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vt.Buzz ~ a political blog

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



Tuesday buzz: What's a Dem to do?

Which friend do you feed?

Do not be surprised if there are at least five Democrats in the race for governor by the time you’re stuffing the Thanksgiving turkey.

Secretary of State Deb Markowitz and Sens. Doug Racine and Susan Bartlett are in the 2010 race. Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Shumlin and former Sen. Matt Dunne are on the campaign doorstep.

For hard-core Democratic voters, that’s like having more guests at the holiday dinner table than you planned for. How do you share the spread when you like all your guests equally? And how do you make sure one of them is fed well enough to last through next November?

Democratic campaign contributor Crea Lintilhac of Shelburne is among those who worries about that.

“I am worried about the amount of money that’s going to be spent and what’s left for the general election race,” Lintilhac said. “I wish there were fewer candidates because I think it drains the coffers.”

Vermonters intent on voting for a Democrat face a field of candidates with hard-to-differentiate political views and not-very- dissimilar backgrounds. That brings the decision down to less tangible details.

Lintilhac committed early to Markowitz, even though she also likes Racine and Shumlin. Friends have given her grief about not backing Racine, she said.

“I just sort of picked who I thought was the most capable,” she said, citing Markowitz’s public-speaking skills and connections across Vermont. “Deb is very straight-forward.”

Lintilhac said she will stick with Markowitz through the primary and support whichever Democrat wins for the general election.

Meanwhile, Rep. Steve Howard, a Rutland Democrat, hung his star on Racine. whom he thinks has the strongest base of support. Howard said Vermont Democrats will be making their choices based on which candidate they think is the most electable.

Howard is a professional campaign fundraiser in his non-legislative life. He is working as a consultant in the mayoral race in Newton, Mass., which coincidentally featured five candidates in a preliminary election last month.

Just to complicate things, Howard said, it’s been “torture” raising money in this economy. “People who used to max out are giving a quarter of that,” he said.

In other words, more guests are coming to dinner at a time when there is less food in the pantry. It means candidates have to hit up more people, including first-time contributors, Howard said.

Garrison Nelson, University of Vermont political science professor, noted that Racine and Markowitz have already raised about one-third of a million dollars, already snared some of the most eager donors.

He thinks Shumlin — who said last week he is “99.99 percent in” — is dragging out his announcement so that he has some serious fund-raising lined up when he makes it. “He has to basically drive Matt and Susan out of the race,” Nelson said. “He’s not going to drive Doug and Deb out.”

Shumlin can be expected to draw money from same-sex marriage supporters as thanks for passing legislation this year, but he hasn’t locked up all of those supporters. Howard is among them. “Racine was for us back in the civil-union fight,” he said.

Another indication that when it comes down to it, as Nelson said, “There’s not a lot of daylight between the candidates.”

— Terri Hallenbeck

First forum?

We might get a chance to see the passel of candidates for governor together at one forum for the first time next month. The League of Conservation Voters has scheduled an “Evening with the Candidates!“ on Nov. 19 at Main Street Landing in Burlington.

The advocacy group reports that Bartlett, Racine and Markowitz have confirmed they’ll be there. Shumlin and Dunne have been invited if they’re running.

Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, the Republican candidate for governor, has told VLCV he can’t make it because of a scheduling conflict. Executive Director Todd Bailey said the group hopes to pose questions to Dubie. “Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie does have some good politics around these issues,” he said.

The forum is a first step toward considering who to endorse in the election, Bailey said. He’s not sure if the group will endorse a candidate in the Democratic primary.

— Terri Hallenbeck

GMP poll finds favor for VY

Last September, a WCAX-TV poll indicated that a majority of Vermonters want to see the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant shut down. This year, Green Mountain Power Corp. has a poll that says otherwise.

The state’s second-largest utility routinely hires a firm to survey customer satisfaction, GMP spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure said. In July, the company chose to ask a different sort of question, she said.

GMP itself favors relicensing, but Schnure said she sought to phrase the question in an unbiased way. “If 90 percent of our customers said they wanted Yankee closed we’d have to think about that,” she said.

The question posed to 400 customers: Vermont Yankee is asking federal and state regulators for permission to operate for 20 years after its original 40-year license expires in 2012. If 0 means you “strongly oppose” re-licensing and 10 means you “strongly favor” re-licensing, what number along this 0-10 scale describes your personal opinion about re-licensing Vermont Yankee for continued service when it comes up for renewal in 2012?

The results: favor (those who gave a 7-10) 42 percent; oppose (0-3) 24 percent; neutral (4-6) 29 percent; not sure 5 percent.

WCAX poll results last September: When asked if Vermont Yankee should be relicensed in 2012, 52 percent said no, 29 percent said yes and 19 percent were unsure. Of the 400 Vermonters polled, 64 percent say they are willing to pay more for electricity if it means Yankee would close; 28 percent would not be willing to pay more; 8 percent are not sure.

— Terri Hallenbeck

D.C. doings

In Washington, the Senate Finance Committee is expected to vote Tuesday on its health-care bill — the one without a public option. Vermont’s senators won’t have to vote on that bill, though. Before it reaches the Senate floor, the legislation will be merged with a bill from the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Vermont Sens. Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy were among 30 senators who last week signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid saying they want a public option in the final bill.

“We are concerned that – absent a competitive and continuous public insurance option – health reform legislation will not produce nationwide access and ongoing cost containment,” the letter said in part.

— Terri Hallenbeck

Have passports, will travel

If you are an elected official in Vermont, you’d better have an up-to-date passport and like rice. Asia has become the popular destination for Vermont politicians this fall.

House Speaker Shap Smith, D-Morristown, and House Democratic Leader Floyd Nease of Johnson spent the past week in Taiwan, a trip that was coordinated and funded by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Boston.

Smith headed a group of legislators from throughout New England. The goal was to strengthen economic ties with Taiwan, so the politicians visited with folks at the Taiwanese Bureau of Foreign Trade, the Ministry of Justice and the Bureau of National Health Insurance. Smith and Nease also expected to tour the Taipei World Trade Center and the Taipei 101 Financial Center, as well as get a firsthand look at Taiwan’s high-speed rail.

In just a few weeks, Gov. Jim Douglas will head to Asia, leading a delegation of Vermont business leaders seeking investors for their companies, according to a news release from August announcing the trip. His trip includes stops in South Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

—Nancy Remsen

Flu precautions

Before taking off for distant lands, Douglas got his flu shot, he said. He got the vaccine for the seasonal, not H1N1, type.

However, he said he hasn’t changed his hand-shaking practices. Instead he carries and uses frequently those anti-bacterial hand liquids. He also said he doesn’t take offense if someone prefers to nod, rather than shake.

By the way, Douglas said he got his flu shot courtesy of the state employee wellness program. That’s the program that was proposed for elimination during the administration’s unsuccessful negotiations with the Vermont State Employees Association.

— Nancy Remsen

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Interesting how people will respond on the relicensing issue when they're PAYING THEIR ELECTRIC BILL. Maybe the anti-VY freaks should think about that.
As a left-leaning independent who has voted Dem most of my life, I could NEVER vote for Deb Markowitz, even if it means not voting at all. When I read how she has misled the public about Diebold, the company she hired to supply the vote-counting machines for our elections, I was dismayed. When security flaws were found with the machines and other states actually banned the machines we still use, she lied and said our state is following security guidelines that we are not. She demonstrated that she's willing to sacrifice the integrity and security of our elections, just to make herself look good. Now she's running for Governor, on insecure voting machines that she continues to deny have problems, while virtually every other state is doing something about it.
Too many egos in the race for governor. Still waiting for someone genuine to jump in. Really I am praying someone genuine gets in.
Someone genuine IS in the race. Her name is Susan Bartlett, and she's got a better handle on the realities of state government than the others. Check her out and you'll probably agree.
What? You mean Shumlin has an ego??? You're kidding! I never knew that!
Bartlett - you are kidding!

She has taken very good care of her pet projects in the state budgets over the years - even when there was not good support from teh Senate.

She would bury it in the budget.

She has clearly overstepped her committee authority on policy issues.
The best candidate for Vermont is not even running - that is the trouble - the system forces out the good ones.
Pollina is the one!
Pollina. Oh yeah. He's lost 4 statewide races in the course of 20 years.

And to boot, his only foray into the private sector (Vermont Milk Company) was a disaster, too.

Sure, go ahead and exhume his lifeless corpse and run him again.

You Progs are ridiculous.
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