Monthly Archives: August 2014

Freeploid headline writer places thumb discreetly, yet firmly, on the scale

Same story, different headlines. Associated Press workhorse Dave Gram filed a post-primary story on the outlook for the November elections. His unsurprising thesis: the incumbents have a hefty advantage. Hard to argue, that; but the story’s a useful space-filler for holiday weekend editions of Vermont newspapers. 

And so the Mitchell Family Organ (North) and the Freeploid both published Gram’s story on Sunday. The MFO(N)’s headline: 

Incumbents favored in Vermont midterm elections

And at the Freeploid? 

Milne promises a fight as incumbents are favored

The Burlington Free Press: Official Turd-Polisher to the VTGOP. 

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Emily Peyton Stands the Gap Between Polity and Chaos

Perennial candidate Emily Peyton, fresh off losing the Republican gubernatorial primary, has some thoughts on How To Have A Fair Election, published in the August 29 Mitchell Family Organ. Unsurprisingly, her prescription involves a hell of a lot more attention devoted to the genius of Emily Peyton and her colleagues in the Fringe Brigade. 

She blames the media, of course. Not just the media, but the alleged “GOP/press piracy of the election process.” Yeh, me and “Super Dave” Sunderland, we’re thick as thieves. 

But that’s not the most outrageous thing she said.  

…revolution is becoming an increasingly dangerous inevitability. We are in danger of losing all peace if party/press piracy of elections continues. 

 

Had the press been fair and impartial, Dan Feliciano might have won… I might have won in a miracle, but I’m not sleek or slick. I’m too ahead of my time and I know it, so I realistically doubt it. …I’ll keep at it through November — to avert the coming revolution.

Ooof. Emily Peyton is too ahead of her time to win, but will continue her campaign for the sake of staving off chaos. Narcissistic, much?

With all due respect, Ms. Peyton, if you and your messianic worldview were better-known, you probably would have gotten fewer votes, not more. You’re better off being little-known and hoping people vote for you at random. 

But let’s move on to the Peyton Prescription, guaranteed to ward off the coming apocalypse. She calls on the party/press cartel to adopt the following program: 

Through their nonprofit, they organize and fund debates in each county during the election season with every balloted candidate of any party welcomed. Party favorite candidates that no-show are publicly busted as the corrupt 1 percent elite. 

Each debate is shared through cable access, online in video, transcripted and audio formats. Each debate centers on a different topic (energy, health, education, agriculture, corrections, transportation, environment, federal policy, monetary policy, taxation, military affairs and policing, and government). Questions for candidates will be generated by the public only, and each debate will last as long as questions continue. 

No idea what she means by “their nonprofit,” but never mind. There’s one big huge problem with Peyton’s plan, and it’s not party/press piracy. It’s that nobody would watch these endless debates. The vast majority of voters are simply not that interested. 

Which is also why the media has a lot less impact than Peyton or the media themselves believe. Most people don’t follow politics. Most voters start each campaign with their minds made up, firmly committed to one party or the other. They aren’t interested in learning about a whole bunch of candidates. Even true independents aren’t interested in spending much more than a token amount of time researching issues and candidates. 

So let’s say the party/press pirates bow to Peyton’s demands. Would she require people to watch? Would they have to prove that they watched all the relevant debates in order to receive a ballot? If not, then the debates would be meaningless. 

Fact is, it’s not that hard to gain a spot on the Vermont ballot — as the Liberty Union Party proves every other year. Getting on the ballot does not, by itself, earn you the right to demand reams of print coverage and hours of free media time and voter attention. A candidate must show some measure of public support to earn our attention. And it does happen: witness the Tea Party, and the national popularity of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. 

Sure, there are problems with our political system. And sure, the two major parties occupy too much of the available space. But a series of twelve debates including every single candidate on the ballot? For, presumably, every office on the ballot? And each debate goes on and on “as long as questions continue”? 

Nobody… and I mean nobody… would sit through that.

Republican-Leaning Poll Shows Republican Gaining Ground

The fine folks at Rasmussen Reports have dipped their toes into the political waters of Vermont. Rasmussen, as politics watchers already know, is a polling firm with a longstanding reputation for favoring Republican candidates. 

And surprise: Rasmussen says the race for Governor is closer than you thought. It gives Governor Shumlin 48% and Republican Scott MIlne 36%. The survey, which combined robo-calls and an Internet component designed to capture voters who don’t have landline telephones. And it processes the results through a “weighting program” designed to, says Rasmussen, “insure that the sample reflects the overall population.” 

Or, given Rasmussen’s track record, perhaps it’s really designed to “insure that things look good for Republicans.” 

Anyway, the Milne campaign pounced on this bit of good news like a starving hyena on some rancid roadkill. The Milne news release compares the Rasmussen survey to a July poll from CBS News/New York Times that gave Shumlin a 25-percent lead, and concludes that the race is getting closer. Of course, comparing a real live news organization to Rasmussen is like comparing apples to wax fruit. To Milne, though, Rasmussen is a sign that “Vermonters are ready for fresh ideas” etc., etc. 

But according to Nate Silver’s notoriously accurate Five Thirty Eight, Rasmussen is reliably unreliable. In its review of 2014 Presidential polls, it said this about Rasmussen: 

For the second consecutive election — the same was true in 2010 — Rasmussen Reports polls had a statistical bias toward Republicans, overestimating Mr. Romney’s performance by about four percentage points, on average. 

Okay, so here’s what we’ve got: a single poll with a self-described +/-4% margin of error, from a polling firm known to favor Republicans by four percentage points, that shows Milne trailing Shumlin by “only” 12 points.  

I can see why Milne is excited, but this is hardly evidence of a tightening race. Let’s wait until another non-Rasmussen poll comes out.

You can put it on the board: Dean Corren will be the Democratic nominee

Notwithstanding efforts by certain determined Phil-o-philiacs, the extant signs and portents indicate that Progressive Dean Corren will win the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor, and will appear on the November ballot as a Prog/Dem. A fashionable outfit these days, no?

To recap: Corren had actively sought support from the Democratic State Committee and campaigned for write-in votes in yesterday’s primary. Counterpunching were some supporters of incumbent Republican Phil Scott; they urged Democratic write-in votes for Scott.

No official count will come until Tuesday, but everything I’m hearing points to a fairly easy Corren win. There are counts from a few scattered communities, all with lopsided Corren totals. There’s the feeling among top Democrats not named John Campbell or Dick Mazza, that Corren’s won the thing. And there’s this from a Corren banner ad on Green Mountain Daily:

There were thousands of write-in votes so we won’t know the official outcome for a few days, but it looks good.

Which is about as close as a candidate can come to shouting “Whoopee!” before the count is official.

Assuming all this holds true, and I’m bettin’ it does, the next step will be securing an endorsement from the Democratic State Committee. And that also looks to be in the bag. He got a very positive reception at the DSC’s last meeting, but there was no move to endorse before the primary. If Corren does indeed win the vote, the state committee is almost certain to go along. Personally, I’d strip out the conditional: he will get the state committee endorsement.

He may not get a lot of tangible support beyond that, however. Because Corren qualified for public financing, he can’t accept additional donations — and that seems to include participation in the statewide Coordinated Campaign. But Corren has the means to run a competitive campaign on his own. And the most important thing, by far, is securing the Democratic line on the November ballot. You can put it on the board: he’s done it.

Darcie Johnston and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Pity the poor Hackster. The spectacularly unsuccessful campaign consultant went down in flames yesterday — not once, but twice.

See, it was primary day in both Vermont and Arizona, and Johnston had a horse in both races. Sickly, hobbled, glue-factory material horses, but horses nonetheless. And both of ’em came up short. Badly.

In the Eastern Time Zone, her man Dan Feliciano barely rounded the first turn before Scott Milne crossed the finish line in the race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Feliciano will still have the Libertarian spot to keep him warm at night, and at least he didn’t spend a dime for the Hack’s volunteer “services” (those Libertarians are smart with their money, neh?), but for Johnston, I fear that her Feliciano-philia may have burned whatever bridges might still have remained with the VTGOP.

Of course, the conservatives she pals around with are shameless enough to continue their ill-considered battle for The Soul Of The VTGOP or whatever. But the Feliciano disaster won’t help their cause or their credibility. They just proved that, while they may have significant support among party old-timers, they have very little pull with the Republican electorate.

Now we move out west, where Johnston client Frank Riggs finished a distant fifth in the race for Arizona’s Republican nomination. The Hack had spent the winter and spring as Riggs’ campaign manager, drawing a surprisingly modest $14,500 in salary for four months’ work. She charged her buddy Randy Brock a hell of a lot more than that, for the honor of helming his campaign straight into the nearest iceberg.

Riggs finished with a measly 4% of the Republican vote, in spite of endorsements from disgraced former State Senate President Russell Pearce and pants-shitting draft-dodger Ted Nugent. The Hack comes through again.

Republicans are infamous for recycling campaign consultants who couldn’t manage their way out of a paper bag, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Johnston continues to find employment. But I fully expect that her future clients will be just as disappointed as those in her destructive wake.

 

Countin’ scribbles

 The hardworkin’ town clerks of Vermont wake up this post-primary morning with an unfun little job ahead of them. They’ll actually have to count those pesky write-in votes, and the results will actually be meaningful.

 In one case, much more meaningful than any primary result involving names on the ballot. It’ll be a few more days before we get the tallies, so sit back, relax, and smoke ’em if you got ’em. (Preferably wacky tobacky; those ciggies’ll kill ya.)

The big unfinished business is the Democratic primary for Lieutenant Governor. No names on the ballot, just a whole bunch of write-ins. As of this writing, 87% of the votes counted, a total of 5,126 write-in votes for Lite-Gov. The unknown: How many were for Progressive Dean Corren (who actively sought the Democratic nod) and how many were for incumbent Republican Phil Scott (whose supporters urged write-ins on the Democratic slate)?

I have to think it’s Corren, because a straight-ahead “Vote for Me” effort is an easier sell than “Vote for My Guy So We Can Screw the Dems and/or He Can Cruise to Re-election.” But we’ll have to wait and see.

Also left hanging are the un-valuable Republican nominations for Attorney General, Auditor, Secretary of State, and Treasurer. The VTGOP failed to identify candidates for any of the offices, although the ill-fated RecruitFour effort did produce one write-in candidate, Shane McCormack for AG, who now has the active backing of the state party. For what that’s worth.

There were far more write-in votes for AG, so I’m suspecting McCormack will be Bill Sorrell’s sacrificial lamb this fall. As for the other three contests, who the hell knows. I’ve been actively hoping for fringe candidates to fill out the ticket, to the lasting embarrassment of the VTGOP. A homegrown Vermin Supreme, or perhaps a one-issue zealot like Annette Smith.

If there were any organized write-in campaigns, they flew under the radar. So it’ll be a few days before Vermont Republicans find out exactly what kind of nutjobs will fill out their 2014 statewide ticket.

 

Shootout at Stooge Creek

The suspense is killin’ me. I wake up on the day after primary day to find that only 87% of the votes have been counted (some of those hardworkin’ town clerks went home a tad early), and the contest that somehow combined competitiveness with pointlessness is still undecided.

Er, that would be the Republican primary for Congress, the winner receiving an all-expenses-unpaid trip to Planet Smackdown courtesy of incumbent Democrat Peter Welch. The race featured three Tea Party types — two unknowns, plus the guy who got trounced by Welch last time around. In cinematic terms, this contest was Shootout at Stooge Creek. Except there ain’t a Moe, Larry, or Curly in the bunch. Not even a Shemp. These guys are all Curly Joes.

(For non-Stooge fans, let’s just say that’s not a good thing.)

Somehow, the guy with all that 2012 holdover name recognition — Mark Donka — is in a tight battle with Don Russell, little-known gun-rights activist with an awful campaign website straight out of the bad old Angelfire days. The third Stooge, Donald Nolte, is still alive but just barely. As of this writing, Donka has 3,831 votes, Russell 3,737, and Nolte 3,422. In percentages, that’s 32.98% Donka, 32.17 Russell, and 29.46 Nolte.

I’m frankly baffled by the results. Donka should have had the edge, simply because he was the Republican candidate in 2012. It’s looking like he’ll snag the nom again this year, but only by the skin of his teeth.

My sense is that Republican primary voters entered the booth, were faced with three unfamiliar names, and played a little game of Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock with themselves. Thus, the apparently random distribution of the votes.

Makes for a tiny bit of post-primary suspense. But in the end, it don’t mean a thing, ‘cuz Peter Welch got that swing.