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vt.Buzz ~ a political blog

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



Vtbuzz: Evaluating the big gubernatorial field

Starting to sort the differences

OK, so now that there are five Democratic candidates running for governor, how is each going to distinguish him or herself from the others? Not easily. Here is a look at what direction the candidates have indicated they’re taking and comments from University of Vermont professor Garrison Nelson sizing up strengths and weaknesses, with a caveat from Nelson who said, “Unfortunately, none of them has the whole package”:

Sen. Susan Bartlett of Hyde Park: Bartlett has served nine terms in the Senate and has been chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee for eight years, which she highlights as an indication that she offers fiscal expertise in a time when finances are huge. She has written a column titled, “The budget in simple terms,” outlining the state’s budget challenges.

Nelson on Bartlett: Lacks statewide name recognition. She can pitch herself as a fresh face and tout her budget experience, but “the budget puts people to sleep.”

Former Sen. Matt Dunne of Hartland: In announcing his campaign, Dunne emphasized his experience the last two years working in community relations with Google as an indication that he has worked in cutting-edge technology. He touts his work with community service projects.

Nelson on Dunne: “He’s bright, he’s energetic, he’s good-looking, but he seems to have more of an interest in national politics.

Secretary of State Deb Markowitz: Markowitz will emphasize her six terms as secretary of state, working with municipal officials throughout Vermont, and has spoken in support of environmental protection. She touts efforts to champion open government and preservation of public records, to establish a Safe at Home program to protect victims of domestic violence.

Nelson on Markowitz: By getting into the race early, she lined up key supporters. Because she has won six elections as secretary of state with no losses, she can advertise herself as the only candidate with an unblemished record.

Sen. Doug Racine of Richmond: Racine touts his background in the Legislature (Senate 1983-92 and 2007-present, including president pro tempore 1989-1992; lieutenant governor 1997-2002) and in business (vice president Willie Racine Jeep/Isuzi Inc.) Racine will also tap into his interest in health care and remind voters that he once beat Republican Brian Dubie (in 2000).

Nelson on Racine: His early entry into the race means that like Markowitz, he got to donors early. He can also tout that he is the only candidate who has defeated Dubie. On the flipside, he’s the only one to lose a bid for governor, against Douglas (in 2002).

Sen. Peter Shumlin of Putney: Like Racine, Shumlin is emphasizing his background in business and government. With his endorsements Monday from renewable energy and same-sex marriage supporters, he showed that he will tout himself as the candidate who can get things done.

Nelson on Shumlin: He’s the best debater of the five and “a forceful figure.” He is joining the race after key contributors have committed to other candidates, however, and his southern Vermont residence won’t benefit him.

Terri Hallenbeck

Meet the Democrats

For the first time, all five announced Democratic candidates for governor will participate in a public forum. It’s Thursday evening in Burlington, sponsored by the Vermont League of Conservation Voters.

Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie , the announced Republican candidate, was invited, too, but had a schedule conflict. The Democrats are Susan Bartlett , Matt Dunne , Deb Markowitz , Doug Racine and Peter Shumlin .

If you don’t already have a ticket, you may be out of luck. There are only 220 seats and most of them have already been sold. Don’t despair, Todd Bailey , executive director, said Channel 17 will record and replay it.

The candidates will answer four questions. Here’s an abbreviated version of the questions:

• Do you consider significant funding for the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board an essential public investment or an optional priority?

• How should the state finance necessary improvements to wastewater treatment facilities and tackle stormwater runoff so they aren’t sources of increased pollution of Lake Champlain?

• Are there shortcomings in environmental regulation that should be remedied? What are they and what fixes do you propose?

• Do you support closing Vermont Yankee in 2012 when its original license expires? If wind energy is a future alternative source, what would you do to help some projects get built?

— Nancy Remsen

Talk about a lot of candidates

You think there are a lot of gubernatorial candidates here? It’s not even close to the number running for governor in Maine. How many? 21!

There could be more, according to the Associated Press. Maine voters sort it out in a June primary, giving those left standing a lot more time than Vermont candidates will have to do battle before the November election.

Nancy Remsen

Here’s why Dubie could win

Chris Graff , a former Associated Press bureau chief who maintains a keen interest in politics, wrote a commentary in the latest Vermont Business Magazine that suggests some advantages Brian Dubie has going into next fall gubernatorial election. Check it out here.

Nancy Remsen

Who’s in charge?

Steve Larrabee of Danville, newly elected chairman of the Vermont Republican Party, sees electoral opportunity in the public’s malaise about the economy and government spending.

“I want us to take advantage of the situation,” Larrabee said. “We are out there recruiting candidates now.” Between pressing economic issues and the Vermont GOP’s lack of political muscle in Montpelier, Larrabee quipped, “I think we have scared some people into running for office. They are concerned.”

There is a lot at stake in 2010 for Republicans. Gov. Jim Douglas’ retirement creates an opening for Democrats that Republicans hope they can deny. “We are thrilled to have Brian Dubie at the top of the ticket,” Larrabee said.

The party will focus much energy on legislative races, said Larrabee, who served seven terms in the House. Republicans must retake a lot of ground if they want to do more than just say no to Democratic initiatives. Democrats hold three times the seats in the state Senate as Republicans and nearly twice as many in the House.

Larrabee defeated Dan Riley of Bennington on Saturday to become the new GOP chairman.

Martha Abbott of Underhill, who won re-election Saturday as chairwoman of the Vermont Progressive Party, said her party also will make legislative elections a priority in 2010.

“We are recruiting candidates. We will have some announcements about House races pretty soon,” she said. Progressives hold five House seats and one senator was elected as a Democrat/Progressive.

As for the top of the ticket, Abbott said, “I’m not sure there will be decisions about statewide candidates until we see what happens in the Legislature on our priority issues: health care, Vermont Yankee and fixing the state retirement fund.”

Abbott isn’t persuaded voters want the political pendulum to swing dramatically right. “Certainly in Vermont, polls indicate that a majority of Vermonters want a single-payer health care system and to close Vermont Yankee. If anything, voters at both the state and national level are fed up with promises not backed up by action.”

Judy Bevans of Albany will continue to preside over the Vermont Democratic Party. Its focus will ambitious, she said. “We have our eyes on all of it. We want to take back the governor’s seat,” she said, plus run candidates and score victories in other statewide races. In the Legislature, she added, “We want to maintain our majority.”

When asked how she viewed the results from voting earlier this month, Bevans said, “I don’t think we are especially worried. We are very aware.”

Nancy Remsen

Flory wants Senate seat

Rep. Peg Flory, a six-term member of the House from Pittsford, has her eye on the Senate. Flory said she had been planning to run for the Senate anyway next year, but with this month’s resignation of Sen. Hull Maynard, R-Rutland, she is looking for a quicker entry into the chamber. She hopes to be appointed to fill Maynard’s seat by Gov. Jim Douglas.

Terri Hallenbeck

Douglas on NPR Sunday morning

If you slept late Sunday, you missed Gov. Jim Douglas answering Liane Hansen’s questions about health care reform — because he’s chairman of the National Governors Association.
No controversy, but he did offer a quirky analogy as part of his answer to her question about the lessons Vermont learned from legislating health reforms that could apply to the current debate?
“As the gangster in the¥’30s said, go where the money is.” Meaning Vermont learned from gangsters? No, no, of course not.

To hear the interview, go here.

Nancy Remsen

What is this love affair with Chris Graff and his opinions? Who cares what he thinks? He's a Natl. Life mouth organ, not a member of the press or a political commentator. Do his views reflect Natl. Life's or his own? If its his own, then I could care less.
We hear way too much from Nelson.
Shumlin is a shoe in. The other fourolop candidates should just drop out.
Dubie so far has begged off a couple of chances to air his views with a "schedule conflict" excuse. Will he govern the same way--when he can fit it in?
The Vermont Punditocracy is bankrupt. Nelson is clueless. Eric Davis is useless. When I see their names further down the page, I can already tell you what they're going to say. Has either of them ever met Matt Dunne or Peter Shumlin?

Good point above about Chris Graff. Glad he could find a good job in Vermont. Helps that he sucked up to Douglas all these many years before getting canned.

Thank god for Baruth. Sorry he's running for Senate- we needed him as a commentator. Without him, we have no professor worth listen to.
The kingfish has picked his king - Shumlin will win for sure.
Hey ,
The Vermont pundits do a one liner on all the Dems and give Lt.Gov Brian Dubie a pass ?
We get treated to the wise men of Vt opining only the Democrats ,let'em have at the that Dubie fellow.
Nelson's a moron. He's almost always wrong in his predictions:

-Predicted Douglas would let gay marraige bill pass without his signature. Fact: He vetoed it.

-Predicted that Dubie would not run for Governor. Fact: He is running.

-Predicted that Tommy Salmon has a future in VT Politics. Fact: His DUI and his party switch proves otherwise.

On the Dem side, Shumlin is the superb debater and will mop the floor with Dunne and Racine. I doubt Bartlett will stay in the race until August when the primary will happen. I heard that she was going to back out and endorse either Shumlin or Racine.

What I don't get is why Dunne is running for Governor. There is a WIDE OPEN Lt. Gov race and TJ Donovan isn't running...Dunne would be a shoe-in. Ambition does crazy things...He's not even my third choice.

I agree with people. Shumlin's definitely a front-runner...it's either Shumlin, Markowitz or Racine at this point.
All of the candidates want Harlan Sylvesters support - if he has thrown it behing Shumlin that is huge.
I don't think I'll be able to decide until I can read one more summary of who is running from the press, the pundits and the blogs. Do people really lie awake at night wondering if something new will be added to a candidate's bio. Give it a rest already. Or at least start asking them some concrete questions about the boatload of issues facing VT. And include this Dubie guy in the mix. He shouldn't get a free pass.
Yeah, Dubie needs to be held accountable.

Ask him the tough questions - AND DON'T LET HIM DANCE AROUND WITH HIS ANSWERS!
Geez...what does the NEA have to say about all this? They usually stick their noses into business other than teaching kids...
The Kingfish?
What a sad state of affairs. The same cast of characters that led the State to the projected $100 million budget shortfall now wants us to give them even more authority. No matter how you slice it, there is no real choice being presented by either Party that can drive real and sustainable change. Just more of the same ol’ same ol’.

Each of these characters had a chance to be a real leader many times over the last few years by opposing the tax and spend mentality that is the Montpelier way of life and did not. Instead they chose to take the easy way by voting for yet another unsustainable program. Nice strategy….it got them re-elected but put the State between a rock and a hard place.

Maybe it is time to find an outsider that understands how to live within our means and the spine to stand up for what is fiscally responsible for us all.

It is time for all of us to vote for ‘None of the Above’.

Captain America
I would have thought Harlan Sylvester would have thrown his support (and his group of financial supporters) to Deb Markowitz but I guess that means Shumlin is in the drivers seat.
Why should Vermont be different than the nation as a whole? Wall Street controls the nation and Smith Barney controls Vermont. It makes sense.
Pollina for Governor.
"Nelson on Shumlin: He’s the best debater of the five and “a forceful figure.” He is joining the race after key contributors have committed to other candidates, however, and his southern Vermont residence won’t benefit him."

Also what won't benefit him is his well-earned reputation for having a casual disregard for the truth. The man will tell you one thing today and then, with a straight face, a completely different thing tomorrow, and he doesn't appear to be the least bit concerned about the inconsistency.
"On the Dem side, Shumlin is the superb debater and will mop the floor with Dunne and Racine."

Superb debater because he's a fast talker and is willing to say anything in the moment. Not an honest, principled bone in his body. If that makes a good debater, I want none of it, and heaven help us all.

Now he's a "fiscal conservative"? That just proves what a shameless liar this man is.
So he can lose yet another statewide race? Fifth time a charm? Give it a frickin break.
Pollina has a right to run if he so chooses. He deserves to be heard.
So does "Boots" Wardinski, Karen Kerin, Sean "Starfighter," Peter Diamondstone, Larry Drown, Brian Pearl, that "Green Party" guy with the sign on Church Street, and all the other perennial losers and nutjobs. Now that he's run 4 times and lost 4 times, that's the crowd that Pollina fits in.
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