Is the VTGOP going forwards or backwards?

Or, possibly, both at the same time?

VTDigger’s Laura Krantz dug up (yes, I did it) quite a few tasty tidbits about recent changes in the Vermont Republican Party in a story posted on Monday. Most of which concern the installation of Jeff Bartley as VTGOP Executive Director.

Before I go on, I’d like to note that just as Bartley was getting the job, his father was rushed to the hospital with lung cancer, and things aren’t looking too good. (I’m not disclosing a secret here, because Bartley himself has been Tweeting about it.) That really and truly sucks for Bartley; on a personal level of course, but it’s gotta be taking his attention away from his new and very challenging position. I can’t say I respect Bartley’s political skills, but as a fellow human being, I feel for his plight.

Still, back in the salt mines of politics, life goes on. And, per Krantz, Bartley’s nomination created some hard feelings within the party.

Bartley was chosen in a last-minute election announced slightly more than 24 hours before the Dec. 1 meeting. Insiders say the decision was rushed to leave no time for other candidates to come forward or for a search process to take place.

Would this be the same party that often hits on Gov. Shumlin over transparency? Yeah, thought so.

Bartley’s nomination was met with ambivalence at best, hostility at worst, and led to an unusually close executive committee vote on his hiring: six votes in favor, four against. Not exactly a stirring mandate.

The four “no” votes included three very prominent conservative Republicans who have been openly skeptical of Phil Scott’s party-broadening initiatives: outgoing treasurer Mark Snelling, Wendy WIlton, and Randy Brock. The fourth, Kevin Beal, was last seen in the blogosphere in  November 2013 when he ran for the “Chair of chairs” post (basically, a liaison between county chairs and the state party) against… wait for it…

… Jeff Bartley.

Okay, then.

I don’t think I’m overreaching to interpret the 6-4 vote as a defeat for the conservative wing of the party. Especially in light of this note from True North Reports’ Robert Maynard in my comments section:

Jeff Bartley is not a conservative and it should come as no surprise that conservatives would not het (sic) behind him as their candidate for party chair. He burnt a lot of bridges with consertavives (sic) and Tea Party types during the Len Britton campaign by telling the that his model for a Republican office holder was Maine’s Senator Olympia Snowe. (At least that is what I am told by the Tea Party members who worked on the campaign)

And if we know anything about “consertavives,” it’s that they have long memories for political slights.

According to Krantz’ article, Bartley was seen as party chair “Super Dave” Sunderland’s pick for the job. As for the rushed and secretive nature of Bartley’s hiring, it looks designed to forestall organized opposition and perhaps even prompt a walkout by top conservatives. Like Snelling, for instance.

And even Bartley backers were, uh, kinda lukewarm about it. Jackie Barnett and Stephen Webster, who both supported the hire, basically laid it at the feet of Sunderland.

Barnett: “My personal feeling is the chair (David Sunderland) should have whomever they want working for them.”

Webster: “This is David’s choice, and I’ve been supportive of David.”

Neither committee members had anything to say about Bartley’s political acumen.

It’s not exactly an ideal situation. Bartley is taking the helm of a party that, November gains notwithstanding, still has a hell of a long way to go. Quite a few influential party members, and perhaps an entire wing of the party, view him with suspicion if not hostility. Given his record, there are legitimate questions about his preparedness for the job. And he’s doing it all while his dad is in the hospital with a life-threatening illness.

I can’t say I have high expectations for Bartley, but I wish him luck.

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2 thoughts on “Is the VTGOP going forwards or backwards?

  1. Robert Maynard

    First of all, kudos to you for coming out right off the bat and seperating your feelings for someone as a human being from your political differences with them. That was a class act. We surely should be able to disagree without being disagreeable.

    Now, on to the political aspect. This potential driving of a wedge into the main rift that runs through the VTGOP could not come at a worse time. Shumlincare is on the ropes and could be finished off if the factions that opposed it would come together and offer an alternative that enpowers patients and their doctors, rather than an uneldcted and unnacountable board of would be social engineers. If an attrative alternative is not offered, single payer, with its “governemnt by bureaucratic decree” will be back. Beyond the single payer issue is the matter of the rift that is now widening on the left. Shumlin is right in the middle of the Progressive vs. moderate Democrats rift and could be a casualty in 2016. The GOP and its conservative/libertarian base needs to come together now to exploit that rift, which is widening on the left. Now is not the time to be widening our own rift.

    Reply
  2. Robert Maynard

    “I don’t think I’m overreaching to interpret the 6-4 vote as a defeat for the conservative wing of the party.”

    You are right there John. This is a setback for conservatives/libertarians within the GOP. I would like to suggest that it is a temporary setback. The support for Bartley is thin and not all of it ideologically driven. Sunderland is conservative, but views the party chair’s role as subservient to the highest elected officials when it comes to messaging, or so I am told. Some of the votes for Bartley were the result of support for Sunderland’s choice, which was probably the result of Phil Scott’s preference. This was not an ideological victory for the moderate wing of the GOP. Just as the election of Sunderland was not an ideological victory for that wing. I do not think that Bartley could win the votes soely on his only merit and doubt that it will be as easy in the September 2014 reorganization.

    Reply

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