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vt.Buzz ~ a political blog

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



NEA's choices

Need guidance selecting legislators? The Vermont NEA can provide suggestions for most, but not all races. One key criteria -- whether a candidate will vote to get rid of the two-vote law for school budgets.

The union gave most incumbent Democrats its blessing.

Here are the criteria the union used: committed to overturning the two-vote school budget mandate, to scrapping the federal No Child Left Behind Act’s annual student testing requirements, to increasing support for public schools, raising working families’ standard of living, investing in roads, bridges and other infrastructure and taking care of Vermont’s most vulnerable.

Of the 27 Senate candidates recommended by the board, 23 are Democrats; three are Republicans and one is a Progressive. Of the 124 House candidates, 111 are Democrats, three are Republicans and 10 are Progressives.

Below is a list of Vermont-NEA’s recommended candidates.

Addison County

For Senate
Sen. Claire Ayre, D
Sen. Harold Giard, D

Rep. Steven Maier, D
Rep. Betty Nuovo, D

Rep. Willem Jewett, D

Rep. Kitty Oxholm, R
Diane Lanpher, D
Jean Richardson, D

Rep. Michael Fisher, D
Rep. David Sharpe, D

Rep. Christopher Bray, D

Rep. Will Stevens, I

Bennington County

For Senate
Sen. Robert M. Hartwell, D
Sen. Dick Sears, D

Rep. Bill Botzow, D

Bennington 2-1
Rep. Timothy R. Corcoran III, D

Rep. Anne Mook, D

Rep. Alice Miller, D

Jeff Wilson, D

Rep. Cynthia Browning, D

Ed Weissman, D

Caledonia County

For Senate
Matthew Choate, D
John R. Kascenka II, R


Rep. Lucy Leriche, D

Richard Hall, D
Robert Smith, D


Kitty Beattie Toll, D

Chittenden County

For Senate
Tim Ashe, D/P
Rep. Denise Barnard, D
Sen. Ed Flanagan, D
Sen. Virginia “Ginny” Lyons, D
Sen. Doug Racine, D
Sen. Diane Snelling, R

Rep. Bill Lippert, D

Rep. Jim McCullough, D
Terence “Terry” Macaig, D

Rep. Bill Aswad, D
Joanna E. Cole, D

Mark Larson, D

Rep. Jason Lorber, D
Rep. Rachel Weston, D

Rep. Christopher Pearson, P
Rep. David Zuckerman, P

Rep. Johannah Leddy Donovan, D
Suzi Wisowati, D

Rep. Kenneth Atkins, D
Rep. Clem Bissonnette, D
Paul Cook, P

Frank Geier, D

Rep. Ann Pugh

Rep. Albert “Sonny” Audette, D

Theresa Ann O’Brien, D

Kate Webb, D

Rep. Joan G. Lenes, D

Rep. Debbie Evans, D

Rep. Tim Jerman, D
Linda J. Waite-Simpson, D

Rep. Martha P. Heath, D

Rep. Jim Condon, D
Rep. John Zenie, D

Rep. Bill Frank, D
George Till, D

Rep. Reginald R. Godin, D

Essex and Orleans Counties

For Senate
Sen. Robert A. Starr, D

Stephanie Sterling, D

Bernie Henault, D

Frank Davis, D
Winston Dowland, P


Nancy Potak, P
Rep. John S. Rodgers, D

Rep. Dexter Randall, P

Franklin County

For Senate
Sen. Donald “Don” Colins, D
Sen. Sara Branon Kittell, D

Rep. Gary Gilbert, D

Rep. Richard J. Howrigan, D

Rep. Kathleen Keenan

Cindy Weed, P

Gregory Gervais, D

Albert “Chuck” Pearce, R

Grand Isle County

For Senate
Sen. Richard “Dick” Mazza, D

Grand Isle-Chittenden-1
Rep. Mitzi Johnson, D
Rep. Ira Trombley, D

Lamoille County

For Senate
Sen. Susan Bartlett, D


Rep. Linda J. Martin, D

Rep. Floyd Nease, D


Rep. Peter Peltz, D

Orange County

For Senate
Sen. Mark A. MacDonald, D

Rep. Susan Hatch Davis, P

Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas, D

Rep. Patsy French, D
Larry Townsend, D

Rep. Harvey B. Otterman Jr., R

Rutland County

For Senate
Hope Blucher, D
Sen. Bill Carris, D
Cheryl Mazzarello, D


Barbara Carris, D
Rep. Dave Potter, D


Chris Dinnan, D
Jonathan Gibson, D

Mary C. Ashcroft, D

Rep. Virginia C. McCormack, D

Rep. Peg Andrews, D

James S. Howard, D

Rep. Gale Courcelle, D

Ellen Garneau, P


Rep. John W. Malcolm, D


Washington County

For Senate
John Bloch, P
Sen. Ann E. Cummings, D
Sen. William “Bill” Doyle, R

Rep. Carol Hosford, D

Rep. Maxine Grad, D

Paul Poirier, D

Tess Taylor, D

Jonathan Goddard, D

J. Guy Isabelle, D
Rep. Francis “Topper” McFaun, R

Washington -5
Mary Hooper, D
Rep. Warren Kitzmiller, D

Rep. Janet Ancel, D

Rep. Tony Klein, D

Rep. Sue Minter, D
Tom Stevens, D

Windham County

For Senate
Sen. Jeanette K. White, D


Rep. Ann Mawaring, D

Rep. Virginia “Gini” Milkey, D

Mollie S. Burke, P

Rep. Sarah R. Edwards, P

Rep. Michael J. Obuchowski, D
Rep. Carolyn W. Partridge, D

Rep. David L. Deen, D
Rep. Mike Mrowicki, D

Rep. Richard Marke, D

Rep. John Moran, D

Tom Buchanan, D

Windsor County

For Senate
Sen. John Campbell, D
Sen. Richard “Dick” McCormack, D
Sen. Alice Nitka, D

Rep. Kathy Pellett, D

Rep. Alice M. Emmons, D
Rep. Cynthia Martin, D

Rep. Ernest Shand, D

Rep. Donna Sweaney, D


Rep. Alison Clarkson, D

Rep. Mark Mitchell, D

Charles W. Bohi, D
Kevin “Coach” Christie, D

Louise S. Barreda, D

Rep. Margaret Cheney, D
Rep. Jim Masland, D


Rep. Sandy Haas, P

-- Nancy Remsen


ARG prez pol

The New Hampshire-based American Research Group polling company has weighed in on the Obama-McCain race in Vermont, and it's smack dab in between polls done earlier in September by Rasmussen Reports poll and by Research 2000 for WCAX-TV.

ARG's numbers, based on a poll done between Sept. 18-22 (that's pre-debate and pre-McCain's campaign suspension gambit) gave Obama 56 percent and McCain 38 percent. The Research 2000 poll was 55%-36% Obama. The Rasmussen Reports poll had it 60%-36% for Obama in Vermont. For a peak at the demographic breakdown of voting preferences in the ARG, click HERE.

ARG's numbers sometimes seem to tilt more to the right than some other polls, but then, this newest poll is based on responses from 600 likely Vermont voters, with an error margin of 4 percentage points. That's a larger survey than either Rasmussen or Research 2000, and Research 2000 did not even screen for likely voters.

PS: Still waiting for Rasmussen's poll results on Vermont's race for governor. ARG did not poll the guv race.

-- Sam Hemingway



Janawicz dies

Sad news from the Statehouse. Capitol Police Chief Dave Janawicz died Sunday.

He was often the guy who greeted you when you walked into the Statehouse and set the tone for an attentive, useful, yet not overly harsh, security force in the building. It's a greeting I will miss.

He was also often the one who let many of us know the comings and goings in the Statehouse through e-mail contact list. When a legislator or former legislator died, Janawicz would put the word out about funeral services. Odd then, when the e-mail about Janawicz's passing came from the House Speaker's Office.

Sgt.-at-Arms Francis Brooks said the information network was all Janawicz's initiative.

“He absolutely, positively loved his job,” Brooks said. “He’d be in on Saturday and that’s when he’d do the calendar.”

Janawicz, 62, of East Montpelier, is survived by his wife, Linda, and four grown children.

Funeral services are expected to be held Friday at the First Baptist Church in Barre, Brooks said. Janawicz, a Navy veteran, will be buried in the veterans’ cemetery in Randolph.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Peter's Welch's vote

Rep. Peter Welch, D-VT, voted against the bailout bill. Here's his explanation.

“The economic crisis we face is real. However, I voted against the bailout because it isn’t paid for and because I don’t believe it will work.

“First, the Paulsen plan does not offer a path to a strong economic future. Quite simply, it is the biggest taxpayer bailout in American history. It proposes to solve a problem caused by reckless borrowing and reckless lending by borrowing $700 billion more.

“Second, it is appalling that the plan is not funded. It is yet another expense put on the taxpayers’ credit card. Just as President Bush told us his tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans would pay for themselves, and Secretary Rumsfeld told us the Iraqi oil revenues would pay for the Iraq war, now Secretary Paulsen is telling us he can sell toxic debt securities that Wall Street can’t.

“Since the administration first proposed its Wall Street bailout, I have heard from thousands of Vermonters concerned about their hard earned tax dollars rewarding Wall Street’s reckless behavior. Vermonters are furious about the financial crisis and they have every right to be. They bitterly resent being asked to pay $10,000 each for a $700 billion Wall Street rescue.”

“Chairman Frank, Chairman Dodd, and House and Senate leadership did a good job making a bad proposal better, but it is still a bad plan. I cannot in good conscience vote for a fundamentally flawed plan that puts so much financial risk on the backs of the already stretched middle class.

“There are responsible ways to accomplish stabilizing our markets without leaving the middle class holding the bag. Many of us proposed to pay for an economic stability plan by establishing a financial stabilization escrow account paid for by a small transaction fee on security trades. This would protect the taxpayer and give any plan the financial muscle required for success.

“Instead, total responsibility for this crisis is transferred to the middle class. The risk of this proposal is simply too great. The burden on Vermonters is simply too heavy. Vermonters should not get caught in the undertow of greed on Wall Street.

“Resolving our economic problems will take more than a quick-fix, taxpayer funded bailout. It will take a return to the core truth Vermonters know: our economic policies must focus on building and preserving our middle class. We must reward work and entrepreneurship, not speculation, market manipulation and corporate self dealing.”

-- Nancy Remsen


U.S. attorney dismissal controversy

Lots of news out of Washington these days, not much of it good for the Bush legacy.

Here's Sen. Patrick Leahy's comments on a controversy that's been dormant for a while -- The Report By The Inspector General And The Office Of Professional Responsibility On The Dismissal Of Nine U.S. Attorneys

September 29, 2008

“These findings by the Justice Department’s internal oversight offices add up to another disturbing report card on the conduct of the Gonzales Justice Department in the unprecedented firing of U.S. Attorneys for partisan, political reasons. Those of us who believe that law enforcement must never be infected by politics cannot help be dismayed by the report’s conclusion that the Attorney General and the other top officials ‘abdicated their responsibility to safeguard the integrity and independence of the Department.’ This report might have told us even more if the investigation had not been impeded by the Bush administration’s refusal to cooperate and provide documents and witnesses, just as they remain in contempt of Congress for failing to cooperate with the Judiciary Committee’s investigation. In this debacle as in others, the Bush administration’s self-serving secrecy has shrouded many of their most controversial policies -- from torture, to investigating the causes of 9/11, to wiretapping.

“This report verifies what our oversight efforts this Congress showed, that partisan, political interests in the prosecution of voter fraud and public corruption by the White House and some at the Department played a role in many of these firings. These abuses are corrosive to the very foundations of our system of justice. It is wrong and it is dangerous to undermine the nation’s premier law enforcement agency by injecting political biases to determine which cases should be prosecuted.

“The report also raises questions that are not yet resolved about the reasons for the firing and ‘inconsistent, misleading, and inaccurate’ statements to Congress and the press from Attorney General Gonzales and others at the Department. I will look carefully at the report’s recommendation that a prosecutor continue to explore these troubling facts, including inaccurate testimony to Congress, whether Attorney General Gonzales tried to shape the testimony of other Department officials, and the extent of White House involvement. Perhaps a prosecutor can break down walls others cannot.

“It was oversight in the new Congress two years ago that lifted the lid on the practices of those who were subverting our system by acting as if they were above the law. The Senate Judiciary Committee’s investigation revealed a Justice Department gone awry. Attorney General Gonzales allowed politics to permeate the Department’s ranks, and then he tried to avoid accountability. He has provided the Inspector General the same response he gave so frequently to Congress: I don’t recall. The threads of secrecy of this administration – from the White House to the Executive agencies – will continue to unravel for years to come.”

-- Nancy Remsen



Thoughts from the VPR debate

I thought I would offer up some of the comments that struck me as interesting from last night's gubernatorial debate on Vermont Public Radio. The participants were Republican Gov. Jim Douglas, Democratic House Speaker Gaye Symington, indepdent Anthony Pollina and Liberty Union candidate Peter Diamondstone.

Douglas was asked why he had lost faith in local school boards -- as evidenced by his support of the two-vote on a budget requirement that some school districts will face. He responded that he did respect local voters, "but we have to have respect for the taxpayer. Property taxes are out of control." Aren't taxpayers local voters?

Symington was asked why she first supported while standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Douglas the two-vote requirement, then flipflopped. "I supported the two-vote mechanism as a compromise" in the final hours of the legislative session. She said the House always intended to dig deeper into how it would work. The House Education Committee did, didn't like what it found, and proposed something else. "These arbitrary voting mechanisms are not what we should be doing," Symington said.

Pollina made a reference two his two-percent investment fund proposal to raise money to invest in renewable energy projects. Douglas commented, "What we don't need is a two percent tax." When Pollina got a chance to respond later, he shot back that his proposal wasn't a tax, it was a proposal to ask Vermont institutions with endowments to consider investing two percent in a fund that make loans available for renewable energy projects. Raising his voice, Pollina said, "I really don't like the fear mongering coming from the governor, making you think there is going to be money coming out of your pocket."

Diamondstone agreed with Pollina's call to close the capital gains tax loophole -- somethinig Douglas proposed. Of course, they all have different ideas about what to do with the money. Douglas wanted to give it back to a different group of taxpayers. Pollina would invest in roads and affordable housing. Diamondstone agreed with Pollina on investing in infrastructure and said, "Anthony is right about closing loopholes, but there are more loopholes than that." Would his proposal to clamp down on wealth drive the well-to-do out of Vermont? He repled,"What a wonderful way to solve the housing problem."

Perhaps you've already seen my report on how the candidates responded to the question of what they would want to see if none of them (or the other three gubernatorial candidates) received more than 50 percent of the vote. Symington didn't answer, Pollina and Diamonstone said let the Legislature carry out its assignment and make the pick. Douglas said he thought Vermonters would expect lawmakers to pick the person with the most votes. The Symington campaign put out a fact check sheet today suggesting Douglas has flipflopped. Symington's staff pont to a quote from Douglas in 2002 when polls showed him trailing Racine. "I'm going to let the General Assembly decide how to exercise their power."

By the way, a group of legislators at the debate suggested to me that only the House makes the decision about who becomes governor in the event no one has a majority. Not so, said House Clerk Donald Milne. It's a Joint Assembly decision.

A Pittsford librarian had wondered if any of the candidates would commit to giviing local libraries $1.6 million next year. Not likely, but only Symington said it clearly. Given the current state of the economy and state revenues, she said, "It's difficult to imagine funding new programs." Diamondstone said it would depend. "When I see everything laid out, I could make a decision." Douglas said, "This is a difficult time for our state," then repeated his four criteria for deciding who and what get money.

Have you heard about Douglas' question of Symington asking if she supported the Bennington Bypass, Circumferential Highway and a Walmart in St. Albans? Kind of an interesting way to put her on the spot with some regional voters. Her answer, by the way, was to suggest the priority should be on fixing the road and bridges that we have -- which is the same priority Douglas has promoted. As for Walmart, Symington said that's a local decision.

There was more. It lasted 90 minutes, afterall, but it's time to start thinking about money -- how much the candidates have amassed since their last reports.

-- Nancy Remsen



Signing on with Sanders

Bernie Sanders has had concerns about a Wall Street bailout since last week and had a proposal to help pay for Wall Street aid before President Bush put the Big $700 billion Plan on the table.

Tuesday Vermont's indepedendent U.S. senator wasn't reassured, he said in a press release.

"The very first point that should be established is that it should not be the middle class bailing out the wealthy." Sanders' proposal would put a 10 percent surcharge on income over $500,000 for individuals and over $1 million for couples. The surtax would stay in place five years and could raise as much as $300 billion, Sanders estimates.

Sanders sent U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson a letter outlining his plan. He also posted his letter on his Web site and voila within 24 hours hours more than 8,000 people across the country read it, liked it and signed it, according to Sanders' staff.

Want to read it, sign it? Go here.

-- Nancy Remsen


Putting on the pressure

The Burlington Democratic Party would love to oust Kurt Wright, Republican representative in House District 3-1 and lone Republican representing the city in the Statehouse. Fair enough.

Democrats have two candidates -- incumbent Bill Aswad and challenger Joanna Cole.

What's interesting is that they plan to encourage voters to consider whether Wright has ambitions to become mayor of Burlington -- challenging Progressive Mayor Bob Kiss in the March race.

In a statement released Tuesday, Jake Perkinson, chairman of the Burlington Democratic Committee, takes aim at the Kiss administration and Wright in the same paragraph.

"With the anemic performance of the current administration and its bungled management of the affairs of the city, the Burlington mayoral race is sure to be one attracting many candidates resulting in a demanding campaign for everyone involved. Consequently, voters deserve to know if Kurt Wright's ability to represent them is going to be compromised by a run for mayor."

Perkinson says Wright "needs to let voters know if he is committed to serving them in the Statehouse." Or, like Kiss, who was a legislator when he ran and won the mayor's job, would Wright "abandon them mid-term in a attempt to secure the mayor's office?"

Interesting campaign tactic. Will is resonate?

-- Nancy Remsen


Some local poliltics

Voters in South Burlington's 3-7 House district can be forgiven is they don't know who is running. The candidate list has been a bit of a revolving door.

Incumbent Democrat Michele Kupersmith had planned to run for re-election back in July. She filed her petition. Then she got a job that didn't lend itself to her taking half a year off to be in Montpelier. It was too late to take her name off the primary ballot. So on Sept. 9, voters could vote for her. On Sept. 10 she withdrew and a local Democratic committee nominated Frank Geier. That's the name that will be in the Democratic slot in November.

No Republican candidate filed a petition to run in July, but former legislator Frank Mazur let it be known that his name could be written in on primary day. It was, but then he withdrew. He has too many other irons in the fire to go back to the Legislature, he said.

Meanwhile Sheldon Katz decided to run as an independent and filed the necessary paperwork on Sept. 12. He's on the ballot.

Republicans considered nominating a candidate to replace Mazur, but decided instead to support Katz, said Rob Roper, Republican state committee chairman.

So voters, your candidates are Katz and Geier.

-- Nancy Remsen


Disclosure issue returns

You knew it had to come back -- the fact that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gaye Symington didn't fully disclose her family's income.

Jim Douglas, Republican incumbent, is taking the issue to the people with a television advertisement. You can see the clip here. It's blistering with its reference to Symington's release of "bogus" tax returns.

Symington, you will recall, released information about her own income, presenting the information on a tax form -- but not the actual forms she and her husband filed with the federal and state tax departments. Chuck Lacy, her husband, prefers to keep his income information confidential and Symington is honoring his request.

The problem is Douglas released his complete tax return and so did independent Anthony Pollina. The Douglas campaign charges "Speaker Symington continues to withhold information that Vermonters deserve to know."

Why does the public need to know? "They deserve to know if any conflicts exist between her and her husband's many business dealings -- and the state of Vermont," explains the Douglas campaign.

Democrats responded, steering clear of the substance of the ad, focusing instead on its negativity.

"When given the choice to promote his record or make personal attacks, Jim Douglas choice to take a page from the Karl Rove playbook," said Liz Saxe, spokesperson for the Vermont Democratic Party.

Saxe wondered, too, if the Douglas campaign would have the same standard for disclosure for the man the governor called his co-pilot on Tuesday morning -- Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie. Shouldn't he release his financial information? Saxe asked.

"We are going to research the precedent of previous campaigns for lieutenant governor," said Susie Hudson, Dubie's campaign manager, when asked if he would release his tax returns.

Tom Costello, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor provided the Free Press with his tax returns Tuesday afternoon -- without hesitation. "It seems to me a candidate for statewide office should disclose tax returns," Costello said. "I'm fully prepared to do so and I would think Brian would also and the other candidates, too. It shouldn't be an issue."

But it is and so is the advertisement that Douglas is running. Ian Carleton, Democratic party chairman, plans to complain about "Jim Douglas' negative campaign tactics" at a Wednesday morning news conference.

Meanwhile, the Symington campaign was focusing on some nuanced change in the way outsiders perceive this gubernatorial race.

The Rothenberg Report suggested that a race formerly seen as "currently safe" for the incumbent was now rated as "clear advantage incumbent." Do you see the difference there? In case you don't a # explained that this race "moved benefiting Democrat."

Stateline.org said Douglas was "still favored to keep his seat" but Symington was seen as "running a credible campaign." Her problem, Stateline said, is Pollina, who "has the endorsement of key labor groups and is poised to split the liberal vote."

Finally, there's a long assessment by Jessica Benton Cooney of Congressional Quarterly. Cooney hinted there was "at least some uncertainty about the outcome."

These are all folks outside Vermont, who has you can see in the Cooney piece, got there information from folks here. So it's hard to believe they have any special insight. Still reports like these can boost or erode candidate confidence.

Interesting political day, wasn't it?

-- Nancy Remsen



Leahy's Alaskan "friend"

Word is that Senator Patrick Leahy is on the potential witness list submitted by lawyers for Alaskan Republican Sen. Ted Stevens in the Washington D.C. political corruption trial about to get underway.

Stevens is accused of accepting gifts from VECO, a big Alaskan oil contractor which provided much of the material and labor for work on Stevens' residence in Girdwood, a ski resort town south of Anchorage. In return, Stevens allegedly did favors for VECO by helping it win jobs and grants. Stevens and family members purportedly received more than $250,000 in "gifts" from VECO.

Leahy's possible participation in the trial was news to the senator on Monday, according to Leahy press secretary David Carle. Other colleages listed as potential character witnesses for the six-term Alaskan senator are Ted Kennedy, Daniel Inouye and Orrin Hatch -- all of them longserving senators like Stevens.

Carle said Leahy and Stevens have little in common politically, but that Leahy counts Stevens as a "friend."

"They've long been colleagues together in the Senate," Carle said. "They've worked together off and on over the years and especially as old-school senators try, in their senate work, that if they disagree with each other, do so without being disagreeable."

Stevens is up for re-election this fall. He is supported Gov. Sarah Palin but is lagging in the latest poll behind his Democratic rival, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, 44% to 50%.

-- Sam Hemingway


prez polls

How blue is Vermont when it comes to presidential politics?

This blue: Barack Obama is winning this state by a bigger margin in the latest Rasmussen Reports poll than he is in his home state of Illinois.

The RR poll out late Thursday had Obama-Biden with 60 percent support, compared to 36 percent for McCain-Palin. An RR poll out today had Obama ahead of McCain in the Land of Lincoln, 56%-40%.

The Vt. prez. numbers were similar to the results of the WCAX-TV done earlier this month, which had Obama up over McCain 55% to 36%.

We don't seem much impressed with McCain's choice of Palin to be his veep. The Rasmussen survey said 50 percent of the Vermonters polled thought Palin, the Alaska governor, was not a good choice and 63 percent found her to be "very conservative. Biden was viewed as a good pick by 48 percent, and 39 percent of those polled think of him as a moderate.

BTW, the current president unwillingness to visit Vermont, the only state he hasn't passed through since becoming Commander in Chief, continues to be well advised. Just 22 percent of Vermonters in the RR poll think George W. Bush is doing a good or excellent job; 65 percent say his performance in office has been poor.

No numbers from RR on the Douglas-Symington-Pollina race for governor. The folks over at Green Mountain Daily say Rasmussen is redoing that portion of the poll because it failed to include Pollina as a choice in the first go-round. Interesting. I checked this morning and all the Rasmussen guy would say is they're doing a governor poll and the results will be out later this week.

-- Sam Hemingway



Challenging Welch

Progressive Thomas Hermann of Barre wanted a gotcha moment this morning when he informed the media he planned to go to U.S. Rep. Peter Welch's office on Main Street and demand to know where in two bills is there any restriction on funds that were approved for the war in Iraq.

Hermann served in Iraq, but opposes the war. He's challenging Welch because he says the Democratic incumbent failed to live up to his promise of fight against the war on every front. Currently, Hermann's focus is on statements Welch has made about his voting record -- that he has never voted for funding for the war without strings attached, such as a timeline for the withdrawal of troops. Hermann says that's not true and he points to votes on two measures.

One was a bill that bounced back and forth between the House and Senate, changing during that process. Carolyn Dwyer, Welch's campaign manager, said there were conditions in the original House version, but the bill was gutted in the Senate. When the revised bill came back to the House, Welch voted against it.

Hermann challenges Welch's on a budget measure, too. Dwyer said that bill was to keep government operating for six weeks while the budget was completed. No one should see that is a litmus test for Welch's antiwar efforts, she said. Hermann disagreed, saying he would have voted against the funding bill even if it meant he was voting against funding for lots of worthwhile programs.

Hermann never got his chance to go to Welch's office. Dwyer attended his news conference and said she was the one who would respond, not the congressional staff.

Look for Hermann to raise this issue with Welch when they meet in a debate. Look for Welch to be armed and ready to defend his record.

-- Nancy Remsen



the debate

The trio of gubernatorial candidates are winding up.

If you know their positions on issues, you wouldn't have heard much new or surprising this afternoon.

Gov. Jim Douglas repeatedly told the largely business audience that there was no need -- not even the backlog of road and bridge work -- that justified raising taxes.

House Speaker Gaye Symington responded to Douglas' criticism that she and the House had supported raising the gasoline tax to provide more money for road and bridges. She argued that if the tax had been raised several years ago, there would be fewer bad roads and deteriorating bridges. But now, with higher fuel costs, she would no longer advocate any increase in gasoline taxes to pay for road and bridge work.

Pollina suggested closing the loophole in the capital gain tax and using some of that money to cover debt payments on $75 million in bonding for roads and bridges.

There was a bit of an exchange between Symington and Pollina over health care.

Pollina offered his idea that all of Vermont could be in one self-insured health coverage pool. He criticized Catamount Health as another patch on a failing system.

Symington conceded that more progress was needed to ensure that everyone has coverage and everyone pays in -- but she shot at Pollina that "We need to get real about options. There are federal barriers that get in the way now."

Symington made sure the audience knew that Douglas once proposed a tax on health care premiums. Douglas explained that some premiums are already taxes and he proposed a consistent policy.

The candidates were asked about putting a moratorium on new transportation projects -- but none of them embraced or really even answered the question.

They were asked about weight limits on the interstate and Douglas and Pollina seemed to agree that consistent rules across the region would make sense.

Throughout the debate, Douglas and Symington sparred over who had initiated or block various ideas. Douglas said the Legislature failed to go far enough on workers compensation reforms. Symington said it was the Legislature that has taken the lead in energy efficiency planning and programs.

Pollina took every opportunity to use the word "gridlock" after one of those sparring sessions. His best line was perhaps in response to the health care back and forth. "Under the leadership of both these fine folks, it (the current health care system) isn't working."

The candidates received the questions in advance -which I'm sure they appreciated since the questions were complex and multi-faceted.

It appeared that Symington was working from talking points for each question. Pollina has some papers in front of him, but didn't refer to them as constantly as Symington. Douglas spoke without notes.

-- Nancy Remsen


Gubernatorial debate by the lake

The candidates are here are the Hilton, circulating among the approximately 100 people gathered for this debate sponsored by Associated Industries of Vermont.

At this moment, Republican Gov. Jim Douglas and Democratic House Speaker Gaye Symington are about one table apart, shaking hands. Hope they don't accidentally back into each other. Independent Anthony Pollina is at the back of the room.

I got a little advance information about the questions. They will cover all the issues important to this business audience -- from electric rates and how to control them, to whether there should be a moratorium on new road projects so the available funding could be spent to catch on maintenance on roads and bridges. There is expected to be a question about drug and alcohol in the workplace, whether economic development should focus just on green enterprises, plus some of the usual questions about taxes and health care.

The debate is scheduled to run about two hours.

More later.

-- Nancy Remsen



The poll

What do the numbers mean?

WCAX-TV released its poll for the governor's race last night and the Symington campaign found something to cheer about -- but so did the Douglas campaign.

The poll showed that if the election were held last week (on whatever dates the questions were asked) 48 percent of those surveyed would vote for Republican Gov. Jim Douglas, 33 percent would vote for Democratic House Speaker Gaye Symington, 7 percent would cast ballots for independent Anthony Pollina and 12 percent had yet to make up their minds.

The story about the poll doesn't say if these were registered voters or voters likely to vote.

Douglas has a 15 percentage point lead, but doesn't have the 51 percent he will need to win.

He can be happy about the lead. She can be happy he doesn't have a majority.

Then there are the numbers that indicate what people think of the candidates.

Douglas received a favorable rating from 48 percent of those polled, presumably the same 48 percent who would vote for him. The bad news for him is that his unfavorable rating was 43 percent.

Symington has to like that.

She received a favorable rating from 37 percent of those polled. Why didn't they all say they'd vote for her? Her unfavorable rating was only 15 percent -- not bad.

The question mark for Symington is the 48 percent of those polled who have no opinion about her. Scary to be such an unknown to voters six weeks before an election, isn't it? Her campaign argues this as an opportunity.

Pollina received a favorable rating from 41 percent, but despite those good feelings, many didn't indicate they would support him in the election. Ouch. He also had unfavorable ratings from 33 percent. Ouch 2. About 26 percent had no opinion about him.

So what do you read in these tea leaves?

-- Nancy Remsen



Poor show

The turnout for the primary last week was -- well -- pathetic. The official report of the canvassing committee published today pegs the percentage at 8.5 percent.

The number of Vermonters who cast ballots came to just 36,716. Two years ago, 81,276 people voted in the primary. Eight years ago, 122,437 voted.

Was it just that there weren't any hot contests? And why was that the case? Too few people wanted to take the risk of running?

There are a few interesting tidbits in the official report of the canvassing committee. Incumbent Democractic Congressman Peter Welch not only defeated Craig Hill in an intra-party contest, but also won the Republican nomination with 600 write-in votes.

Tom Salmon, Democratic incumbent auditor, also won the Republican nomination with 645 of the 1,017 write-in votes.

The Progressive Party had promoted a slate of statewide candidates it wanted supporters to write in last week, but only two received enough write-in votes (250 needed) to get their names on the November ballot through this process. Fearing such an outcome because of the low turnout, the state party recently met and nominated the slate -- minus Anthony Pollina.

Pollina was one of the two Progressives who won write-in campaigns, but Pollina will decline the Progressive nomination in favor of running as an independent. Thomas Hermann's write-in success makes him the Progressive candidate for Congress.

Turnout by county tell a story, too. Essex County had 16.1 percent turnout compared to Lamoille at 3.9 percent. Chittenden County, with its purportedly interesting contest among nine Democrats for six slots on the ballot, still had only 7 percent of voters turn out.

So was this just one of those dull elections or does this low turnout signal something worrisome?

-- Nancy Remsen



Let's talk

Recognizing that Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie has been called up to active military service to help out with the hurricane response, his Democratic challenger has nevertheless begun setting up some "conversations" to help voters choose between them.

Tom Costello wrote Dubie Friday, only to learn Saturday he had been deployed for a few days. Costello suggested the two appear in five conversations around the state, once each week leading up to the election. Costello didn't call them debates.

"I would like to work with you to develop a "Thursday Night Live" that is mutually convenient, insures process impartiality, and is likely to achieve a meaningful discussion about the future of Vermont."

Costello took the liberty of setting two of these meetings up already. One will be at Castleton State College on Oct. 2. Another would be at Southern Vermont College in Bennington on Oct. 9. Costello proposes the final three be held in Burlington, St. Johnsbury and Barre.

Susie Hudson, Dubie's campaign manager, said that while five debates seemed like a reasonable number, the Republican incumbent has already agreed to four other debates. She noted that the two Costello went ahead and arranged are for times and dates when Dubie isn't available.

Hudson noted that several of the debates Dubie has said he would attend would have larger audiences than the two events Costello has set up. One of the debates she's speaking about would be televised and the other two would be broadcast over radio.

My suggestion: mark your calendars in pencil when it comes to debates announced by one candidate. Use a pen only if a sponsor makes the announcement -- because there always is debate over political debates.

-- Nancy Remsen


And now the Vt. NEA

Anthony Pollina wins "recommendation" from state's largest union - Vermont-National Education Association with more than 11,000 members.

That's his third union endorsement in less than a week and pretty much up locks up the state's largest labor groups behind an independent/progressive candidate for governor.

Sitting on the sidelines, Gov. Jim Douglas has got to be happy. If he wasn't going to get these endorsements, he has to want them to go to Pollina because it weakens his Democratic challenger, House Speaker Gaye Symington. (Douglas has the professional firefighters in his endorsement column and Symington has Vermont Teamsters Locals 1 and 597)

Symington did secure Hillary Clinton's endorsement today, but Clinton doesn't vote in Vermont, can't be expected to make phone calls or put out yard signs or provide any of the other "boots on the ground" support that Pollina has been promised from the unions now backing him.

Ouch!. That's the only way to look at these endorsements from the Symington camp.

-- Nancy Remsen



VSEA: Pollina

The Vermont State Employees Association council has endorsed independent Anthony Pollina for governor.

Pollina joined union workers in Montpelier this afternoon to protest the state job cuts that are in progress.

Big day for Pollina, who - by the way - officially filed his candidacy as an independent today, with hours to spare before the 5 p.m. deadline.

Yesterday, Democrat Gaye Symington told me these union endorsements were important to her. She didn't get this one, and she's probably not going to get the AFL-CIO's. That leaves the teachers' union, among the biggies.

- Terri Hallenbeck


No indy for Keogh

Rep. Bill Keogh has decided not to run in November as an independent. He said this morning that he'd been urged to do so by Dems and Republicans, but has opted not to try the alternative route through the door.

Keogh, after four terms in the Legislature, lost the Democratic primary Tuesday to newcomer Suzi Wizowaty. He said of her: "Suzi Wizowaty did an outstanding job of organizing and implementing an effective campaign. I think she will do a good job in her new role."

Keogh remains on the Burlington City Council, which he said will ask ward clerks to give them a report about what did and didn't work in Tuesday's election. No doubt, a lot of things worked beautifully, but it wasn't hard to see that a fair number of things didn't work well.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Debating the debate

Did y'all watch last night's gubernatorial debate sponsored by the Vt. NEA teachers' union and broadcast on Vermont Public Television from Randolph? If not, read about it HERE. Here are a few thoughts on it:

- Republican Gov. Jim Douglas made no effort to fashion his answers so that they might please members of the teachers' union. He seemed instead to be trying to win over taxpayers watching from home. He made no attempt to offer assurance against job cuts in schools.

- If the union was looking for somebody who says everything they want to hear, independent Anthony Pollina was more in line on that. He was quicker to blast the two-vote mechanism for schools that want to spend more, No Child Left Behind and other items that the union hasn't favored.

- Democrat Gaye Symington must have mentioned about a half-dozen times that when she's working with President Obama ... . At some point does making that link look trifling?

- Asked if their opponents had mischaracterized the, Pollina said that his opponents hadn't but he thought the media had by focusing on his campaign finance issues. What he didn't say was that his opponents hadn't mischaracterized him because they have resolutely refused to acknowledge his existence. At one point, Symington referred to her opponent, Douglas, in the singular even though Pollina was standing there between them.

- Douglas wanted both to say that Symington's Bridge to Opportunity plan unveiled yesterday that offer college support to those unlikely to go otherwise was too much like his Promise Scholarship plan and too pathetic. Hmm, what's that say?

What did you all think?

- Terri Hallenbeck



The rumpled look

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., was given the dubious distinction of being one of the Senate's top three "fashion victims," according to poll results published in this month's Washingtonian magazine.

The magazine, which does the poll every year, surveyed more than 1,500 Capitol Hill staffers of both political parties to ask them which senators and House members they think are the smartest, meanest, most clueless, hardest workers, biggest hunks, etc.

Sanders, who has been in office less than two years, came in second on the list of Senate fashion victims for his no-nonsense suits, comfortable shoes and unruly hair.

He was behind Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. and just ahead of Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.
Since no Republicans made the list, it's possible that GOP staffers weighed in more heavily on this category.

Maybe Bernie needs to wear more red?

- Erin Kelly


Surreal moments

It was a frustrating night awaiting results in Burlington last night.

Not a single ward had brought the goods to City Hall by 9:30 p.m. The biggest meltdown came at 11 p.m. when assistant city attorney Gene Bergman appealed to those gathered for volunteers to help finish the count at Edmunds Middle School. It seems the original counters had gone home. It was a fairly surreal moment. Imagine for a moment how the November election will go over if things don't change there.

When the votes were finally counted, Rep. Bill Keogh had lost his ballot line to newcomer Suzi Wizowaty. Keogh conceded Wizowaty outworked him. A tangible sign of that: her lawn signs were plastering the South End district. Keogh was on vacation in Ireland last week, a trip planned before he knew he'd be in a primary.

(In a weird world moment he ran into Vermont lobbyists Chris Rice, Tim Meehan and Andy MacLean on a street in Ireland).

Keogh said he is considering running as an independent. There are no Republicans running in that district.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Change in Montpelier



Election doings

As we told you yesterday, Rep. Michele Kupersmith, a Democrat from South Burlington, who is on the ballot to run for re-election, will be stepping down. Today, we have some more details.

There is no write-in campaign to replace Kupersmith in today's primary election. The replacement candidate will be nominated after the primary.

She has taken a job in career placement at Vermont Law School, her alma mater. The trek to South Royalton doesn't leave room for serving in the Legislature in Montpelier.

I would guess this was no easy decision for Kupersmith. She was big on issues related to workforce development and proud of her work in helping to shape the Next Generation scholarships to include workforce development.

In other election doings:

- Sam Young, independent candidate for governor from the Kingdom, has sent a mailing to some Vermont households urging people to write his name in on the Republican line in today's primary.

He says:
"In the spirit of Fred Tuttle, a fifth-generation Vermonter challenges a fat-cat
from Massachusetts."

- A group called Chittenden County for Good Government sent a mailing urging voters to select a certain set of Chittenden County Democrats for Senate.

They are Rep. Denise Barnard, Williston resident Tim Palmer, and incumbent Sens. Ed Flanagan, Ginny Lyons, Doug Racine and Hinda Miller.

In one place, the card spells Flanagan's name as Flangan. The group snubs Democratic candidates Dennis McMahon, Sean Starfighter and Tim Ashe. Ashe is the Progressive city councilor from Burlington who is running for Senate as a Dem, and in the process irking a number of Dems.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Writing-in exercise

You can feel the political fervor in the air. Tomorrow is primary day here in Vermont. More political signs are popping up. I saw my first Symington lawn sign this morning in Burlington's Hill Section.

There are some 19 known primary races around the state - from lieutenant governor on down through various legislative seats. But if the town clerks think tomorrow will be an easy day, consider all the write-ins they'll be counting.

The Progressives and the Republicans have a swarm coming.

The Progressive Party's entire statewide slate is via write-in. When Anthony Pollina became an independent, the party had nobody running for statewide office. A party has to snare 5 percent of the vote in a general election to achieve major-party status in the next election (Congress doesn't count). By its very wording, "major-party status" sounds nifty, so the Progs are scurrying to save that.

Here's the slate of write-in they are pushing:
Governor: Anthony Pollina
Lt. Governor: Richard Kemp
Secretary of State: Marjorie Power
Attorney General: Charlotte Dennett
Treasurer: Don Schramm
Auditor of Accounts: Martha Abbott

The Republicans couldn't manage a full slate of candidates by the party filing deadline in July, but they've come up with some more names since. They'll have five to add to Diane Snelling's
for Chittenden Senate. They are:

Darren Adams (who ran two years ago)
Dennis Bedard
Agnes Clift (who ran two years ago)
Robyn Myers Moore
Paul Spadaccini (who ran in 2004)

Republicans are pushing for write-in votes for Mary Houle for state House in Richmond. She is Selectboard chairwoman. The GOP was caught without a candidate in July when incumbent Denise Barnard opted to run for state Senate.

And former Rep. Frank Mazur will make a comeback attempt via write-in for the House in South Burlington. He was ousted four years ago by Michele Kupersmith, but word is that while Kupersmith is on the ballot, she plans to drop out. Presumably, the Dems will have a write-in for that slot too, which we'll add to this list just as soon as they cough it up.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Spin out of control

The Douglas administration has an interesting mess on its hands with regard to the state job cuts and the recently discovered information that administrators were looking to soften the blow perhaps by simply changing the title of the jobs being cut.

If people are going to get in an uproar about cutting social workers, one solution is to call them something else. That was one possible solution.

That is among the things the Vermont State Employees Association discovered by seeking internal correspondences related to the job cuts. At first, the administration wanted to charge the union for messages, then relented, but said the union wasn't likely to find anything interesting.

The messages also reveal thoughts of keeping the governor away from the story of the job cuts and otherwise doing damage control.

If the governor were looking for a way to fuel the fire of the Democrats' argument that he has too many public relations people he just found it.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Panelist's passing

Perhaps you saw that Dr. Lawrence Hochreiter, one of three panelists who was going to help the Legislature sort through whether the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant should continue pumping after 2012, died suddenly Wednesday.

Here are a few more details from the Penn State newspaper.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Live from St. Paul

Perhaps you caught Gov. Sarah Palin's speech last night. You don't usually get that much sarcasm and humor from a politician. She sounded like a character in a "Saturday Night Live" skit.

Just a sample:
"But here’s a little news flash for all those reporters and commentators:
I’m not going to Washington to seek their good opinion; I’m going to Washington
to serve the people of this country.”

A fair number in the crowd, at least as they were panned by CBS cameras, didn't seem to quite know what to do with her sarcasm. While the Democratic convention crowd seemed willing to cheer wildly at every sneeze, half of this crowd seemed to think they were supposed to wait until the end.

A reminder to you to check out Vermont delegate Chris Roy's blog at the Free Press, and his point of view from way back in the convention center, a brush with the band Styx (yikes) and hopefully he'll be updating us later on the Palin speech. You can get there from HERE.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Debating debates

So Anthony Pollina, independent candidate for governor, has charged that his Republican and Democratic rivals are cutting back on debates. Proof, he said, is that various organizations that proposed gubernatorial debates have subsequently cancelled them because either Gov. Jim Douglas or House Speaker Gaye Symington declined to participate.

"Debates are a central part of any campaign and the way Vermonters learn about the candidates," complains Pollina. His staff produced a list of all the debate invitations he'd received. There were more than three dozen, but now five have been cancelled.

Dennise Casey, Douglas campaign manager, said the Republican incumbent is tentatively planning on participating in ten to 15 debates, but hasn't confirmed every date yet.

Michael Carrese, spokesman for the Symington campaign, said she has accepted seven invitations -- all debates that Douglas also agreed to attend. She is open to more, schedules permitting. Carrese reminds that the Symington campaign issued the first challenge on debates -- calling for one in every county.

He added, "If he (Pollina) is implying people are ducking debates, that is certainly not the case."

According to Carrese, the seven gubernatorial debates featuring Symington and Douglas, in some cases it seems without Pollina, will take place as follows:

Sept. 10, NEA debate in Randolph, broadcast by Vermont Public Television. All three candidates.

Sept. 12: Mark Johnson Show on WDEV from Tunbridge Fair. All three.

Sept. 24, Vermont Public Radio at 6 p.m. at a location to be named in Chittenden County, all three.

Oct. 1, Several groups including AARP and Vermont Protection and Advocacy, Brattleboro, broadcast on VPT. All three participating.

Oct. 2, Vermont League of Cities and Towns. Douglas and Symington.

Oct. 10, Manchester Journal Debate, all three.

Oct. 21, Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems. Douglas and Symington.

Debates are always touchy issues for underdogs -- especially those without a lot of money to buy exposure in the media. Pollina argues, "Vermonters deserve to hear directly from candidates rather than through slick television ads and marketing campaigns."

-- Nancy Remsen


Offices near you

The Democratic and Republican parties are doing their part to revitalize office space in some of Vermont's downtowns.

Each is opening what they claim to be a record number of satellite offices -- all to help them reach out to voters. These extra offices provide bases of operation for volunteers to, for example, make all those dinner-hour phone calls to persuade you to vote for their candidates.

The Vermont Democratic Party will have a total of seven regional offices. That includes the party's headquarters in Burlington, plus Bennington, St. Albans, Rutland, Montpelier, White River Junction and Brattleboro. Kristina Althoff said Windham Democrats opened two additional satellite offices, one in Whitingham and another in Bellows Falls.

The Vermont Republican Party has also spread out with more office locations than ever before, according to Tayt Brooks, executive director. There are now offices in Williston, St. Johnsbury, St. Albans, Springfield and the headquarters in Montpelier.

The Vermont Progressive Party is sticking with just one office -- in Montpelier.

--Nancy Remsen



A few points of view

Say you are a conservative and the McCain campaign was trying to win you over with its vice- presidential pick. Then you find out the nominee-to-be, Sarah Palin, has a 17-year-old unmarried daughter who is pregnant.

Are you less apt to be won over? Or do you say, well, at least she isn't having an abortion?

Say you are the McCain campaign and you know that your pick for VP's daughter is unmarried and pregnant. Can you be confident it won't backfire?

Say you are Sarah Palin, and McCain asks you to be his VP. You tell him your 17-year-old unmarried daughter is pregnant and he tells you he is OK with that. How do you decide to put your daughter through that?

- Terri Hallenbeck

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