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vt.Buzz ~ a political blog

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



Out of pocket

So there is video of the Bennington Banner interview with Gov. Jim Douglas over the expense reimbursement issue, if you care to hear it. It's HERE.

There's no question that the question was about campaign expenses, not personal expenses. And Douglas responded, "I'm doing what I understand to be the appropriate thing, which is if there's a telephone call made out of the governor's office that is political I reimburse for it, as I've done."

He has done it five times in his career, campaign manager Dennise Casey said, for "political" phone calls to people that include Skip Vallee and Walt Freed in 2003 and 2007 that he considered personal. They were not specifically connected to the campaign, but they weren't official business either, she argued.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Live from the BFP

Come Tuesday evening, you'll probably want to know how the election is going, right?

Well, we've got what you need. Electronic wizardry is changing everything and we are offering you results and analysis in ways you never dreamed. Here's the deal:

- Candy Page, who's been covering this stuff since before some of you could read, will be blogging live on election night right here at vt.Buzz.

- At www.burlingtonfreepress.com, you can see live streaming from state Democratic, Republican and Pollina election headquarters.

- Also on the Free Press Web site, you can see results as they come in from more than 100 towns and photos from around the region.

But wait - you say you haven't made up your mind who you're voting for? Check out our online voter guide. We've got stories, candidate surveys, lists of polling places, recipes for Obama's chili and McCain's ribs (not sure about that last one, but we did have that in the paper the other day).

Reminds me of Jackson Browne's "Stay:"
"We got disco on eight tracks and cassettes in stereo
And we got rural scenes and magazines
And we got truckers on CB
And we got Richard Pryor on the video."

We've got stories and photographs
We've got background and analysis
We've got candidates on video
And if Bill Sorrell does a dance, we'll have that too.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Scrappy times

In the final days before the election things are turning scrappy.

A few examples of campaign fever:

- Gov. Jim Douglas said yesterday he pays personal expenses out of his own pocket. Democrat Gaye Symington took that to mean he pays campaign expenses out of his pocket and those should be listed on his campaign finance report and as a former secretary of state Douglas should know it. Nate Freeman is asking the AG to weigh in, a day after the AG turned him down on a related question.
Douglas campaign manager Dennise Casey says Douglas never meant that he pays campaign expenses out of his pocket. What he meant was if he called his son on the phone, he'd reimburse that, she said, but it doesn't happen often.
Still hanging in the balance is the issue of whether Douglas' campaign should reimburse the state for campaign travel expenses.

- Republican Secretary of State candidate Eugene Bifano will hold a press conference today to question whether a couple of people who are voting in Vermont but now live elsewhere should be allowed to vote here. Mark Shepard probably won't be among those he's talking about, but it's those sort of situations - the always-murky question of where does one really live.

- The Vermont GOP is accusing Symington of improperly collaborating with Democracy for America on campaign strategy and filed a complaint with the AG.

- Down in Florida, where my parents just arrived for the winter, my mother reports that one tennis group imploded over political differences. My mother is smart enough not to mix her tennis with politics, but apparently not everyone is. As a keen observer of humankind, I find this precious and would like to know if any of this sort of thing is going on around you.

Are there people who can't sit together in the company cafeteria anymore because they disagree about Sarah Palin? Will you be stuffing your mouth full of Halloween cupcakes to keep from responding in ways you might regret to your mother-in-law? Can people who disagree talk politics and still be friends, or even tennis partners?

- Terri Hallenbeck


From Brattleboro

Democrat Gaye Symington has won the endorsement of the Brattleboro Reformer. The editorial criticizes Douglas' leadership and says, "House Speaker Gaye Symington, on the other hand, has shown leadership and a willingness to do what has to be done."


- Terri Hallenbeck



That mileage controversy

In today's story about the campaign travel expense squabble in the governor's race, I reported that I found $9,867.39 in reimbursements Howard Dean made to the state over five elections. That comes about just under $2,000 an election.

Not all of what Dean repaid was for mileage traveled in a car to campaign events. I found $7,566.92 in mileage/travel reimbursements. Some of the travel was to Democratic Governors Association meetings, not just miles on Vermont roads.

Assuming about $1,500 went for travel each election and all of it was in a car (no flights to DC or wherever.), and using 33 cents per mile which is kind of in the middle of the mileage payment figures I found for 1992-2002, Howard was paying for 4,545 miles per election. Does that sound like a lot or a little?

Gaye Symington, the Democratic candidate making a stink about Jim Douglas failure to keep track of travel that is strictly campaign related and pay for the mileage with some of his $1.25 million campaign contributions would say paying for 4,500 miles is better than nothing.

Dennise Casey, Douglas' campaign manager, argues that every trip is the governor being the governor.

If one believed in separating campaign expenses, it is complicated. Symington admitted that and Kate O'Connor, Dean's former aide and campaign manager, confirmed it was a bit of a hassle. Still, a look at Douglas' schedule today suggests it might not be that hard to separate out some mileage. Today (Thursday) he was doing a radio interview, then going to Brandon for campaign stops with Rep. Joe Acinapura and visits to a couple of businesses. He was holding a press conference at one. Then he was heading to Bennington for another campaign related press conference, followed by touring and sign waving with Rep. Joe Krawczyk all afternoon. The only official business of the day was listed as 6:30 p.m.

So the mileage from downtown Middlebury to Bennington is 96 miles (thank you, Mapquest). Allowing that he had official business as well as campaigning scheduled, one could charge half the trip to the taxpayers and half to the campaign. The bill for traveling 96 miles would be $55.68 using the current state mileage reimbursement of 58.5 cents per mile.

So should that money be repaid?

-- Nancy Remsen



Another paper

The Valley News today endorsed Anthony Pollina for governor. See it HERE.

"To be sure, Pollina is the unconventional choice. But, then, these are unconventional times," the editorial concludes.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Where you live and vote

Oddly enough, here in the center of the big city, there is no snow on the ground. That is not true elsewhere, we assure those of you who never get out of the big city.

Here's another oddity to scratch your head over.

Mark Shepard, the former state senator from Bennington who lost the GOP primary for Congress two years ago and is conducting a write-in campaign for that seat this year, doesn't completely live in Vermont.

He still has a house in Bennington. He's still registered to vote there, and did vote early _ not for himself because he voted before he was running as a write-in _ but he and his wife and four kids rent a home in Seneca Falls, N.Y. (which just happens to be my mother's birthplace), where he works as an engineering consultant. Most of his clients are in that part of central New York.

So can Shepard vote here? Could he serve as our representative in Congress if elected?

Secretary of State Deb Markowitz says a state Supreme Court ruling found that a voter could remain on the rolls if he/she had specific intentions to return, such as after they were done caring for an ailing parent.

Shepard says he would like to return, but circumstances right now dictate otherwise. That doesn't quite fit the barometer Markowitz spoke of. In fact, Bennington Town Clerk Tim Corcoran said the Shepards' house is for sale.

But Corcoran said he thinks Shepard has a perfect right to vote in Bennington. The measure for him, he said, is where one files income taxes, which Shepard does in Vermont.

Shepard said his status in New York state is similar to a businessman staying in a hotel. He ads that he still has a Vermont driver's license.

Interesting situation. Keep in mind that people in the military vote absentee sometimes through a long career to the address of the house where they grew up, whether mom and dad still live there or not. In the 1984 election, I was in Africa in the Peace Corps, thought about getting an absentee ballot, but didn't know if I was still allowed to vote at my parents' address, since my parents had while I was away sold the house and moved away (losing my baseball cards in the process). Turns out maybe I coulda.

Just came across this from Massachusetts, however. An odd compromise that makes somebody a voter of a state but not of any locality.

BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Deval Patrick has signed a new law allowing Massachusetts
voters who have moved in the past 18 months to vote Tuesday at their old
address if they failed to re-register at their new home.

The law will apply only to this election, in part to address concerns about voters forced out of their homes and apartments due to the foreclosure crisis. The ballots will be limited to votes for president, U.S. senator and the three statewide ballot

Under current law, voters who move must re-register within six
months. The new law extends that grace period by a year. Secretary of
State William Galvin said that without the new law, voters who attempted to cast
ballots at their old precincts would have to cast provisional ballots.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Numbers are in

WCAX poll results in the gubernatorial race are in:

Douglas: 47 percent
Symington: 24 percent
Pollina: 23 percent
Other/undecided: 4 percent

What that means:

- Pollina is right on Symington's tail. Her support slipped from 33 percent in WCAX's poll of one month ago. Pollina climbed 16 percent since that poll.
- Douglas doesn't have 50 percent, which means the Legislature could decide this thing.
- Pollina's showing explains why Douglas has turned up the heat against Pollina.

The poll also showed a 50 percent favorability rating for Douglas, with 42 percent calling him unfavorable.

Symington had a 34 percent favorability; 45 percent unfavorable; 21 no opinion.

Pollina: 45 percent favorable; 35 percent unfavorable; 20 percent no opinion. Those favorability numbers might also explain Douglas' desire to go after him.

Keep this in mind, however. Polls in 2002 showed Doug Racine would win the governor's race.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Taking credit

Jim Douglas’ campaign continued today to hit independent Anthony Pollina.

Yesterday, Pollina argued that the other candidates aren’t talking about agriculture and that Douglas isn’t serious about the buy-local program. Build a market and the producers will come, Pollina said.

Douglas’ campaign lashed back today, saying, "... As founder and director of the Vermont Milk Company, Pollina left Vermont farmers waiting for their milk checks and vendors unpaid – walking away from the company to pursue a run for statewide office at a time when the company’s debt mounted."

Douglas campaign also continued to hammer Pollina over his credit card proposal. The idea is that just as there are credit cards that earn you airline flights and gas rebates, there would be a credit card that earns Vermont money to be invested in renewable energy and other projects.

Douglas argues that Pollina would be asking Vermonters to go into more debt. "I don’t see why we want to encourage anyone to get another credit card," Douglas said yesterday. "Vermonters are too much in debt already."

Pollina contends he’s not asking anyone to rely on more credit, but to use a different credit card. "He doesn’t believe Vermonters know enough to replace one credit card with another," Pollina said. "That’s his negative assumption. "We’re so used with Jim Douglas to having ideas shot down."

Pollina said his credit card idea is met with positive reaction everywhere he goes.

That’s one example of where Douglas says Pollina would be increasing debt and taxes, citing his opposition to the two-vote school budget process, his interest in removing the capital gains tax loophole, and his interest in government-run health care. He continues to call Pollina’s 2 percent investment idea — state institutions would put 2 percent of their investments into a Vermont fund instead of elsewhere — as a tax because it would hamstring them in their investments.

Douglas offered equal criticisms of Democrat Gaye Symington, but the fact that he’s paying attention to Pollina at all is new. Douglas wouldn’t say if his polls are pointing him in a particular direction on that.

Later today, we should know what WCAX’s poll says about the governor’s race. If you can believe polls.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Replacing Savage

Rep. Peter Welch must be assuming he'll be back in office in January. He's hired a new spokesman.

It'll be former Brattleboro Reformer reporter Paul Heintz.

A news release from Welch's office says Heintz was a desk assistant for PBS' "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" and an intern with National Public Radio's "On The Media." He also interned in the office of Rep. Michael Capuano, D-Mass.

He graduated from Dartmouth College in 2006.

He replaces Andrew Savage who has been promoted to deputy chief of staff/legislative director.

- Terri Hallenbeck




Just in case you live in a delusional cave and don't realize this, let me state from the start that a newspaper's political endorsements are made by the editorial board, which is separate from those of us covering the news. I didn't know who the Free Press was endorsing any earlier than you did. So spare me any innuendos.

OK, we got that over with. Now, let's talk about the endorsements.

The Free Press, the Rutland Herald/Times-Argus, the Stowe Reporter, the Caledonian-Record have all endorsed Republican Jim Douglas.

The Bennington Banner (an I presume the affiliated Brattleboro Reformer, though I can't prove it right now) has endorsed independent Anthony Pollina.

If you've seen others, chip in. Democrat Gaye Symington seems to have been left out.

Some excerpts:

BFP: "During the past two years and during the campaign, Republican Douglas has shown himself to be the candidate with the clearest understanding of the budget challenges that face state government."

RH/TA: "Neither of Douglas' challengers has made a convincing case that Vermonters ought to risk a change of leadership at such a crucial moment."

Stowe: "Although Pollina has all the campaigning skills that Symington does not, he also possesses none of her experience. Who knows who Pollina would be were he to be placed in a position of authority and decision-making? These times are too precarious to risk on an unknown."

Banner: "Vermont's chance of breaking the logjam in Montpelier would be greatly enhanced with the election of Mr. Pollina on Nov. 4. We believe his independent stature would allow him to work with both Democrats, who often agree with his views, and with the Republicans, who haven't repeatedly clashed with him, as they have with Speaker Symington."

- Terri Hallenbeck


Economic class

My 11 a.m. class today was economics with Professor Douglas. My classmates and I listened attentively while the professor wrote out on a flip chart the ways in which his economic plan is better than THEIR economic plans.

I felt like I had already taken that class, but apparently the professor thought I and the others needed remedial lessons.

He picked apart his opponents' plans line by line. Douglas charged that half of Democrat Gaye Symington's ideas are already in the works and the other half won't work. As for independent Anthony Pollina, all his ideas fall in one category: more debt and taxes.

A couple of interesting side notes from the class:

- Douglas said he doesn't know how many jobs his plan would create or how long it would take to create them. This is the frustrating thing for the average voter, I think. One can't help but have the feeling that no candidate for any office has a plan that will truly make any difference.

- Douglas has increasingly focused criticism on Pollina. This means either: that he has a poll showing Pollina picking up votes; he wants to give Pollina more name recognition so he takes votes from Symington; or he is really hoping to lump them together so that anybody who has decided they don't like one won't like the other either.

- Douglas has not yet finessed his criticism of Pollina's plan to close the capital gains loophole. Douglas' argument is that there won't be much of a capital gains, but Douglas himself was promising to use that same closing of the loophole to offer tax cuts. Were those tax cuts that shaky a promise?

- Douglas said Symington's campaign is calling for a boycott of Essex Junction businesses that have campaign signs in front of them. Faithful readers will recall that the Free Press reported Saturday that Rep. Peter Hunt of Essex Junction called for the boycott, even though the signs are posted on the right-of-way, unconnected to the businesses in the plaza. Hunt is Symington's driver for the campaign, as in he drives her to and fro. Now I think we can all agree that the call for a boycott was odd at best, but can one really say that Peter Hunt=Gaye Symington? If a Republican legislator were working on Douglas' campaign would everything that person did and said be tantamount to the governor doing/saying?

- Terri Hallenbeck



Was this on purpose?

So if you are one of the 1,300 elderly Vermonters who receives assistance under the Choices for Care program and you get a letter that starts out "The Vermont Legislature has directed the Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living to reduce every Choices for Care program participant's assistance with Instrumental Activities of Daily Living by one hour per week, who would you be upset with?

And if that letter came one month before an election, would that sway your thinking about an incumbent?

Legislative leaders think so and have complained to the Douglas administration about the letter. Why? Because it was the administration that proposed this cut. And it was the administration and the Joint Fiscal Committee that agreed it would be part of the emergency reductions made to the budget because of shrinking revenues.

In our story today, Terri Hallenbeck quotes Rep. Martha Heath, D-Westford, venting about the blame game. "It makes me furious," she said. Heath suggested it's part of a pattern she's seen with the Douglas administration. (Douglas being a Republican running for re-election against Heath's longtime friend and legislative colleague, Gaye Symington).

Blame the Legislature when the news is bad, take the credit when the news it good. She noted that earlier in the week, Douglas was taking credit for providing a $47,000 grant to a software association to help spur this new sector of the Vermont economy when the money was part of the Legislature's budget. Somehow lawmakers didn't get a mention, however, at the presentation.

Jason Gibbs, spokesman for the governor, called the wording of the letter a mistake and said the administration had already apologized to Sen. Susan Bartlett, D-Lamoille, who heads the Joint Fiscal Committee.

With just over a week to go, everybody is very sensitive. Politicians worry that any little thing could be the factor that changes their races. It's a valid concern, isn't it?

-- Nancy Remsen



What didn't they say?

Credit WPTZ with holding a gubernatorial debate. Credit them with trying to find a unique location.

But let's just say the Echo center may be a really cool place to go see turtles and frogs, but it is not such a cool place to watch a debate. Unless you're a frog or a turtle - they had the best seats.

The candidates and the anchors were on one floor. The "audience" was on the next floor, with no way of actually seeing the candidates or the anchors except on the TV screen in front of them, with no sound. About 20 chairs were assembled there, but when somebody at WPTZ told me I might not be able to hear the questions or the answers very well from there, I bailed and went back to the office to watch on TV.

There was also a room to watch it downstairs at Echo, via TV, though I'm told the sound wasn't very good there.

I'm not sure they ever intended to have much of an audience, other than the numerous Channel 5 brass, UVM prof Garrison Nelson and campaign staff. Gov. Jim Douglas' staff might not have realized that - as they dispatched supporters to the corner of Battery and College streets to greet the non-existent people flooding into the venue. As I was high-tailing it back to the office I had to dart around the governor's car, which had stopped to let him out so he could thank his people for standing there.

I'm told you will be able to watch the debate from the comfort of your computer at www.wptz.com as of later this afternoon.

I'll let you go and watch it and tell us what you think the candidates should have said about each other that they didn't.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Center stage

Tonight's gubernatorial debate on WPTZ (8-9 p.m.), broadcast live from the Echo Center in Burlington, could be the last one before the free-for-all, every-candidate-for-every-office under-the-sun VPT debate just before the election.

There's an interfaith council one that's supposed to happen next week, but it seems unclear whether the three candidates will all be there.

What point would you like to see a candidate make?

What question are you hoping to have answered?

- Terri Hallenbeck



Adding ads

A couple of new TV ads have surfaced in the gubernatorial race.

Independent Anthony Pollina has his first - a 30-second ad that is minimal on the camera action. Pollina stands in front of a building, telling viewers:

"I’m Anthony Pollina, independent for governor, founder of Rural
Vermont, adviser to Bernie Sanders."

He has not chosen to characterize himself as a founding director of the foundering Vermont Milk Co. or that Sanders does not feel passionate enough to back him - financially or spiritually.

Pollina goes on:

"A lot of folks are telling me nobody's listening to them in
Montpelier. I’ve been working with Vermonters for 30 years and I'm listening.
Like you, I believe that every Vermonter deserves a good job, affordable home
and health care no matter what, and we need to support our family farms.
These are tough times. Time for a governor who stands up for you."

Meanwhile, Republican Gov. Jim Douglas is airing an ad with testimonials proclaiming support from Democrats. He does not mention that Vermonters don't register by party, so you have to wonder under what definition some of these people are Democrats.

Holly Pembroke: "I support Jim Douglas because he understands the
needs of our growing family."

Harold Howrigan: "He’s been good for farmers, good for consumers, good
for business."

Frank Cioffi: "Vermont needs the common sense, bipartisan leadership of Jim

Bev Mayo: "You can count on Jim Douglas."

Mitch Montagne: "He tries to understand, I think he does. That’s why I’m
voting for Jim Douglas."

He has a heavy Franklin County presence in the ad with Horwigan, Cioffi and Montagne.

Democrat Gaye Symington will be on the air through the election. "Expect to see something new," spokesman Michael Carrese said.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Guiding the voter

Some of you people who read blogs might have noticed that more and more stuff is on the World Wide Web.

Add to that list the new Free Press voter guide. You punch in some numbers, and voila, up pops your ballot, from president on down to your legislative race with info about the candidates you'll be choosing from. Provided those candidates played our game and coughed up the info.

In the good old-fashioned newspaper - the kind you hold in your hands - we are running this week and next answers from legislative candidates across Chittenden County. For those of you keeping track at home, there are 81 of them. It's a lot of work, done mostly by Nancy Remsen, who might not ever be the same as a result.

The charts will help voters differentiate the candidate on issues such as budget priorities and Vermont Yankee. They'll learn how candidates would cast their ballot for governor if no candidates wins at least 50 percent and the race goes to the Legislature. Some pretty interesting answers there.

Online, the Free Press will be offering even more races in more counties. Jackie Kazil, our web goddess, martyred herself to make that happen. Check it out HERE.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Ever-shrinking world

It is a small world, after all.

This morning, Gaye Symington levied the charge at Jim Douglas that his highway project planning was so bad he was at risk of losing federal transportation money.

Douglas' people say it isn't so, the money has no expiration date.

So I sought to find out whether there is one or not and turned to the Federal Highway Administration's Vermont office, where I left a message for Larry Dwyer. He happens to be the husband of Carolyn Dwyer, who is Rep. Peter Welch's campaign manager, and sits about 13 inches from Symington's campaign office.

Larry Dwyer passed my message along to the FHA's spokesman, who called me back. That is Ian Grossman, who was once Jim Douglas' campaign manager and a spokesman for the state Agency of Transportation, before moving to the federal agency.

It's like you're playing pinball and you set off in a direction you bump into someone who's connected to someone else.

Grossman says there's no expiration date. Theoretically, Congress could create one.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Pollina hitting people up for money

Independent gubernatorial candidate Anthony Pollina is trying to make up for lost time on the fundraising front with an e-mail to supporters today, making an appeal for them to give the full $2,000 they're now allowed to give, following yesterday's federal court decision.

The message also says the campaign will record its first TV ad Friday.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Savage staying

I was away last month when Andrew Savage left a message about his departure from Peter Welch's office in D.C. to go work for an anti-global warming group. I was planning to blog about it before he actually stepped foot out the door.

No need for that now. Savage isn't going anywhere, except to a new role within Welch's office. He'll be deputy chief of staff/legislative director, replacing the departing Connie Dougherty on Nov. 15. Savage will be directing Welch's policy staff.

Welch was apparently savvy enough to know that Savage, who's been with him through the Vermont Senate, through his election to Congress and on to D.C., was worth keeping around. No word yet on who will replace Savage as Welch's communications director.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Pollina wins

Write those checks, Pollina supporters. Judge Sessions says it's OK.

Anthony Pollina supporters may each write checks for as much as $2,000 to support his gubernatorial candidacy, U.S. District Judge William Sessions ruled Wednesday.

Based on the decision, Pollina, an independent candidate for governor, won’t have to return contributions in excess of $1,000 to 35 contributors, as state officials had ordered.

Five Pollina contributors had challenged the planned enforcement of stricter limits by the Attorney General and Secretary of State.

Sessions ruled that since Pollina started out as a Progressive Party candidate, he, like other major party candidates, could accept contributions up to $2,000 per person or organization at any time — from campaign kickoff up to election day.

Even though Pollina decided in July to run as an independent and no longer faced a primary election, Session said his change in status didn’t change the rules on contributions.

The state had argued that Pollina never officially became a Progressive candidate because he didn’t file the paperwork in July. Sessions countered that Pollina met the definition of a candidate in the campaign finance law by announcing that he was running, collecting donations and making expenditures on a campaign.

So is this ruling too late to breathe financial life into the Pollina campaign?

-- Nancy Remsen



Pollina snubs Symington

Independent gubernatorial candidate Anthony Pollina is taking the Rasmussen poll and running with it.

He is trying to get Gov. Jim Douglas to agree to a debate, town-meeting-style, between just the two of them. No Gaye Symington.

His news release on it reads:
"With only a few weeks left before the election and the Democratic
candidate slipping badly in the polls I am asking the Governor to meet in a town
meeting style debate so we can talk directly with voters about the issues facing
Vermont. The Governor can pick the date to meet his schedule."

That's not how his letter to Douglas reads, however. He makes no mention of Symington being invited or not. Douglas campaign manager Dennise Casey said she didn't realize Symington wasn't invited until I mentioned it.

That prompted her to call it a campaign stunt and suggest that chances were slim Douglas would take part.

"I don't think the governor is interested in participating in a political stunt orchestrated by Anthony Pollina," Casey said. "This is hypocritical of Anthony Pollina to try to squeeze out another candidate when he previously said all candidates should be included."

Pollina campaign manager Meg Brook said the sense of Symington's slip comes from more than the Rasmussen poll, but from conversations with people in the streets. Having Douglas and Pollina face off one-on-one would give voters a better sense of the contrast between the two, she said.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Days turn to weeks

The clock ticks toward the election and still no decision from federal court on how much money gubernatorial candidate Anthony Pollina can raise from each supporter. $1,000? $2,000? Any amount under the sun?

Pollina's supporters and the state made their cases to Judge William Sessions on Oct. 1. Both sides thought there would be a decision within days. We are still within days but you could also measure the time in weeks

- Terri Hallenbeck



Poll anyone?

The results of that Rasmussen poll that co-worker Candy Page told you about earlier in the week are in.

And they are confusing - in a way that means you should not take them to any bank, whether it's a faltering bank or a really upstanding one.

Let's put it this way: Democrat Gaye Symington is discounting the results entirely. Republican Jim Douglas is pretty much discounting it and independent Anthony Pollina is trumpeting one part of it while disregarding another.

Rasmussen, who has not returned calls seeking clarity, seems to be saying that if you asked people whether they'd vote for Douglas, Symington or Pollina they results would be:

Douglas 45 percent
Symington 20 percent
Pollina 25 percent

That's the part Pollina's people like a lot. Rasmussen says, however, that another 19 percent say they could end up voting for Symington. And that Pollina could get anywhere from 4-25 percent of the vote. That's a rather large spread.

If you asked people whether they'd vote for Douglas or Symington (leaving Pollina out as they did when they made the first round of calls) the results would be:

Douglas 53 percent
Symington 39 percent

I don't understand why Rasmussen polled without Pollina in the race, unless they know something he hasn't told us. Or unless they didn't really know what was going on in Vermont.

Douglas campaign manager Dennise Casey said their internal polls always show him running stronger than the public polls, though she wasn't sharing her poll results.

- Terri Hallenbeck



That women thing

In case you missed Dee Dee Myers, Channel 17 taped her and has the speech on its Web site. You can see it HERE.

Yes, she can be partisan in her comments, but it seemed to me that she made a case, no matter one's political beliefs, for diversity in the workplace. She was talking gender diversity specifically. I would argue other kinds of diversity are also valuable.

Since the room was filled with mostly women, and from the applause at particular moments, mostly Democratic women, it might behoove other sorts - men, for instance, and Republicans to take a listen. Republicans just might not like the jokes as much.

Speaking of Channel 17, they'll soon have on their Web site a debate taped yesterday among the lt. gov candidates.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Just a link

We didn't cover the gubernatorial debate last week before the Vermont League of Cities and Towns. It featured Republican Jim Douglas, Democrat Gaye Symington and Liberty Union candidate Peter Diamondstone. Anthony Pollina, now an independent, wasn't included because he was no longer running from a major political party and hadn't shown double-digit poll numbers -- the other threshold for inclusion.

Anyway, if you want to see and hear the candidates' responses to the questions posed by the League on state budget woes, health insurance costs, transportation, corrections, payments in lieu of taxes for state property, giving the state full responsibility for the statewide property tax for education and stormwater -- go here.

-- Nancy Remsen


Women ruling

Watch out.

Some 500 women are walking through the streets of Vermont today with a little more confidence.

A roomful of mostly women heard from former White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers this morning in Burlington. She has written a book, Why Women Should Rule the World," and has concluded that the reason women should rule is the world would be a better place.

So if you look around your office today and see a few more women speaking up, that’s why.

It’s a title Myers admits is meant to be provocative. Don't worry. She’s not ready to exile men.

She sent the crowd away empowered with the fact that yes, women have something important to offer the business world and she got them thinking about the obstacles that have prevented them from sharing it.

She passed along a bit of advice for that moment in the meeting room that has happened to us all. You say something smart. Everybody ignores it. Three minutes later a man says the same thing and everybody loves the idea. Here’s what you do: You say, "I love the way you restated my idea, Richard. I think my idea, as restated by Richard, will work very well."

Myers, a Democrat who worked for President Clinton, even had a few good words to say for Republican Sarah Palin. A few bad words too, but none of them about her shoes, or her hair, or the choices she’s made for raising her children.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Overseeing the banks

The House Oversight Committee that has been exploring the spa treatments and other hardships that execs at these ailing financial firms is a committee Rep. Peter Welch sits on.

You can see Welch asking yesterday about SEC risk oversight, done by just one person, HERE.

- Terri Hallenbeck



On the tube

You'd have to watch more TV than I do even during baseball playoffs to keep up with all the Symington-Douglas ads. I caught the tail end of Republican Gov. Jim Douglas' anti-Democrat Gaye Symington ad last night and all I glimpsed was a photo of Symington. Now having seen the full ad HERE, I see that Symington is in doom-gloom black-and-white, Douglas in color, with the statement, "It's clear. Vermont can't afford Gaye Symington."

More ads are on their way.

Symington has one coming that's on her Web site now. You can see it HERE.

I would swear that they have pudged-out Douglas' face to make him look Dick Cheney-esque.

The gist of the ad is that Symington will protect Vermonters while Douglas will leave Vermonters stuck with the bill for cleaning up after Vermont Yankee.

It quotes the Rutland Herald as saying "Douglas hinders Yankee review." Douglas' campaign points out that that headline was on a letter to the editor from a Symington supporter and that the letter looks very much like a form letter. That's not the same as the Herald making the statement.

Douglas campaign manager Dennise Casey fired off this:

“The Symington campaign is so desperate for traction that they will say
anything,” said Dennise Casey, campaign manager for Governor Jim Douglas.
“Vermonters know that Governor Douglas will always put their safety first.
Governor Douglas called for the Independent Safety Inspection that is going on
now and looks forward to the pending results.”

Casey continued: “This citation is blatantly misleading and misrepresents
Rutland Herald reporters and editorial page writers. Gaye Symington should be
embarrassed by this.”

It amazes me how much both campaigns use these quotes from newspapers, as if they are relying on us to be the arbiter. I hope they keep this high regard for us in mind next time they complain about us.

Another thing I find odd: That Douglas's ads so frequently mention the name Gaye Symington. Those mass-media experts his campaign's been paying must have told him that was the way to go, but it seems as though he's giving her name recognition she doesn't otherwise have.

I asked Symington's campaign if they altered the photo to give Douglas that Cheney look. Here's the response from spokesman Michael Carrese:

Nope. The producer says the following:
The photo came from this slide show on the official VT website (about 8 or 9 slides in)
http://governor.vermont.gov/media/slideshow/spectrum-signing.html. We isolated the image and flipped it, but did not alter it in any way.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Symington nabs endorsement

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, has endorsed Democrat Gaye Symington for governor.

“The Human Rights Campaign is proud to endorse Gaye Symington, a proven champion for LGBT equality, in her campaign to become governor of Vermont,” said Human Rights Campaign National Field Director Marty Rouse. “Gaye has consistently been a strong advocate for LGBT equality, and her election as Governor will be an important step toward making full equal rights a reality for all Vermonters.”

In this case it was not necessarily networking in Denver and D.C. that nabbed her the endorsement. Before joining the Human Rights Campaign, Rouse, a former Vermont resident, worked to re-elect members of the Vermont House and Senate who voted for civil unions legislation in 2000.

- Terri Hallenbeck



The next Chernobyl?

When I saw that Democracy for America was launching an ad criticizing Gov. Jim Douglas over Vermont Yankee, I thought, OK, we’re going to see the famous photo of the collapsed tower, we’re going to hear talk about the VY inspection about which he was less than enthusiastic, we’re going to hear about how he vetoed the bill that would have required VY to fully fund decommissioning. 

You do hear all those things in the ad, which DFA’s Adam Quinn says will start airing on Vermont TV on Wednesday. 

What you might not expect is the ending. It goes like this: "Why isn’t Jim Douglas keeping you and your family from becoming the victims of the next nuclear accident?" Douglas’ photo sits between photos of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. 

Does it go too far? Quinn suggested that that was the intention. Sort of cause a nuclear fusion inside people’s heads. 

The state doesn’t have purview over safety of the nuclear power plant – only the reliability of the power it produces. Regardless, Quinn said, Douglas could do something to better ensure the safety if he showed leadership in interjecting himself on the issue. DFA has endorsed Democrat Gaye Symington for governor.

"I think it’s clear with all the problems at Vermont Yankee, Vermonters are at danger of something," Quinn said. "We don’t really know." 

Douglas campaign manager Dennise Casey said it’s the sort of ad that Democrats would call Rovian, as in in-the-style-of-Karl Rove and that Democratic Committee Chairman Ian Carleton and Symington should be calling on DFA to pull the ad.

You can see the ad yourselves HERE. You decide: Is it fear-mongering?

- Terri Hallenbeck


I've been polled

The phone rang Saturday morning as I chopped celery for potato salad. Rasmussen Reports, a national polling firm was calling. Or, at least, their automated polling machine was calling. Would I take a few minutes to answer questions? The data would be distributed to "television and radio stations," the female voice told me.

Sure, I said. I read references to Rasmussen's results all the time on national political blogs, so I was curious to see what questions I'd be asked.

With one exception, just what you'd expect, questions like: If the election were held today, would I vote for Barack Obama or John McCain? Which candidate would I trust more to handle economic problems? National security? How positive is my view of Sarah Palin (punch a button, 1-5)? Joe Biden?

But then came the Vermont question: If the election were held today, would I vote for Jim Douglas or Gaye Symington? I waited for the third name. Nope. As far as Rasmussen is concerned, only two candidates are vying for Vermont's governorship. With Anthony Pollina's name left out, Rasmussen's results won't be meaningful, I'd think.

My home phone number has been randomly selected by pollsters over the years, but this was the first time the questions were automated and I had to respond by pressing numbers on the phone pad. It's not a perfect system. In one case I tapped the wrong button, and I'd think that would happen fairly frequently. I shouldn't have tried to keep chopping the celery, I guess.
-- Candace Page



Bailing out

The bailout package that failed earlier this week passed today (with bows and ribbons added by the Senate). Rep. Peter Welch voted for it. Sen. Bernie Sanders still thinks it's a bad idea. Here's some of what they had to say:


“For the past two weeks, I have been fighting in Congress to make this
flawed bill better. Some of what I and others fought for we achieved:
aggressive congressional oversight, a crack down on rip-off executive pay and
golden parachutes, and protection for the taxpayer by securing equity in rescued

“In spite of these improvements, I opposed the original bill, supported
by House leadership, because it was still not strong enough. I urgently
wanted to establish a “stability fund” to make sure that the cost of this
program was ultimately borne by the financial industry, not the taxpayer.

“I will, however, vote for the new bill before the House today for
three significant reasons.

“On Wednesday, the Securities and Exchange Commission, acting on a
request by me and several colleagues, revised misguided accounting rules that
are putting unnecessary pressure on lending institutions and leading to further
instability in the financial industry. This is a positive and much needed
step forward that will reduce the price tag of this bailout by minimizing the
number of institutions needing taxpayer assistance.

“Also, the bill improves the Paulson plan by raising the ceiling on
federal insurance for bank deposits from $100,000 to $250,000. This
provision will provide much needed additional security to consumers and small
businesses worried about the stability of their financial institutions.

“And, on Tuesday, I spoke at length with Senator Obama. He shares
the reservations I have about this legislation. He assured me that, as
president, he will improve this bill in two essential ways. He is
committed to assisting struggling homeowners with bankruptcy protections, and
establishing a “recoupment” fund so the financial services industry, not
taxpayers, will ultimately foot the bill for this rescue.

“Passing this plan, imperfect as it may be, protects taxpayers and
gives us our best chance at stabilizing the economy and protecting the jobs,
savings, and retirement accounts of hard working Vermonters. Those were my
goals. That is my responsibility. And that is why I vote yes on this
revised bill.

“This is a bitter pill to swallow, especially for thrifty and
responsible Vermonters. It is my judgment, however, that a failure to act
would further aggravate economic instability for working Vermonters and

“Our economic problems will not be solved with this new law.
There is no quick-fix. The path to a more prosperous future will take a
return to the core values Vermonters know: Our economic policies must
support our middle class. We can’t spend and borrow beyond our
means. And we must reward work and entrepreneurship, not speculation and
market manipulation.
“By returning to common sense values that have
been the foundation of our nation, we can help all Vermonters and all Americans
prosper. That is the hard work that lies ahead.”

And from Sanders:

“Today, the Bush administration and Wall Street bankers got what they
wanted – a $700 billion bailout with all the risk put on middle-income

“To me, it is grossly unfair that the middle class,
whose standard of living is declining, is forced to pick up the tab for Wall
Street’s greed and irresponsibility, and not the top 1 percent who have
benefited from Bush’s reckless policies.

“In the midst of the
severe financial crisis facing our country it is clear that Congress must act,
but this legislation does not accomplish what must be done.

addition to saddling the middle class with the cost of the bailout, this bill
does nothing to stimulate the economy and create good-paying jobs by rebuilding
our infrastructure; does nothing to undo the dangerous deregulation which caused
this crisis; does nothing to address the ‘too big to fail’ doctrine which will
likely repeat itself. And it does far too little to solve the housing
foreclosure crisis which is impacting millions of Americans, not only driving
them from their homes but creating more and deeper problems for banks and
financial institutions.”

- Terri Hallenbeck



Keeping up with endorsements

Gaye Symington is pretty happy to get an endorsement from Democracy for America, the "progressive political action community" founded by former Gov. Howard Dean in 2004. Of course, it' would have been shocking had it gone to Republican Jim Douglas.

It's not just another endorsement on a list. It's people power. Or at least that's what Arshad Hasan, executive director of DFA, promises. The organization, based in South Burlington, has 10,544 Vermont members who don't like to sit on the couch during elections.

Speaking of "endorsements," the Vermont League of Conservation Voters named Sen. Peter Shumlin, D-Windham, and Rep. Tony Klein, D-East Montpelier, their new Environmental Champions.

The organization also released its legislative scorecard and promises to work to inform voters about the ranking to help them make choices among House and Senate candidates. To look at the scorecard, go here.

The Vermont Chamber of Commerce has a legislative scorecard, too. Take a look at that one here.

-- Nancy Remsen


Down in Brattleboro

I'm sitting here sick at home, sipping tea, with a cold that is simultaneously attacking my lungs, nose and ears. A couple days ago I sounded worse than I felt. Now I sound and feel equally bad.

But, I did watch the gubernatorial debate on the TV last night, which fortunately didn't keep me up past 9, live-wire that I am.

Right from the start, the sponsors made this debate theirs with a sign-language rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by students from the Austine School. Then moderator Anne Potter, the deaf school's principal, read the questions to the candidates in sign language, with an interpreter. It had the very powerful effect of bringing the hearing members of the crowd, including the candidates, into their world.

It then appeared that the three candidates had had little exposure to that world of those with disabilities that the various sponsors represented. When they were asked what they would do to ensure police had sufficient training to respond to those with mental illness, I would venture to say none had given it a moment's thought, despite the fact that there have been several fatal shootings by police in recent years of those with mental illness.

Democrat Gaye Symington was the only one among the three candidates who learned a few words of sign language to greet the crowd. Nice touch.

She then practically bust a gut trying to sound smoother than she has in earlier debates. She succeeded, except for the fact that the effort was all over her face. When it comes to debating, independent Anthony Pollina has got her whooped, and it is part of what cost her some union backing. Whether that's entirely as it should be is another question. Does a candidate have to be smooth on the debate stand to make a good governor? Was it fair that JFK was better looking than Richard Nixon just as TV came into prevalence? Fair or not, it's part of the reality.

On one occasion, in answering a question about mental health care, it surprised me Symington didn't take Republican Gov. Jim Douglas to task over the Vermont State Hospital, which just yesterday failed to win federal certification again and still sitting there in Waterbury in an aged building after how many years of talk?

(***Update**** As I was typing this blog, an e-mail was winging its way to my in-box from the Symington campaign blasting Douglas over the state hospital. So perhaps she was off in debate/sign language class when word came out Wednesday about the certification.)

Then on another occasion, she looked out over the Brattleboro audience and let Douglas have it over Vermont Yankee. She borrowed a few lines from Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin about nuclear waste piling up on the banks of the Connecticut River, accused Douglas of caring more about Entergy Corp. than Vermonters and roused the crowd in a way she is often unable to.

She got under Douglas' skin with it too. He fired back that that was absurd; he most assuredly does not care more about Entergy than Vermonters.

The dynamic between the two of them is changing as I expected it might during this campaign. There's more anger involved.

- Terri Hallenbeck



In court

In federal court today, Judge William Sessions expressed a healthy dose of skepticism for the state's interpretation of independent gubernatorial candidate Anthony Pollina's campaign finance situation.

Does that mean Sessions will side with Pollina's people? That's much harder to predict, their attorney, John Franco, said.

You can read more about it in your Thursday Free Press.

Sessions tends to keep his court sessions light. He did that Wednesday when he ended the hearing by asking Attorney General Bill Sorrell how things had gone with the state's campaign finance arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Did you win that case, Mr. Sorrell?"

"Are you talking literally or figuratively?" Sorrell answered from the back of the courtroom.

He lost it, literally, of course. Figuratively? Well, I guess he got his day in the sun.

Sessions played a role in that law too. He upheld most of it before the higher court decided otherwise.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Drawing lines

You'll recall that gubernatorial candidate Gaye Symington released partial, sort of pseudo, personal financial information and took a fair amount of flak for it. Is still taking flak from Gov. Jim Douglas, who's ditching his nice-guy public image on this one and slapping her around about it in ads.

You'll also recall that Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie doesn't want to release his personal financial information, though Democratic challenger Tom Costello did.

So you may have been wondering how Douglas, who calls Dubie his co-pilot, would nuance the argument that Symington needs to reveal, but Dubie doesn't.

He did it yesterday in Barre at a news conference on economic development. It's a question of where you draw the line, he said. Are you going to require every candidate for every office to reveal personal financial info? "I think it's a different level of accountability with the governor's office," he said.

Gubernatorial candidates need to share their information to tell people where their conflicts of interest might lie, he said, because a governor appoints people to regulatory board and approves state contracts. A lt. gov. does not. A lt. gov. is more like a legislator, he said.

Douglas also at one point referred to the issue as a distraction. Is it a distraction when he brings it up? Or just when others do?

- Terri Hallenbeck

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