to the Progressives.

2. That would put him head-to-head with Gaye Symington and sheer numbers of party loyalists suggest he might not win.

So Pollina won't be formally soliciting write-ins, because if he did, and the results were not good in September, there'd be a lot of pressure for him to shuffle on back to Middlesex.

If, on the other hand, a surge of people were to write Pollina's name in and lightning struck and he won the Democratic nomination, he wouldn't turn it down.

"If he was to all of a sudden to become the Democratic nominee that would be terrific," said campaign manager Meg Brook said. "I don't see that happening."

- Terri Hallenbeck


Dean's dream

A lot of pundits now look back on Howard Dean's development of a dedicated small-donor base and use of the Internet during his failed 2004 presidential bid as efforts that blazed the trail for Barack Obama's successful bid for the nomination this year.

Looks like Obama is about to take advantage of another Dean brainstorm: his determination while chairman of the Democratic National Committee to rebuild the party's voter database and put professional political organizers on the ground in all 50 states.

The move, which involved an $8 million investment by the DNC that came under fierce criticism from many in the party establishment, appears to match Obama's unfolding strategy for winning several states that have not gone Democratic in recent elections, notably Virginia and Colorado. Check out the article by Huffington Post's Sam Stein HERE.

Obama is putting one of his own strategists, Paul Tewes, on the DNC staff to better coordinate the efforts of the DNC and Team Obama for the fall, but Dean's staying on as chairman. Seems that Obama and Dean get along just fine. Do ya think all this would have happened if Hillary Clinton was the nominee? I don't think so.

Here's another thought. If Obama captures the White House, he's got to reward Dean with more than a perfunctory appointment.

-- Sam Hemingway


Short-n-shallow or long-n-lumpy?

Last week, state economist Jeff Carr said at a regional conference that the recession will be short and shallow.

His view is not universal, however.

First, Gov. Jim Douglas said this week he's not buying the fact that we are in a recession, which he defines as two consecutive quarters of negative growth. He recognizes, however, that Carr allows for other definitions.

Tom Kavet, an economist who does consulting work with the Legislature, isn't so sure about the short and shallow part. He said this week that the risks point to a longer downturn. "I think it's a little early to say short and shallow," Kavet said.

Some positive signs, he said, are improvements in the credit market, but housing remains vulnerable. And then there are those gas prices.

- Terri Hallenbeck


The least perfect union

The Second Vermont Republic has always had a nice ring to it, especially in a state that celebrates its independent streak and maverick political heritage. SVR touts the idea that Vermont ought to sucede from the US of A and its entangling military and economic commitments and strike out on its own. Sounds sort of cool, right?

Trouble is, the group has been revealed to have ties to a white supremacist Southern group that's been designated a "hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Now comes a detailed article in The Intelligence Report, a newsletter the center publishes, that examines the connection in depth.

According to the piece, SVR leader Thomas Naylor and others associated with the organization have established a partnership with the League of the South, a connection cemented last fall during a conference in Tennessee where the two signed off on the Chattanooga Declaration," which proclaimed the demise of the split between the left and right in the nation.

This is truly an odd union. The SVR hails from a state that was first in the nation to abolish slavery. The League of the South opposes interracial marriage, thinks slavery was "God ordained" and promotes the delusion that the Confederacy never really surrendered at Appomattax.

Get this: According to the Intelligence Report article league members purportedly offered housing to "whites only" refugees from New Orleans after the Katrina disaster. For a full read of the article, click HERE.

SVR and Naylor have been afforded some credibility in these parts. Naylor has been interviewed about SVR's plans on mainstream TV and UVM political science Prof. Frank Bryan has been an unofficial advisor to the group.

Bryan, asked in The Intelligence Report what he makes of the liaisaon with the League of the South, remarked "If (Naylor) was very flattering toward the League of the South, and they're racist, that was probably a bad idea."

Naylor was defiant about the relationship in a quote attributed to him in the article. "If someone tells me that I shouldn't associate with the League of the South, it guarantees that I will associate with the League of the South."


-- Sam Hemingway



Did we do it?

Here's an interesting bit of research for journalists to ponder. A
researcher at Johns Hopkins University -- Erika Falk -- suggests that the
media treated Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama differently.

Here's the promotion I just received from the university:

After analyzing the first month of campaign coverage in the nation's
top six circulating newspapers (USA Today and the Wall Street Journal,
New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Denver Post and Chicago Tribune,
according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation), Falk found that Clinton:

● Was more likely than Obama to have her legislative title dropped
and be referred to by her first name or by her gender.
● Was mentioned in just 65 percent of the number of articles as
Obama: Eighty-four stories mentioned Obama whereas just 55 mentioned
Clinton. Only nine stories mentioned Clinton without mentioning Obama
whereas 38 stories mentioned Obama without mentioning Clinton.
● Had fewer paragraphs written about her than Obama did - 631
paragraphs were written about her compared to 934 about Obama.
● Was less likely to see her name in a headline than Obama:
Fifty-nine stories had headlines containing "Obama" compared to just 36
with "Clinton."

Falk has just published a book on this topic: "Women for President: Media Bias in Eight Campaigns" (University of Illinois Press, January 2008.)

So what do you think? Has the media been unfair to Clinton?

Are there lessons that the media should pay attention to here in Vermont with a woman and two men vying for governor?

-- Nancy Remsen



Obama in, but is Clinton out?

Sen. Barack Obama is taking control of the Democratic presidential bus tonight. Here's the question for you: If he were to choose Hillary Clinton as his running mate would it be a formidable one-two punch that would heal a scarred Democratic Party or would it run entirely contrary to what attracted many people to Obama in the first place?

Note this from the Associated Press tonight:

Hillary Rodham Clinton told colleagues Tuesday she would consider joining Barack Obama as his running mate, and advisers said she was withholding a formal departure from the race partly to use her remaining leverage to press for a spot on the ticket.

- Terri Hallenbeck


We can sell you a bridge ,,,

You know the rotting, rusted, and now closed, bridge that spans Route 2?

You can buy it. In fact, the state has to make sure you have the chance to buy it.

The feds have informed the state Agency of Transportation that before it tears the bridge down, as it was going to do later this month, it has to offer it up for sale, on account of its historic nature.

That will delay demolition slightly, as the offer has to be on the table for 30 days, AOT spokesman John Zicconi said.

The thing about the bridge's historic nature is that if it's anything like some of the other ugly (green, hulking and rusting metal= ugly, except when we're talking about my car) remnants of our history, it'll come back into vogue, much like clothes from the '70s.

You could be the first on your block to have one.

- Terri Hallenbeck


GOP moves

Tayt Brooks, who for the last few years has been lobbying for the Home Builders’ & Remodelers’ Association of Northern Vermont, will become the Vermont Republican Party's executive director, the party announced today.

Brooks replaces Alden Guptill, who's going to work for John McCain's presidential campaign as deputy regional campaign manager for New England. The regional campaign manager is, of course, the Vermont Republican Party's former chairman, Jim Barnett.

Brooks will be working to help get Republicans elected to the Legislature. He knows firsthand how hard that can be. He ran unsucessfully in 1998 and 2000 against Rep. Ron Allard, a Democrat. Allard, as it turns out, has been a bit of a friend to Republicans by helping to sustain gubernatorial vetoes, much to the anguish of his own party.

Brooks makes the job transition June 10. He said of his new job:
“I am excited to have this opportunity to contribute to a great team. There is a
lot at stake in this election. I’m looking forward to helping fiscally
responsible candidates win in November and to restore some commonsense balance
to the State House.”

He likely got the blessing of his boss at the home builders' association, Joe Sinagra, who's active in the Republican Party.

- Terri Hallenbeck



There's no score sheet

Some of you had great fun last week beating us up for covering Anthony Pollina's "non-event." It's OK, I can take it. My mother still loves me.

But here's the piece of your carping that I don't buy. First off, people were wondering - including some of you - what the Prog was going to do. So we let you know the answer to that.

But behind your complaints seems to be the underlying presumption that if we cover a candidate's event, it's automatically a plus for that candidate. I don't think it is.

If you have a story that quotes a local political scientist saying the candidate is making a mistake is that pure positive for that candidate?

Ideally, a story is giving readers a better picture of the whole situation so they can make informed decisions.

Are the voters sitting at home reading their newspapers thinking: "Look at this man's picture and this story about him - I think I'll vote for him"?

Though all the campaign and their supporters seem inclined to, you can't count up stories about each candidate like a score sheet and pronounce who's won the coverage game.

Now, if the story had said, "Candidate bashes off naysayers, ready to save state from certain disaster," that'd be another thing. I didn't see that story, though.

- Terri Hallenbeck

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