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vt.Buzz ~ a political blog

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



VtBuzz: Is Vallee in? More from those who are

Possible Republican gubernatorial primary?

The field of gubernatorial aspirants may expand again.

Rodolphe “Skip” Vallee , whose activism in the Republican Party included top party positions and a unsuccessful run for the state senate in 2000, is considering a run for governor.

Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie has already announced his candidacy for the state’s top job. The 2010 race has attracted a lot of interest because Gov. Jim Douglas announced in the summer that he wouldn’t seek re-election.

Five Democrats have announced, too: Sen. Doug Racine of Richmond, Sen. Susan Bartlett of Hyde Park, Secretary of State Deb Markowitz of Montpelier, former Sen. Matt Dunne of Hartford, and Sen. Peter Shumlin of Putney.

Vallee has been on the political sidelines since returning a year ago from a two-year stint as U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia. Just after returning, he said, “I will not be running for anything.” Still, he admits he’s a political junkie and some friends have fed his habit. He’s been encouraged to run. “I went from no way to I’ll think about it,” he said Monday. “Yes, it is something I’m thinking about.”

“I like Brian, I respect him and he has won statewide four times,” Vallee said. Other Republicans who considered running backed off after Dubie announced, but Valle said, “It’s is the people of Vermont who make these sorts of decisions.”

In other words, political parties shouldn't automatically shy away from primary elections. Ideally, Vallee said primaries focus voters’ attention on ideas, not personalities and help the prevailing candidate hone a campaign that can be victorious in November.

“Skip is a friend and he and I have been talking,” Dubie said Monday. “We will keep talking.” Meanwhile, Dubie said, “The best thing I can do is focus on building a campaign.”

As to the pros and cons of a Republican gubernatorial primary, Dubie said, “This is a democracy.”

So when will Vallee decide? “If you are a serious candidate,” he said, “you have to get your act together by the beginning of the year.”

Nancy Remsen

Here’s what Dubie would have said

It would have been fascinating to watch five Democrats and Republican Brian Dubie interacting at last week’s gubernatorial forum. Dubie, however, couldn’t attend the event for all announced candidates for governor sponsored by the Vermont League of Conservation Voters, but he provided his answers Monday in an email.

He wrote:

“When I travel the state and listen to Vermonters, I hear an overwhelming sense of anxiety and concern for the economy and for job security in our state. We must focus our attention on jobs, the economy, and the sustainability of government. That does not mean we should turn our backs on the environment, but we do need to make sure that our approach to environmental protection is consistent with our economy and supports the needs of our economy. We can grow our economy — and protect our environment at the same time —- if we take a smart, balanced and sustainable approach to both.

On permit reform : Vermont is competing with other states for jobs. The State of Virginia, for one, guarantees a 48-hour-turnaround permitting. The time and cost of permitting, the uncertainty, and frequently, the court costs associated with Act 250 are driving jobs to other states. We can’t to lose them, or the young Vermonters who will go where the jobs are. We must protect Vermont’s water, air and soil. We must protect what makes Vermont special. And we must do it better, quicker, and at a lower cost. I favor reforming Act 250.

On water quality : We should continue to make cleaning up Lake Champlain a top priority, and continue to work with our congressional delegation to secure any federal funding that might be available. Lake Champlain and our other lakes and waterways attract millions of dollars to our state every year from tourists, sport fishermen, boaters and others. Along with our neighbors in Quebec and New York, we must continue to work on cleaning them up.

On housing and conservation : In a year of tough choices, state funding for affordable housing and land conservation will have to be on the table, along with every other appropriation that the state has made in the past. Land conservation has been of great value to Vermont farmers, and has preserved a landscape that brings tourists to our state and makes our quality of life second to none. But with the drastic reduction in revenue we have experienced, it’s imperative that as a state, we first take care of those who need it most: our children, our neighbors and co-workers who live with disabilities, our elders, those who have lost jobs or are living on reduced incomes. It’s imperative that we maintain a safe transportation system. It’s imperative that we keep Vermonters safe from crime. It’s imperative that we are able to respond in times of disaster. For the foreseeable future, we’ll need to keep our priorities clear.

On Vermont Yankee and wind : As long as Vermont Yankee is operating safely, consistent with Nuclear Regulatory Commission standards, and as long as it continues to yield low-cost, low-carbon power that keeps the lights on in the homes, schools, hospitals, milking parlors and workplaces of Vermont, it is reasonable to relicense the facility to run for another 20 years. I strongly support investing in the development and deployment of in-state renewable energy production. I also have a vision for expanding our clean electricity options by means of strategic transmission. Whether it’s in 2012 or in 2032, Vermont Yankee will close. We should be building our replacement energy capacity today.

More on what the Democrats did say

The forum sponsored by the Vermont League of Conservation Voters provided the first opportunity to see the five Democrats running for governor sitting side-by-side. The event tested each candidates political agility. Could they differentiate themselves while not disparaging their Democratic colleagues?

If you missed the event or want to relive it, you can watch here

Housing and conservation : All five agreed on the importance of funding the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, but the competition was fierce to establish credentials for leadership and commitment.

Secretary of State Deb Markowitz , first at bat, had the disadvantage of no legislative record to spotlight to prove her support.

Sen. Susan Bartlett declared herself the foremost champion of the housing and conservation board in the Legislature by virtue of her position as chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. She also invoked the name of former Gov. Howard Dean, saying he passed the mantel — champion of housing and conservation — to her.

Sen. Doug Racine , in a “top this” move, recounted how he helped write the legislation that established the Housing and Conservation Board in 1987. “What a wonderful program it has been.”

Sen. Peter Shumlin said Bartlett could thank him for being in a position to champion housing and conservation because he made her chairwoman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

Matt Dunne , a former senator from Windsor now at Google, suggested innovations in land conservation grew from conversations that took place at his father’s kitchen table. He came by his passion for conservation genetically, he said.

On Vermont Yankee : The state’s aging nuclear power plant didn’t have friends among these candidates, as they weighed in on whether it should be relicensed.

Dunne, alone among the candidates, said the Legislature should vote soon on whether Vermont Yankee should continue to operate after 2012 when its 40-year-license to operate expires. The Legislature has given itself authority to decide the plant’s future.

“Every day that goes by that we are not clear about what we are going to do about Vermont Yankee is simply irresponsible,“ Dunne said.

Shumlin, by contrast, said the Legislature may not be able to vote this winter because lawmakers don’t have enough information. Running over his time limit, Shumlin outlined five concerns: questions about the reliability of the plant, mounting radioactive waste, insufficient guarantees about what will happen once the plant closes, lack of information about the future price of power from the plant, and uneasiness about owner Entergy’s plans to spin the plant off into a smaller company.

“I would vote no today,“ Shumlin said.

Racine said the pending decision was both financial and moral. He charged Entergy has given Vermonters no confidence it can operate the plant safely and he argued its power rates, whatever they turn out to be, would not include hidden costs for future generations.

“I see no reason to continue the operation of Vermont Yankee after 2012. Period,“ Racine said.

Bartlett said she’s asked for one good reason to vote to allow Vermont Yankee to continue to operate — but she hasn’t heard one yet.

Markowitz simply said, “Vermont Yankee is not part of our energy future. Our energy future rests with renewable energy and efficiency.“

Nancy Remsen and Terri Hallenbeck

Health reform’s prospects

Washingtion D.C. is buzzing about the “second Louisiana Purchase,” the deal Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid made with Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana to win her support in Saturday night’s procedural vote to allow debate on a health care reform bill to begin.

Is the health care bill careening off the tracks or does it have a political future?

Vermont’s senators offer their perspectives:

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT : “When the Senate voted Saturday night to end the filibuster and let the debate begin on health insurance reform, it was by the narrowest of margins. When the debate itself begins after Thanksgiving, the way forward will be difficult, no question about it. Some will again say it’s impossible. Pundits have declared health reform dead several times by now. Yet it has advanced farther now than in any attempt in decades. If health reform was easy it would have been done long ago.

Much of what the public “knows” about the bill is inaccurate, fed by distortions, and worse, by defenders of the status quo. The longer this discussion has gone on, the more these myths have been shown up for what they are. So there is hope that support for reform will solidify in the weeks ahead. During the debate the bill also may change in ways the American people want it to change. For instance momentum continues to build for the amendment I will be offering to end health insurance companies’ antitrust exemption.

At its best, the Senate has been able to rise to the occasion to reflect the conscience of the nation. This, I hope, will be one of those times.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT : “This country faces a major health care crisis. With 46 million Americans uninsured, 45,000 dying each year because they don’t get to a doctor when they should, almost 1 million going bankrupt because of medically related bills and health costs scheduled to double within 8 years it is imperative that we pass strong health care legislation that will address these issues.

It is tragic that the disintegration of our health care system was virtually ignored by Bush during his 8 years, while the Congressional Republicans today are playing an obstructionist role by filibustering every piece of major legislation. This leaves the 60 Senators in the Democratic Caucus. It is my intention to do everything I can to see that a strong bill is passed which provides universal coverage in a cost-effective way. This is going to be a very difficult, complicated and contentious process which I hope and believe will, in the final analysis, succeed.”

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The 5 spineless, wussy Dems completely caved in to the enviro-nazi audience on shutting down VY. Five people and no balls whatsoever. That's why I, a Dem, won't vote for any of them. Despicable wusses.
Nancy and Terri --

Did you see what your slick editors did to this in the print version? They quoted Brian Dubie as saying, "We should turn our backs on the environment,..."

Boy, are you going to catch flack for that.
Shumlin has locked up all the big guns so he will crush the others.
I agree. It's time to throw all the bums out. This is just a recirculating collection of career political hacks that have brought us to the point we are at today. Why would you ever want to give them even more responsibility? Will making one of them Governor miraculously make them smarter?

It's time to give them all pink slips. Vote for 'None of the Above'.
It is really important for all voices to be heard. And I do hope all candidates will be respectful.
I like the idea of Skip Vallee.... a smart guy, successful businessman, and reasonably unattached to the Montpelier silliness that has been the hallmark of the last few years.

This could be the fresh perspective we need to get the State's affairs back under control.
Hey Free Press heck of a job in the print version of this story, with Dubie's quote being changed from "That does not mean we should turn our backs on the environment" to "we should turn our backs on the environment." OOOOPS.

That's such a bad miss by your editors, it makes me wonder if there was some intent behind it . . .
Vote Gasoline Vallee 2010!
I didn't even know Rudy Vallee was still alive. He could sure belt it out back in the day.
Skip Vallee?

You are kidding me?

His claim to fame is that he was one of George Bush's pioneers.

He ran for State Senate and even with $129,000 spent lost to candidates who spent less than $10,000!

Skip Vallee is endearing to himself!
Given the quality, qualifications, and accomplishments of the current legislature, I am not sure I would be making the point that the electorate made a great choice passing on Vallee the first time.

He is a successful businessman that has built a substantial business (as opposed to any of the other candidates). Montpelier needs a dose of the private sector. The path it is on today is failing and all the current slate of candidates wants to do is carry on with more of the same 'ol same 'ol.

Pink slips for all of them.
I would have to agree that the current crop of candidates for Governor is just same ol' same ol'.
I think the process and the way they work with each other (or lack of) in Montpelier repels good people from politics.
Send them their Pink Slips
Anthony Pollina for Governor
Well, if running a successful business is the criteria...

Pete Shumlin is your guy!

A native Vermonter...
Successful Businessman...
Successful Real Estate business...
Has created JOBS...
Has maintained JOBS...
Has met payroll consistentently...
And he savvy - in both business and politics!

Shumlin would make the best Govrnor out of all the proposed candidates - Dem or GOP
So far I would have to vote for Doug Racine - he is the most credible candidate who works hard and does not take credit for things he did not do.
I agree - Doug Racine is the best candidate - and he can win - after all he has already beaten Dubie ina statewide race!
Racine can and should win - he is:
1) a native born Vermonter
2) went to public school
3) is from Chittenden County
4) has already beaten Dubie and Snelling in state wide races - both strong GOP names!
5) is a co-owner with his brothers of a family owned small business
6) has created and maintained jobs
7) is a very strong legislator

Yup - Racine is my choice!
Keep up your mindless cheerleading. Nobody knows who Racine is anymore because he's done nothing -- absolutely nothing -- since he lost to Douglas in 2002.
It is just the same old group.
Doug Racine is a great candidate.
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