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vt.Buzz ~ a political blog

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



Across the lake and here at home

“Matt Dunne is in the race for governor — pass it on,” reads the headline over an under-construction Web site for the newest Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

Dunne, 39, a former state senator who now works for Google, becomes the fourth Democrat and third candidate to have served in the state Senate to declare he will vie for his party’s gubernatorial nomination in a primary.

Sens. Doug Racine, D-Chittenden, and Susan Bartlett, D-Lamoille, and Secretary of State Deb Markowitz announced their intentions months ago — before Republican Gov. Jim Douglas rocked the state’s political boat Aug. 27 by declaring he wouldn’t seek a fifth term.

Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie has become his party’s only gubernatorial candidate, but the field of Democrats continues to grow. A fifth candidate, Sen. Peter Shumlin, D-Windham, will announce his intentions Nov. 16, but he has already said he was 99.99 percent in the race.

Senate Democratic Leader John Campbell joined Dunne on the Windsor County Democratic ticket for two elections. “He is a relentless campaigner and he has tremendous organizational skills,” Campbell said Monday. “He joins folks I respect a great deal.” Campbell hasn’t taken a public position on any of the Democratic gubernatorial candidates.

Dunne e-mailed about 1,000 supporters about his decision Monday. His public declaration comes this morning at the Tip Top Cafe in White River Junction. He described the event as “small scale, not a rally or kick-off.”

Dunne began his political career in 1992 when at age 22 he won a seat in the Vermont House. He left the House after four terms. He returned to politics and the Legislature in 2002, serving two terms in the Senate. In 2006 he defeated a fellow Democrat, Rep. John Tracy of Burlington, in a primary that decided who would become the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor. Dunne failed to unseat Dubie, the two-term incumbent.

Like all the politicians mulling risky runs for higher office, Dunne reports that people have “reached out” to encourage him to run for governor.

Still, in an interview at a labor convention several weeks ago, Dunne said before deciding, he had to “make sure there was the grassroots support on the ground as well as the resources. I’ve done politics and business long enough to know until you see the resources, you can’t take anything to the bank.”

- Nancy Remsen

Across the lake

Until Saturday, northern New York’s three-way congressional race was kind of interesting. Then it got a lot more interesting.

First, the Republican candidate in a very Republican district dropped out of the race Saturday. Then Sunday, she endorsed the Democrat instead of the Conservative.

There’s a lot of politics going on with this race, which some suggest will be a barometer of the nation’s political mood.

So feverish is the interest in the outcome of Tuesday’s vote that Vice President Joe Biden was stumping for Demcorat Bill Owens on Monday while former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani was plugging for Conservative Doug Hoffman.

The White House created this race by appointing sitting Rep. John McHugh, a Republican, as secretary of the Army.

Because this is a special election, there was no primary. The Republican county committees chose Republican Dede Scozzafava as their candidate in the sprawling, rural district that goes from Lake Champlain to Lake Ontario. She, however, was not the choice of some more conservative Republicans watching the race from afar who endorsed Hoffman.

Political types in Vermont are watching with interest.

Vermont Republican Party Chairman Rob Roper said he sees Hoffman’s success over the more moderate (some argue liberal) Scozzafava as a signal of voters’ rejection of the Democratic shift in Washington. “I think it’s all good,” Roper said.

Vermont Democratic Party Chairwoman Judy Bevans disagreed. “I don’t see this as good news for anybody,” she said. “I was sad about the fact that the Republicans have essentially dismissed a moderate member of their party.”

Bevans was considering crossing the lake today with the rest of the party staff to help get out the vote.

— Terri Hallenbeck

One year ago

Vermont Democrats are planning to celebrate the one year anniversary of President Barack Obama’s election victory, though Bevans and others also said they might decide instead to cross the lake and help get out of the vote in the aforementioned congressional race.

The party is scheduled for 5:30-8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Red Square on Church Street in Burlington.

— Terri Hallenbeck

Update on lieutenant governor’s race

Still only one candidate in – Republican businessman Mark Snelling, whose name might sound familiar (father, mother and sister entered politics long ago).

In this race, the competition appears to be among Republicans. Sen. Phil Scott, R-Washington, says, “I’m leaning toward running.” How much of a lean? 75 percent , he said.

“I’ve done my research. I just have to do some soul-searching,” Scott said.

Sen. Kevin Mullin, R-Rutland, said put his chances of entering the race at 50-50.

Sen. Randy Brock, R-Franklin, wouldn’t give odds. “I’m still thinking about 2010.” He said it was almost certain he would run for something – the question is whether he runs for re-election or aims for lieutenant governor.

Chittenden State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan, a Democrat, said he expects to make up his mind in the next couple of weeks. He wouldn’t let on how he is leaning.

Rep. David Zuckerman, P-Burlington, had expected to have made up his mind by now, but challenges on the farm have kept him in the fields, which is where he spoke from Monday. He’s weighing a run for lieutenant governor or state Senate. “I’ll know by the end of the month.”

— Nancy Remsen

Two primaries for secretary of state?

Jason Gibbs, former Douglas spokesman, now commissioner of forests, parks and recreation, said he is 95 percent sure he will run for secretary of state. He would be the second Republican in the race. Chris Roy of Williston has been a candidate for months.

Gibbs said if he runs, he will step down as commissioner after the Legislature adjourns. “If I’m going to make a go of it, I’m going to be all in.”

On the Democratic side, Charles Merriman, declared his intentions in March, but could face a primary challenge from Chris Winters, who has filed the bank designation form required when “candidates” begin spending money.

“It’s still way too early,” Winters said Monday. “I’m seriously considering it.” It could be spring, however, before he makes up his mind.”

— Nancy Remsen

Primarily speaking

Vermont is faced with the prospect of changing its primary election in 2010 after Congress passed a law last month requiring states to send ballots overseas at least 45 days before the general election. Tough to do with a Sept. 14 primary and a Nov. 2 election if you throw in time to certify the primary and print and proof the ballots.

In Montpelier this year the Senate voted to change the primary to the fourth Tuesday in August (that’d be Aug. 24 next year). That bill is awaiting action in the House, now with renewed importance.

Vt.Buzz readers last week weighed in on what date they thought was best, offering evidence that there is no perfect solution. A sampling:

Anonymous: “How about March, town meeting day. It is early but it’s one less election day to have to run.”

Anonymous: “I think that democracy is more important than summer mode. Primary day should be August 1st.”

A Sunday election? Hmmm.

Nine other states share our second-Tuesday-in-November primary, but a fair number hold earlier ones. Thirteen states go in June, 10 in May and another 10 in August. Two states hold theirs in July.

Here’s the trick, though. Picking a date is political. With a five-way Democratic gubernatorial primary in the offing, Republicans are wary of their counterparts’ motives.

Vermont Republican Party Chairman Rob Roper said he wonders whether any change would be done for selfish reasons. i.e. Dems wanting more time to recover from the primary before the general election. Roper didn’t want to get into what should be done with the primary. He steps down from his post later this month. “I’ll leave that to the next person.”

Senate Majority Leader John Campbell, D-Windsor, said, “July, early August, that would be great,” adding that he wouldn’t be opposed to June. He added, “We should be deciding this on what is best for the voters, not the candidates."

— Terri Hallenbeck

Obama favors Vermont Yankee?

Rep. Sandy Haas, P-Rochester, bristled when she received an e-mail from an Entergy employee — part of an e-mail blitz to all legislators — urging them to vote to allow the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant to continue operating after its license expires in 2012. Entergy, which owns Vermont Yankee, wants the Legislature to take its vote this winter.

Haas bristled as what she called the “gamesmanship” of citing President Barack Obama as a nuclear power ally and portraying nuclear power as “green.”

The e-mail, from Vedrana Wren of Brattleboro — address vwren@entergy.com — made a reference to a recent Reuters News report that presented Obama as supporting a greater reliance on nuclear power to reduce greenhouse gases.

“Listen up Vermont Legislators,” Wren wrote. “If President Obama wants more reliance on nuclear energy, help him out and vote for the re-licensing of Vermont Yankee. It is important move toward reducing global warming and helping the economy in Vermont.”

This issue won’t go away — even though Entergy and the power companies missed the Nov. 1 deadline to reach an agreement about the future price for electricity should the plant be relicensed. Legislative leaders say such an agreement is critical to their decision on the plant’s future and the deal can’t be last minute.

Lawmakers should expect to see a lot more e-mails arguing the pros and cons of Yankee.

— Nancy Remsen 


Pe. Sandy Haas, P-Brattleboro, "bristles" because she got an e-mail saying something she disagrees with.

Tough, Sandy. Keep "bristling." You don't own the truth.
It is extremely interesting for me to read that post. Thanks for it. I like such topics and anything that is connected to this matter. I would like to read more on that blog soon.
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