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



VTbuzz: On Dubie, ACORN, DOMA and the 2010 election

What will Dubie do?

Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie is back from a week in Alaska where his focus was wind turbines.

Presumably, he’s had time to assess the political winds at home since late August when Gov. Jim Douglas announced he wouldn’t run for a fifth term next year.

So when will Dubie say if he is running for governor in 2010?

“There will be an announcement when Lt. Gov. Dubie is 100 percent certain about what is right for his family,” said Susie Hudson, his campaign manager in past elections. “I expect it will be sooner rather than later.” When asked if that meant this week, she said it would more likely come next week.

Nancy Remsen

Just say no

Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., may be wishing they’d just done that last week when the Senate voted on funding for ACORN, the controversial activist group amid disclosures it fabricated voter registration forms and, more recently, had two of its workers caught on surveillance video coaching a purported prostitute and a pimp about how to lie and launder money in order to get housing aid.

After all, if 83 senators were okay with cutting money for ACORN. Who would have cared if it was 85 instead?

Now, that seemingly obscure vote has them both in hot water. When the two showed Saturday up for a hearing in St. Albans on the state’s dairy crisis, a group of protesters let them know their displeasure with the vote.

“You’ve got to be nuts to support ACORN,” one protester’s sign said.

Inside the meeting, Sanders fumed about all the attention his little ACORN vote has gotten. “We’ve got 17 million people unemployed or underemployed, 46 million people without health care, a huge national debt and we’re fighting two wars,” he groused. “And yet there are some who think we should have a debate about every one of a thousand organizations that have applied for federal grants.”

A day later, however, President Barack Obama was on television telling ABC’s This Week there ought to be an investigation into the ACORN video scandal.

Looks like this ACORN matter isn’t going to get buried anytime soon.
Sam Hemingway

Welch would replace defense with respect

Rep. Peter Welch, D-VT, is one of 90 sponsors of a House bill introduced in Congress last week that would repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act and replace it with the Respect for Marriage Act of 2009.

The Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, known as the federal DOMA, bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. The reversal Welch supports would re-establish that states have jurisdiction to define marriage. It also specifies that if states recognize same-sex marriages, those couples would be eligible for the same federal rights and benefits as heterosexual couples. That’s not the case now, so same-sex married pairs in Vermont, for example, won’t be able to file their federal income taxes next April as married couples

“I’m sponsoring this out of fairness to Vermonters. They should be extended full benefits,” Welch said. “It restores what has been 200 years of practice, that the state’s define marriage.”

Welch doesn’t expect speedy action on the legislation. “I think it has a long way ahead of it.”

There doesn’t appear to be a Senate version of the Respect for Marriage Act — yet. If there were Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, would support it. He voted against the DOMA in 1996.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT, would support repeal as well. He voted for the DOMA in 1996. He says now that Vermonters have spoken through their legislators and he doesn’t want some Vermont marriages to be treated as less than other Vermont marriages.

Repeal of the federal DOMA is just one track in the effort to win full rights for same-sex couples. Seven couples and three widowers from Massachusetts, which allowed same-sex marriage since 2004, filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the federal law.

Last week, the U.S. Justice Department asked for dismissal of the lawsuit — with an interesting caveat. The department’s filing agrees the law is discriminatory and ought to be repealed, but argues it is “constitutionally permissionable.”

Nancy Remsen

Gearing up for her gubernatorial run

Deb Markowitz, a Democratic gubernatorial hopeful, has hired Paul Tencher, 29, a Rhode Island native, to manage her campaign.

Tencher currently serves as communications director of Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy, D-OH, in Washington D.C., but he will arrive in Vermont when fall colors are likely still bright — Oct. 12.

Tencher has been working on campaigns since the day after he graduated from Seton Hall University in New Jersey. He helped Rhode Island Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts win a primary and then an election in 2006 and became her chief of staff. He was communications director for Judy Baker’s unsuccessful congressional campaign in Missouri.

Markowitz launched her gubernatorial campaign last winter. She’s been secretary of state since 1998 when she unseated the Republican incumbent.

She’s had two staff, but both are moving on, she said. She interviewed seven people in a national search for a campaign manager. She said she chose Tencher because he shares her values and “I feel confident he has the skills and experience to jumpstart my campaign.”

Tencher, speaking on a personal cell phone outside the congressional office where he is still working, said he was eager to get involved in another campaign.

Markowitz isn’t the only Democrat interested in running for governor. Sen. Doug Racine, D-Chittenden is in the race as is Sen. Susan Bartlett D-Lamoille. Sen. Peter Shumlin, D-Windham, also is a possible candidate and former Sen. Matt Dunne has said he’s giving consideration to a run.

Tencher isn’t put off by having to manage a primary fight. He quickly played up his candidate’s chances. “Deb has shown not only the ability to fund raise, but to develop a strong grassroots organization — which in a primary is key.”

Nancy Remsen

More 2010 election news

Just to recap:

T.J. Donovan , a Democrat and current Chittenden state’s attorney, is weighing a run for lieutenant governor. He’s serious enough that he decided it would be conflict of interest for his office to investigate allegations involving Sen. Ed Flanagan — another Democrat thinking about running for lieutenant governor. Flanagan said he won’t rule out a run, but isn’t focused on the campaign now.

Mark Snelling of Starksboro, a Republican businessman, is definitely running for lieutenant governor, he announced Friday. Snelling is the son of the late Gov. Richard Snelling and former Lt. Gov. Barbara Snelling.

Nancy Remsen

The President himself says there should be an investigation of ACORN. You know, the organization that submits false voter names and advises prostitutes and other fun-loving people how to hide their income.

Looks like Peter Welch was right and Sanders and Leahy were wrong.

Congrats, Peter.
Sounds like the divine Ms. M is grabbing at straws. Rhode Island?? Nice.
Anthony Pollina for Governor!!!!!
I'm confused? Is the statement below the Dubie announcement story, "Just Say No" a comment in regards to the possible gov run for Dubie or the title of the next story?
Pollina for Governor of Speeder & Earl's.
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