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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 people power, troubles for Galbraith, health care, political organizing and Chris Roy

Who’s got the power?

Election 2010 may seem a long way off to most of us, but apparently not for the delegates at Saturday’s 53rd Vermont AFL-CIO annual convention.

The 50-60 people in the meeting room stayed in the room for speech after speech by a parade of politicians, including four Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls, Republican Gov. Jim Douglas who isn’t running for re-election, Democratic House Speaker Shap Smith, who isn’t running for governor, Sen. Bernie Sanders and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch and a few legislators.

Progressive Anthony Pollina, who ran for governor in 2008 and said he has yet to decide about running for office in 2010, told the group they had power and they should exert it with candidates seeking their support. I think they know they have power. Representing about 9,500 union members, Vermont AFL-CIO executive vice president Jill Charbonneau said, “We want to have our voices shape their campaigns.”

Matt Dunne , a former state senator who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor and is pondering a run for governor, asked the group for their ideas about Vermont’s future. “No individual, not even a governor, is going to lead us into a new era.”

He urged union members to share their thoughts at his new Web site, Vermontfuture.org.

Sen. Doug Racine, D-Chittenden, knows unions wield some important power. He’s benefited in past elections, he reminded the delegates. He asked for their support again as he makes his second run for the state’s top office. The AFL-CIO backed Pollina in 2008. You can read his remarks here.

Racine sees support from the union organization as one key to an alliance with Progressives – something Democrats would like to see to prevent a three-way race for governor. Racine huddled with Progressive Party Chairwoman Martha Abbott, who was attending the convention.

Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Shumlin is clearly running, although he hasn’t formally “announced.” Not only did he work the union delegates as they ate lunch, he was shaking hands with other resort guests throughout the dining room.

While the other Democratic gubernatorial aspirants talked about “the last eight years” in reference to the Republican Douglas administration, Shumlin was explicit, tying next year’s all-but confirmed Republican nominee Brian Dubie to Douglas. For example, Shumlin said, “The Douglas-Dubie promise of Jim and Brian equals jobs just hasn’t happened.”

Shumlin appealed to the AFL-CIO’s power, too. “I ask you, what do you want? This isn’t about the candidate. This is about moving Vermont forward together.”

Secretary of State Deb Markowitz recounted how she stood in the cold outside Copley Hospital with nurses forming a union. “We need to stand together,” she said to the union representatives.

Just when it seemed she was going to say what she really wanted from the AFL-CIO, she said instead, “I would love to have your thoughts.”

Sen. Susan Bartlett had been scheduled to speak, too, but canceled because she lost her voice. She joked in her Facebook entry about her condition that some has said it should happen to all politicians.

Nancy Remsen

Galbraith under fire — again?

Peter Galbraith, part-time Vermont, part-time Norway resident, is catching some flack in Norway.

News reports there have revealed that Galbraith had a 5 percent interest from 2004-2008 in an oil company seeking to do business in Iraq at a time when Galbraith was helping the Kurdish government negotiate the future of Kurdistan within Iraq.

Galbraith, a former ambassador to Croatia who was recently ousted from his job with the United Nations in Afghanistan in a dispute with his boss about election fraud there, is once again the defensive.

He didn’t deny the business interest, though he said confidentiality agreements precluded him from discussing them. He did deny that those business interests were a problem.

“There is no conflict of interest,” Galbraith said by phone after he returned to Vermont late last week. “I wasn’t employed by anybody. I didn’t actually have a duty to anybody.”

Reider Visser, a research fellow in Norway who edits a Web site on world politics, made this point about the relationship on his site: “Galbraith, however, was almost universally seen as “Ambassador Galbraith,” the statesmanlike former diplomat whose outspoken ideas about post 2003-Iraq were always believed to be rooted in idealism and never in anything else. Instead, it now emerges, he apparently wore several hats at the same time, and mixed his roles in ways that seem entirely incompatible with the capacity of independent adviser on constitutional affairs.”

Galbraith argues that that interpretation is unfair, that he readily disclosed he was a businessman. “There’s an implication that there’s something wrong with doing business,” Galbraith said.

Galbraith, meanwhile, is gaining some vindication in his Afghan dispute with his U.N. boss Kai Eide (not necessarily coincidentally a Norwegian). Galbraith wanted the U.N. mission to be more public about fraud in the August presidential election. U.N.-backed fraud investigators Monday threw out nearly one-third President Hamid Karzai’s votes from the election.

Terri Hallenbeck

Health care day of action?

Today is the day that Democrats hope to turn up the heat on the health care debate by barraging members of Congress with telephone calls. The goal is 100,000 calls.

Organizing for America, an arm of the Democratic National Committee, plans “Time to Deliver” events across the country including one in Vermont at 4 p.m. at the Vermont Democratic headquarters in Montpelier.

Why just one here? One could ask why hold any event here. What’s the point when Vermont’s congressional delegation signed on to health care reform long before Barack Obama became president.

UPDATE It turns out there were a couple more events in Vermont -- they just weren't included in the press release. Here's a gathering at UVM -- 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Room 311, Lafayette Building.

Nancy Remsen

Getting organized?

It’s that time of year – political parties have to get organized – legally. Getting organized strategically and financially is a good idea, too, with an election around the corner.

County committees get organized this month, with state committees holding annual meetings in November.

Today Chittenden County Democrats meet at 7 p.m. at South Burlington High school to pick a new chairman. Jake Perkinson has said he wants the job, which is open because Mike Yantachka is retiring to run for state Senate.

Chittenden Republicans meet at 7:45 p.m. Wednesday at Christ the King School in Burlington to pick a new chairman, too. Dawn Hill-Fleury has announced her interest.

Chittenden Progressives also meet Wednesday, at the Davis Center at UVM. Meg Brook , current county chairwoman is expected to seek re-election.

Nancy Remsen

Keeping an eye on bumpers?

I’ve known who was running for secretary of state for months – a “perk” of my profession, you might say — but most folks don’t have to follow campaigns until about this time next year. Still Republican Chris Roy of Williston must have decided to start building public awareness of his candidacy. I saw a car with one of his bumper stickers Monday morning.

Roy was joined by fellow Republicans Mark Snelling (candidate for lieutenant governor) and Tom Salmon (candidate for re-election as auditor but newly minted as a Republican) at last weekend’s meeting of the Orleans County Republicans. The Newport Daily Express newspaper ran a story, written by Staff Writer Christopher Roy. Huh?

Roy the candidate said that’s a completely different Chris Roy. “I had been wanting to meet him for several years. There is a surprisingly large number of Chris Roys out there,” he said. Among them, he said, are a Democratic state legislator in Louisiana, a professor of African Studies and a stock car racer from Hardwick.

Nancy Remsen and Terri Hallenbeck


Douglas and Dubie could have created more jobs but for the anti-business votes of the Democrats in the legislature. When Nease responds to his dismal voting record in the Chamber of Commerce report card with statements like "I was hoping for a zero" is it any wonder businesses can't grow their workforce.
Jim Dougals always has an excuse. He always blames someone else. That isn't leadership.

The Chamber is just a puppet for the right wing -- they are far out of touch with most of Vermont.
Says who?
I think we should be honest about who is out of step with most of Vermont
Isn't "who is out of step with Vermonters" an opinion? So how can someone be lying or not honest about an opinion?

If you are suggesting that an organization or elected official that supports Wal-Mart, Vermont Yankee, and the status quo on health care is in line with most Vermonters, well you just aren't paying attention to what Vermonters are saying and thinking.
Jake Perkinson is a good guy and a very hard worker and should be rewarded by the Democratic Party alot more than he is.
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