Daily Archives: November 8, 2014

We have our answer: Don Turner is a hypocritical opportunist

Or “opportunistic hypocrite,” take your choice.

To reset the stage, House Minority Leader Don Turner yesterday said he would vote for Scott Milne for Governor if the race goes to the legislature, in spite of a century and a half of precedent that lawmakers ought to opt for the top vote-getter instead of, as the Burlington Free Press charitably put it, being “free to vote their consciences.”

"Let me tell you about my unique personal definition of 'conscience.'"

“Let me tell you about my unique personal definition of ‘conscience.'”

To which I can only say, if their consciences lead them to any other conclusion than Peter Shumlin, then either they’re not listening closely enough to that still small voice, or their consciences are on the fritz.

Anyway, I speculated on how Mr. Turner had voted the last time this very question was before the legislature. Well, the answer comes to us courtesy of Terri Hallenbeck, soon to be late of the Burlington Free Press.

Turner acknowledged that’s a different stance than after the 2010 election, when the Legislature ratified Shumlin’s election over Republican Brian Dubie after Shumlin had a plurality but less than 50 percent of the public vote. That year, lawmakers also ratified the results of Republican Phil Scott, who received the most votes but less than 50 percent of the total for lieutenant governor.

Which means that virtually every lawmaker (including Don Turner) presumably voted against his/her political interests, and in favor of established precedent, at least once. Republicans ratified a Democrat, and Democrats ratified a Republican. It’s worked both ways over time. But now, Turner is pulling a brand-new rationalization out of his butt because it suits him politically.

Gee, I thought Republicans were the guardians of traditional Vermont values.

Or, as somebody who was on the short end of this Vermont tradition put it:

Doug Racine, a Democrat who lost the 2002 governor’s race to Republican Jim Douglas in a campaign that was also decided by the Legislature, said Democratic legislators told him at the time they felt compelled to vote for Douglas, who received the most votes in the election. “For a lot of legislators and for Vermonters it became about fair play,” Racine said.

Perhaps “fair play” is out the window for Republicans who suddenly see an unexpected opportunity to grab the biggest prize. In other words, they’re a whole bunch of Gollums.

p.s. We’re starting to get a glimpse at the future of a clickbait-oriented, post-Remsen-and-Hallenbeck Freeploid. Its coverage of Friday’s important developments consisted of two short articles from the Associated Press. Plus, those stories were pretty much buried on the Freeploid’s website, while more pressing matters — the LL Bean grand opening, a ladybug-infested house, a moose shooting — were given due prominence.

And the crudification of the Burlington Free Press is only just beginning.

Maybe Vermont Republicans have forgotten how to handle success?

Confusing little presser the Republicans held at the Statehouse Friday. Confusing in a couple of fundamental ways. They’re already well on their way to a fatal overdose of hubris; they’re toying with an ill-considered attempt to grab the governorship, or at least undercut Peter Shumlin; and they still don’t know what the hell to do with Scott Milne.

I wasn’t there, but I’ve been told that Milne was actually in attendance, but wasn’t invited to speak.* Indeed, even as they slapped each others’ backs over a relative handful of legislative victories, they “didn’t mention Milne until prompted by reporters,” according to VTDigger’s Laura Krantz.

*Note: Per the Comments below, multiple attendees say that Milne was not present. I’ll accept their word for it.

They “didn’t mention Milne,” the man who might still become their leader, not to mention the state’s.

What… the… hell.

Also, even as they were ignoring the Miracle Man, they were boldly announcing their plans for legislation to dump Vermont Health Connect.

(Let me just pause and note what a Boehnerian idea that is: promising a bill to kill a Democratic reform, a bill they know will never pass, just for the sake of some political posturing.)

Uh, fellows, d’ya think maybe it’d be a good idea if you’d, oh, consult Scott Milne before you make your big plans? Especially since some of you, at least, are going to do what you can to overthrow historical precedent and install him as our next governor?

Presumably, if legislative Republicans get their way, it ought to be Scott Milne setting the agenda, not them. But what do I know.

In fact, according to Seven Days’ Mark Davis, there’s been virtually no communication between Milne and top Republicans since Tuesday. Or before Tuesday, either, since they gave him damn little help during the campaign, believing (like everybody else) that he was a radioactive loser.

As for overthrowing historical precedent, take a bow, top House Republican Don Turner and top Senate Republican Joe Benning. Both of them indicated that they would vote for Milne if the race goes to the legislature, in spite of 161 years of precedent that says the legislature always installs the top vote-getter, whether it’s a Republican (Jim Douglas, 2002) or a Democrat (Peter Shumlin, 2010).

And as I wrote earlier, the last time the #2 vote-getter was installed as governor, it was the result of a dirty backroom political deal between the #2 and #3 parties to take down #1. Kinda like if the Democrats and Progressives united to block a Republican who’d won a plurality. So I don’t think the stolen election of 1853 is the kind of precedent anyone should want to emulate.

While we’re on the subject, Mr. Turner: when the governorship was decided by the legislature in 2010, did you vote for Peter Shumlin? If so, you are a hypocrite and an opportunist.

On the other hand, there was the current top Republican officeholder in the state, Phil Scott, saying that he’d obey precedent and vote for Shumlin if he had to choose. Leadership, boys.

Milne and Turner and Benning have devised a new interpretation of the legislature’s role, by saying that each lawmaker should follow the electoral results in his or her district. Which is a brand-new idea that happens to coincide with their own short-term interests. Statesmanship, boys.

Tuesday was the first taste of victory the Republicans have enjoyed in quite a long time. It’s been more than a decade since they gained seats in the legislature, and six since they won the governorship. This sudden burst of success must be terribly disorienting. It’s obviously gone to their heads, and not in a good way.

Hopefully they can regain their balance and learn to use their hard-won scraps of political power in a positive way.