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vt.Buzz ~ a political blog

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



Tuesday buzz: Campaigns on the move

New candidate for lt. gov.

Tuesday morning, state Rep. Steve Howard, D-Rutland, will announce on Facebook that he is running for lieutenant governor. Howard will be the first Democrat to join that race. Republicans who have announced are Sen. Phil Scott, , R-Washington, and businessman Mark Snelling , of Starksboro. A few other Democrats (Sen. Virginia Lyons, 2008 candidate Tom Costello,) say they are considering a run, and Progressive Rep. David Zuckerman, is considering a run as a Democrat. They will now have this to ponder: In his day job, Howard is a professional political fundraiser.
- Terri Hallenbeck

Speaking of Howards

Former Gov. Howard Dean, spoke Monday evening in Montpelier at a Democratic fundraiser for state House candidates. A few of the things he touched on:

Ö He urged legislators to keep perspective on the future, what he called the 100-year vision, and reiterated that the thing that mattered most to him after from his 11 years as governor was keeping Vermont Vermont. “The longest-term thing you can do is maintain the character of Vermont,” he said. “This is a very special place."

As such, he criticized Republican Gov. Jim Douglas, for his eight-year battle with the Housing and Conservation Trust Fund. Dean urged legislators to keep fighting Douglas to maintain the program.

Ö After being introduced by House Speaker Shap Smith, , D-Morristown, Dean said he was glad Smith wasn’t running in the already crowded field for governor this year, but he added, “Someday – this is a really great leader.”

Ö Dean told the crowd of Democrats that he thinks a Democrat will win the governor’s seat this year, but added, “Which one? I ain’t gonna choose because I ain’t getting into that one.” By the way, none of the candidates were there because they had a forum in Windsor County.

- Terri Hallenbeck

Dubie hires

Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, Republican gubernatorial candidate, has hired Corry Bliss, 28, most recently of Virginia, as his campaign manager.

Bliss said, “I met him through mutual contacts. We hit it off. I’m excited to be here.“

Bliss grew up in New York state, graduated from Boston University and got his law degree from City University of New York School of Law in 2006. For the past three years, he has worked on political campaigns in Virginia.

— Nancy Remsen

Racine announcement

Sen. Doug Racine, Democratic gubernatorial candidate, is interviewing campaign manager candidates and planning an official campaign kickoff.

The Jan. 23 event will be from 3-5 p.m. at the Champlain Mill in Winooski with events held simultaneously around the state and connected to Racine’s speech via video, said campaign staffer Amy Shollenberger.

- Terri Hallenbeck

News in secretary of state race

One of the two Democrats who contemplated a run next November has changed his mind. Christopher Winters won’t run after all.

Winters notified supporters on his Web site and on Facebook. “I have made the difficult decision not to run this year. My wife Sarah and I are expecting a child in July and are thrilled to become parents again. My family will always come first and it is clear that this is not the time for me to be engaged in an election.

Democrat Charles Merriman , meanwhile, said he has hired a campaign coordinator, Nina Thompson, and has visited 106 town clerks.

Republican candidate Chris Roy has also added to his campaign team. He has hired a New Hampshire political consultant and a Montpelier-based financial director, and assembled a financial committee headed by Barre Mayor Thom Lauzon.

Michael Dennehy of the Dennehy Group, who worked John McCain’s presidential campaigns, will help guide Roy’s campaign. Darcie Johnston of Johnston Consulting will be Roy’s finance director.

Roy of Williston, a lawyer, jumped into the race last winter.

Another Republican, Jason Gibbs, currently commissioner of forest, parks and recreation, said he is still “thinking very seriously about becoming a candidate“ but won’t decide until after the legislative session.

— Nancy Remsen

Health care here and there

A long-promised hearing will be held tonight on identical House and Senate bills (S.88 and H.100) that would “establish the goal of universal access to essential health care services in Vermont through a publicly financed, integrated, regional health care delivery system.“

The bills don’t call for an immediate switch, but some of those planning to testify will push for swift change.

Dr. Deb Richter of Montpelier, a primary care physician and strong advocate of a public health care system, said she and other medical professionals will testify that “current conditions in the medical profession are intolerable and that sticking with the status quo to wait for something good to happen is a big mistake.“

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, will speak first at the hearing, reporting on federal health care reform and how it might impact Vermont.

— Nancy Remsen

Primary politics

A bill to move the date of the primary election won’t move as fast as House Government Operations Chairwoman Donna Sweaney had expected. To make the change would require more than just setting a new date for voting. The dates for other activities, such as the deadline for candidates to declare their intentions, would have to be adjusted.

Erik Mason, executive director of the Vermont Republican Party, told the committee the most important consideration should be that “our military members are able to vote.“ Moving the primary to mid-August, however, might cut other Vermonters out, he said.

“We are just concerned we might not have the participation we are looking for,“ Mason said. “Before taking the state of moving the primary, there are other avenues to look at.“

Those other avenues include voting via Internet. In the 2008 election, ballots were sent to the military via Internet, but had to be printed out and returned by mail.

Robert Dempsey, executive director of the Vermont Democratic Party, supported moving the primary into August so election officials have more time to get General Election ballots overseas after the primary.Dempsey said that the change wouldn’t give anyone a political advantage. Critics of the move have said Democrats want to change the date to give the winner of the Democratic gubernatorial primary – which now has five candidates – more time to recover.

If the goal was political, Democratic House Leader Floyd Nease of Johnson said, “I’d be advocating for a lot earlier date.“

— Nancy Remsen

Political ride

Three of the six gubernatorial candidates met Saturday in Barre with the Vermont All-Terrain Vehicle Sportsmen’s Association.

ATVs are a hot topic in Vermont politics right now, with the Douglas administration enacting a rule that sets out a means for ATVs to gain permission to use parcels of state-owned land and the Democratic-controlled Legislature plotting legislation to counteract the rule.

The audience did not, according to Vermont All-Terrain Vehicle Sportsmen’s Association Executive Director Danny Hale, lynch Sen. Peter Shumlin. They weren’t, however, all that happy with him.

“We were extremely disappointed,” Hale said. “He very clearly stated he feels we should go back to 2002 and start over again.”

Shumlin suggested that ATV users and environmental groups reconvene a group that worked on the issue to figure out a solution, Hale said. That would spell gridlock, said Steve McLeod , who handles public policy for VASA. McLeod was less critical of Shumlin, saying, "I don't consider his position to be set in stone. This is the start of a dialogue."

The ATVers were happier with Democratic Sens. Doug Racine and Susan Bartlett. Racine told them he believes state land should be available to all Vermonters, McLeod said. He described Bartlett as “sorting it through.”

If you think Shumlin minds the ire directed at him, consider this: He has proudly posted a Montpelier-Barre Times Argus news story on the meeting on his campaign Web site.

Two other Democratic candidates _ Deb Markowitz and Matt Dunne _ told the coalition they had conflicts and couldn’t make Saturday’s meeting while Republican candidate Brian Dubie told them that as a policy he won’t attend candidate forums until after the primary, McLeod said. That means you won’t likely see Dubie at such an event until late August or September.

— Terri Hallenbeck

This just in

Rep. Peter Welch, who has spent two terms as Vermont’s lone congressman, snared his party’s nomination for re-election this year. Not surprising, considering he coasted to re-election two years ago.

The Vermont Democratic Committee voted unanimously Saturday to endorse Welch. If he wants bragging rights over six-term Sen. Patrick Leahy, Welch might remind Leahy that when Leahy won the committee’s endorsement last summer there was one vote of dissent.

— Terri Hallenbeck


Dean is irrelevant.
What is Brian afraid of?
Dubie is afraid that people might actually ask him questions and that people wil learn how conservative he really is.
It's called Campaign 101. When one party has a primary, and the other doesn't, the one without a primary avoids the other side's food fight and refuses to provide a common foil for the others to focus on. Period. Simple, standard strategy for both sides.
When all five democrats sound the same how is a voter to figure out who to vote for?
Vote for Anthony Pollina
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