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vt.Buzz ~ a political blog

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



VtBuzz: On a Leahy challenger, the many candidates for lieutenant governor and secretary of state and Web site omission

Shot from the bow

A 45-year-old Navy medical doctor says he will challenge Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., in next year’s Democratic primary.

Daniel Freilich of Wilmington plans to kick off his campaign at 11 a.m. Thursday at the White House Inn in Wilmington.

Freilich argues that Leahy is too willing to accept the status quo or incremental change. “He completely supports everything being stated by me but I don’t see our representatives fighting for single-payer health care,” Freilich said as one example of the issues he’d like to see pursued more vigorously.

Freilich, who is in the process of leaving the Navy and joining the Navy Reserves, has not been active in Vermont Democratic politics. He was chagrined to learn that the party’s State Committee has already endorsed Leahy, but said he realizes he is a long shot at best. “I think my odds are daunting,” Freilich said.

He has a platform of issues that include: equity in economic policy, equity in environmental and energy policy, equity in world poverty and enlightened security. He’s for more progressive taxation and creating tax policy that boosts green energy.

Leahy campaign manager Carolyn Dwyer said the six-term senator is preparing for any opposition. She took issue with the allegation that Leahy is too willing to compromise.

“Senator Leahy has a long track record of being an independent voice,” Dwyer said, citing his vote against the Iraq war as an example. He is ranked the fourth most effective member of the Senate by Roll Call newspaper, she noted. (Sanders, by the way, ranks 84th in the 100-member Senate).

Freilich has a Web site Leahy has one, too.

— Terri Hallenbeck

Field will shrink

At least a half-dozen Republicans are thinking seriously of running for lieutenant governor in 2010. Don’t expect them all to be there on the primary election ballot in September.

That field will likely winnow to two or three in the coming months. All the Republicans on the list of possibles can’t possibly run for lieutenant governor or they would seriously hurt their ranks in the Legislature, which they can ill-afford to do.

On the list are four state senators. There are only seven Republicans in the Senate.
Last week, when Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie announced he was running for governor, Sen. Randy Brock, R-Franklin, said he would talk over with Dubie what political position would help him best support Dubie.

Brock didn’t say it, but if he runs for lieutenant governor alongside Dubie that just might look like a pretty conservative package. That could, in other words, hurt Dubie in the general election. You might see Brock suddenly saying that he’s perfectly happy with businessman Mark Snelling’s candidacy for lieutenant governor.

That would leave Sens. Phil Scott and Kevin Mullin and Rep. Patricia McDonald, along with former Sen. John and more vaguely in the wings, Sen. Vince Illuzzi. Out of that crowd, expect only one to end up on the ballot for lieutenant governor.

—Terri Hallenbeck

Why so few Dems?

For all the Republicans eyeing the lieutenant governor’s seat, there is a surprising dearth of Democrats doing the same. Why?

For starters, most of the crew at the head of the line is already running for governor.

Those who might be right behind them on the totem pole of politics have to think about money.

Once people are done contributing to the open governor’s race there won’t be much left, and lieutenant governor won’t be very many people’s priority.

Sen. John Campbell, D-Windsor, who is Senate majority leader, has long expressed interest in stepping up the ladder, but he’s not considering running for lieutenant governor this time even though it’s an open seat, he said. He’s focusing instead on the Senate, which stands to lose a bundle of veterans after the next election (three are running or likely to run for governor).

Campbell, who lost the chance to become Senate leader to Peter Shumlin by one vote three years ago, is now in a prime spot to win the job.

Someone’s got to make sure Democrats are working to maintain their majority in the Senate, Campbell said.

Among Democrats, Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan is considering the race for lieutenant governor.

— Terri Hallenbeck

Primaries for secretary of state?

Two people have been running for secretary of state for months, but now it seems Democrat Charles Merriman and Republican Christopher Roy could have some competition from within their own parties.

Jason Gibbs , commissioner of forests, parks and recreation and former spokesman for Gov. Jim Douglas , is weighing a run for secretary of state, he said Monday.

“I’ve been encouraged to run and I’m considering it,” Gibbs said. “It is no secret that I have contemplated a run for office at some point in my career.“ He said the office of secretary of state interests him because it is “fundamental to our democracy” and is a “nuts and bolts job.”

Gibbs said the fact that Roy has been running since February is a factor he will consider. He doesn’t expect to decide until after the Legislature adjourns in the spring.

Roy, meanwhile, said he has been meeting with town clerks, spoken before some Rotary clubs and is assembling a finance committee. “We are pressing ahead full steam,” he said. He didn’t know of Gibbs’ interest.

Merriman, who announced his candidacy in March, has met with 60 town clerks and some of the legislative leaders with whom the secretary of state’s office interacts.

He, too, could face a primary challenger. Christopher Winters , director of professional regulation at the secretary of state’s office, has filed the paperwork necessary when a candidate begins raising or spending money. He lists himself as a Democrat.

Sen. Jim Condos ’ name has also circulated as a potential Democratic candidate. “I’ve been encouraged a lot because of my local government experience,” said Condos, a longtime South Burlington official. He hasn’t made any decision, he said. “It’s very early.”

--Nancy Remsen

On the Web

You can find out that Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie is running for governor from his own Web site .

The Vermont Democratic Party’s Web site also mentions it. You can even learn the news from Democratic gubernatorial candidate Doug Racine’s Web site .

But you won’t find any mention of this long-awaited announcement on the Vermont Republican Party’s Web site . There, the latest news posted as of Monday was from Sept. 18.

—Terri Hallenbeck

Official travels

Gov. Jim Douglas, a Republican, will spend half a day on a bus Wednesday touring the northern Connecticut River valley with New Hampshire’s Democratic Gov. John Lynch. It’s the kind of trip the governors of the two states take every few years, Douglas’ staff said, to update each other about how much the states have in common. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like Vermont and New Hampshire have much in common at all. Highlights of this trip will include a potato farm owned by Rep. Janice Peaslee, R-Guildhall.

— Nancy Remsen

Internationally speaking

Diplomat Peter Galbraith of Townshend has not gone quietly into the countryside since he was fired last week from his job with the United Nations in Afghanistan.
He spoke immediately with local media. He was on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Monday.

Over the weekend, he had a column in the Washington Post in which he said he agreed not to talk about his departure, but that after the U.N. mischaracterized his departure he changed his tune and recounted the times in which he was told not to pursue investigation of fraud in the Afghan elections.

—Terri Hallenbeck

Glad someone is challenging Leahy. He's been there way too long. Someone with his seniority ought to be fighting much harder for us. The sad part is that Leahy won't debate. He's got millions of dollars. He doesn't have to. Leahy ought to be embarrassed that nearly 40 years after he took office there are 45 million Americans without health care.
Wow, this frees up Galbraith to run for governor. I was so hoping he would run last time but changed his mind when Gayle entered the race. Yes, she was awesome, but I think he would have been better. What, you say he was only a placeholder because nobody wanted to run? No! Speaking of Gayle, I wonder if she's completed a sentence yet without stuttering or drooling. Silver-tongued, she.
Glad to hear John Campbell will stay where he is. At least there will be one experienced, well-respected senator that will be focusing on our fiscal challenges rather than being distracted by a state-wide campaign.
There will be a number of very well qualified Senate candidates with the types of experiences that are really needed in Montpelier! Hopefully they will get elected.
Randy Brock will run for Lt Governor but the person who could most help Dubie is not being utilized. Dubie does not understand the political field.
Leahy needs a new campaign manager
Does Dubie have a campaign manager?
"Wow, this frees up Galbraith to run for governor."

Oh, yeah. He really knows Vermont.


He doesn't have a clue about Vermont people or issues. I doubt he could find the Statehouse, much less his own town hall.
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