The Vermont Democrats know what they’re doing.
Well, that’s not news. But when you look closely at scheduled activities for the last full week before Election Day, you realize how narrowly they’re targeting a handful of key races. And using their big guns to do so.
First, there was the weekend-long victory tour, headlined by Gov. Shumlin and Sen. Bernie Sanders, and also featuring Dean Corren. They stopped in Bristol, Proctor, Hinesburg, and St.Albans. Which, at first glance, might make you wonder why not Montpelier or Burlington.
Well, because they don’t need the votes there.
Bristol is the home district of two powerful state representatives: David Sharpe, ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, and Mike Fisher, chair of the Health Care Committee, which is kind of important to the Governor’s single-payer agenda. Sharpe and Fisher face a well-funded Republican with a very familiar name: Valerie Mullin.
I don’t know if she’s related to Sen. Kevin Mullin, but a popular name is a significant advantage for a political newbie. And the Republicans are hoping she can knock out Fisher or Sharpe.
Then comes Proctor, in Rutland County — one of the key State Senate battlegrounds. Republicans are hoping that Brian Collamore can knock off appointed incumbent Eldred French and give the GOP all three Rutland County Senate seats. Democrats are hoping they can save French and get William Tracy Carris into the Senate. Or at least hold onto a seat, preventing a Republican pickup.
The third stop was in Hinesburg, which doesn’t seem like a terribly high priority. The town’s two House seats are safely Democratic. Hinesburg is part of the Chittenden County district in the Senate, with five Democratic incumbents and one Republican. The 5-1 split is likely to remain intact, although Democrat Dawn Ellis has run a spirited campaign, and Republican Joy Limoge has raised quite a bit of money. I don’t think the Dems are too worried about Limoge, but maybe they see an opening to knock off Republican Diane Snelling. Or maybe they just wanted to hold one rally within easy driving distance of the Burlington-based TV stations.
The final rally was in St. Albans, perhaps the most hotly contested community in all of Vermont. There are two Democratic incumbents in the House, Kathie Keenan and Mike McCarthy. The Republicans hope to win at least one of the seats.
And, of course, St. Albans is the population center of the Franklin County contest for two Senate seats, currently split between the parties. Republicans hope to grab both seats in November, while the Dems want to hold their ground or possibly even take both.
The point about Democratic targeting is reinforced by Gov. Shumlin’s schedule for this week. He walked in the Rutland Halloween parade Saturday night; on Monday he’s holding a press conference in Rutland and speaking to the local Rotary Club. And on Thursday, he’s holding a press conference in St. Albans.
Near the end of the week, he’s giving a pair of high-profile speeches in Burlington that should draw TV coverage: the annual meeting of the Vermont Economic Development Agency on Friday, and a fundraiser for Vermont Parks Forever on Saturday.
The Republicans, by contrast, seem to be completely uncoordinated. Not that they have anyone with the drawing power of Shumlin or (especially) Sanders; the closest thing they have to a political celebrity is Phil Scott. Not really in the same league, especially as an inspirational speaker.
And I haven’t seen any signs of any real coordination among Republicans. You’d think that Phil Scott, as the party’s top officeholder and most popular active figure, AND as the guy who wants to make the party more inclusive, would be actively engaged in some party-building and promotion of legislative candidates.
Maybe he has been; if so, it hasn’t exactly been high profile.
In any case, the main point is this: the Democrats are doing exactly what they should be doing in the final days of the campaign.