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vt.Buzz ~ a political blog

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



Vt.Buzz: Republicans make up their minds about running

This just in on lt. gov. race

Sen. Phil Scott, R-Washington, has reserved the Diamond Ballroom at the Sheraton Hotel in South Burlington to make a big campaign announcement Tuesday.

Two other Republicans — Randy Brock and Kevin Mullin — announced Monday they wouldn’t run for lieutenant governor.

Scott has been leaning toward a run for lieutenant governor for weeks and it seems unlikely he would reserve a ballroom to say he wasn’t running.

Brock, a state senator from Franklin County, said he would run for re-election to the Senate rather than for lieutenant governor. It was a tough decision, Brock said.

The office of lieutenant governor “is a potential bully pulpit to advance new ideas.” He concluded, however, that by returning to the Senate, “I would be in a better position to advance bold policy ideas to affect the kinds of changes Vermont must embrace in order to weather the fiscal storm.”

Mullin confirmed by phone that he was no longer considering a run for lieutenant governor. He said he had yet to decide about running for re-election, having recently purchased two movie complexes in New York state.

Republican Mark Snelling of Starksboro has been the lone announced candidate for lieutenant governor, having decided earlier this fall to follow his father, mother and sister into politics. The seat is up for grabs because Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie is running for governor.

Former Republican state Sen. John Bloomer of Rutland continues to mull a run, he said Monday. His decision depends on his wife and his law partner. “If and when they are convinced, I will make an announcement. "

Sen. Vincent Illuzzi, R-Essex/Orleans, has also talked about becoming a candidate, but said he wouldn’t make up his mind until after the legislative session.

The Democratic field is less clear. Rep. Steve Howard, D-Rutland, has said he’s weighing a run.

A Progressive also is testing the Democratic waters. Rep. David Zuckerman, P-Burlington, has started meeting with Democratic county committees to determine whether he would find support if he ran in the Democratic primary.

Nancy Remsen

Republican joins U.S. Senate race

Len Britton, a 54-year-old lumber store owner from Windsor County, announced Monday that he is running for U.S. Senate as a Republican against six-term incumbent Democrat Patrick Leahy in next year’s election.

“Washington’s broken,” said Britton, who lives in South Pomfret. “Someone needs to stand up. I think my life’s experience as a Vermonter and as a small business owner gives me the common sense we need.”

Leahy, 69, of Middlesex, also faces an opponent from within his own party. Daniel Freilich, a 45-year-old medical doctor from Wilmington, announced his campaign in October. Both are newcomers to the political stage who argue that Leahy has been too entrenched in a political system that isn’t working.

Leahy, who has raised more than $3 million toward his campaign. Campaign manager Carolyn Dwyer has said Leahy isn’t taking re-election for granted.

Britton, who has owned Britton’s Lumber, Landscape and Feed in Woodstock since 2001 and before that was a screenwriter, said he understands problems Vermonters face such as making payroll and paying for health care while Leahy has lost touch with after 35 years in Congress. Britton is married and the father of five children, ages 5-18.

“I believe I bring to the debate some reasonable Vermont-style, common-sense solutions,” he said. For example, he said, he would propose a federal small-business loan program modeled after college loans. That, he said, would be more effective in generating jobs than the federal stimulus package or federal bailouts of car manufacturers and banks.

On health care, Britton said, he said, “I believe we can make strides to improve health care in this country without a 2,000-page bill. We can’t afford to add another $1 trillion.”

On the war in Afghanistan, he said, “I want a definition of what our end game is there. How long is it going to take and how much is it going to cost before I commit to more troops.” That sounded eerily like the Democrats’ argument against Republican President George W. Bush’s policies in Iraq, but Britton contended that Afghanistan, with a less-centralized government, is different.

Britton discounted the notion that Leahy’s tenure brings benefits to Vermont. “If you are part of that culture and you’ve been around a long time, you now are part of the problem, not the solution."

Though Britton’s name is new on the political radar, he said he has politics in his genes: former Govs. Moses Robinson and John Robinson were ancestor’s on his mother’s side and his grandfather, Allen Britton, served in the Vermont House.

As for his screenwriting career, Britton said, the most notable work that has his name attached was “Precious Find,” a 1996 science fiction thriller. He opted not to continue in the field, he said, because he didn’t want to move to Los Angeles.

Terri Hallenbeck

The trouble with Afghanistan

President Barack Obamawill speak in a nationally televised address tonight about his plans for Afghanistan. He is expected to announce an increase of up to 35,000 more U.S. forces over the next year, which would add up to more than 100,000 American troops in Afghanistan at an annual cost of about $75 billion. Obama is also expected to outline an exit strategy for the war.

This was the war that some argued the United States should have been fighting instead of Iraq, but now that it has come down to it, the escalation becomes complicated. Here’s what Vermont’s congressional delegation has to say on the matter:

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” on Sunday, Sanders said: “I’ve got a real problem about expanding this war where the rest of the world is sitting around and saying, isn’t it a nice thing that the taxpayers of the United States and the U.S. military are doing the work that the rest of the world should be doing? So what I want to see is some real international cooperation, not just from Europe, but from Russia and from China, because what happens in Afghanistan impacts what happens in Pakistan. That is enormously important. The world should be involved. ... If you’re going to have a presence there, you just can’t pass the bill on, as we did in Iraq, to our kids and our grandchildren. I think that’s wrong. I think that’s immoral.”

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: He is among congressional leaders scheduled to meet with Obama Tuesday afternoon to discuss Afghanistan. Leahy did not want to comment prior to the meeting, but spokesman David Carle said: “He wants to hear the president outline his goals and his plan, and he wants to hear his answers to the pointed questions that are likely at a session like this. This is a mess that the president inherited, and it’s a mess that continues to take a heavy toll in so many ways. With the National Guard deployments now under way, Vermonters have even more of a stake in getting this right. He plans to ask tough questions, including about our eventual exit strategy.“

REP. PETER WELCH: “The president’s announcement comes at a particularly significant time for Vermonters, as 1,400 members of the Vermont Guard prepare for deployment to the region. I remain skeptical of the wisdom of committing endless American resources to this conflict in the absence of a credible, reliable and trustworthy partner in Afghanistan. The president’s task in this speech is to clearly define America’s mission, ensure that it is sustainable — especially given our overstretched military — and explain how he will bring this war to its long-overdue conclusion.“

Terri Hallenbeck

Reserve a big room for the hearing

Sen. Vincent Illuzzi, R-Essex Orleans, knows he’s stirring controversy, but he plans to introduce a bill that would raise the prospect of the mandated wearing of orange while hunting.

Many states require hunters to wear blaze orange as a safety precaution.
The issue has long been controversial, with hunters of two minds. Still, Illuzzi said he leans toward the hunter safety argument over the personal responsibility view, having just concluded a case involving a hunter who was catastrophically injured. “It doesn’t hurt to have the hunter orange issue revisited,” he said.

Steve McLeod, lobbyist for the Vermont Traditions Coalition, said his organization wouldn’t jump into the middle of what is sure to be a hot debate because the question isn’t a threat to the overall sport of hunting. He noted that the issue hasn’t come up in recent years, but he doubted the sharp divide among hunters has disappeared.

Nancy Remsen

Health care hits prime time

A couple of groups that support changes to the health-care system will hold meetings this week to keep the heat on the efforts in Washington (as the Senate wades knee-deep into the issue this week) and Montpelier (where the Legislature will be under pressure next year to consider single-payer health care).

TUESDAY: The Vermont Workers’ Center is holding a forum at 7 p.m. at St. Michael’s College’s McCarthy Arts Center. The group says the forum is designed to explore “how Vermont can establish health care as a basic human right and win single-payer health care in 2010.” For more information, visit www.workerscenter.org/node/174.

SUNDAY: From 2-4 p.m. at Ohavi Zedek Synagogue in Burlington, a forum is designed to offer the public a chance to discuss what they want in health-care reform and how to achieve it while looking at best- and worst-case scenarios Vermont might face with federal health-care reform. For more information, call Rabbi Joshua Chasan at 864-0218 or state Rep. Suzi Wizowaty at 864-5651.

Terri Hallenbeck

The money game

Without a doubt, all the Vermont gubernatorial candidate are shaking every tree and wallet they can find these days in the search for the almighty dollar. Here are some signs of the nickel-and-dime collections:

Democrat Deb Markowitz put out a call to supporters to raise $3,000 on the Democratic fundraising Web site Actblue by Thanksgiving. The site showed Monday that 40 donors had chipped in $3,011.

Democrat Susan Bartlett staffer John Bauer sent out an appeal Wednesday for 100 new supporters and 50 donations by Dec. 1, which is Tuesday. Bauer was seeking to use what some described as a surprisingly good performance by Bartlett at the Nov. 19 environmental forum as a jumping-off point.

Bauer reported Monday that Bartlett had amassed 27 contributions and 71 new e-mail addresses. Of course, it is hard to argue that e-mail addresses are the same thing as supporters.

Terri Hallenbeck

Labels: , ,

Phil Scott will be great!
So far all the health care "debates" have ignored the cost part of the equation.
Who is Phil Scott?
Phil Scott is a Republican who has to convince is conservative base because he voted for Gay Marriage!
Phil Scott sounds like the kind of Republican we need!
Zuckermann for Lt Gov.
Go Zuckerman
Go away, Zuckerman.
I like Dave, but outside Chittenden County and the Kingdom he's just not gonna sell. The "P" label is tough to wash off.
Zuckerman should run as a Progressive - it would be great!
Progressives should be proud to be Progressives.
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