Former Rep. Michael Flaherty
, a Blue Dog Democrat from South Burlington who helped temper the liberal agenda in the late 1990s, is struggling with cancer.
It was the late Peter Freyne
who dubbed Flaherty
and his Chittenden
County pals "the Blue Dogs." Once ignored as lawmakers more interested in golf than government, the group demonstrated their political punch in 1999 when they forced consideration of an income tax cut.
The original Blue Dogs included Jim McNamara and Hank Gretkowski
of Burlington, Michael Vinton
and Rene Blanchard of Essex.
In an interview in 1999, Flaherty
explained the groups' philosophy. "We're pretty laid-back and have a lot of fun," he said, flashing his trademark smile. "But you shouldn't take that to mean we don't take being lawmakers seriously. We take it very seriously."
All five have left the Legislature. Flaherty
and Blanchard retired in 2000. The pals have remained close, said Paula Flaherty. Now the
Blue Dogs gather at her husband's bedside. Hopefully, they are sharing some stories and laughs and Mike is giving them one of those mile-wide grins.
-- Nancy Remsen