Daily Archives: July 23, 2015

A high-profile gig for Julia Barnes

The departing Executive Director of the Vermont Democratic Party, Julia Barnes, has landed a new job. She’ll be the New Hampshire state director for the Bernie Sanders campaign.

It’s arguably one of the most important positions in the Sanders effort; the polls show him a strong second behind Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire*, and a strong showing in New Hampshire will be crucial for Bernie’s campaign going forward into the meat of the primary season.

*Three recent NH polls show Clinton with roughly a 10-point lead. The fourth gives her a 31-point edge; that’d seem to be an outlier.

The problem is, Bernie has already attracted his base; he’ll be hard pressed to build on it. Or to avoid the early-achiever trap that’s derailed so many candidates. Barnes has a heck of a job to do; if Bernie runs strong in New Hampshire, she will have accomplished something quite significant.

She e-mailed me some thoughts on taking the job:

Sen. Sanders is talking about the things that I think are most important to the presidential discussion, namely having an honest conversation about the dissolution of the middle class and the income inequality that makes it hard for many Americans to get ahead. Not even get ahead, but stay afloat. There is an organic desire to see that happen and that is why Sen. Sanders is resonating with so many voters. I am excited to help see that message reach voters in New Hampshire and build the organization needed to help him win the primary there. Given the circus that is happening on the Republican side, it is going to be really rewarding to engage in a substantial conversation with voters through good grassroots organizing techniques.

I also asked her about the fact that most of the top Vermont Democrats — the people she’s worked with and for at the VDP — have gone with Hillary Clinton.

At the end of the day, elected officials are also individual voters and they, like the voters across the country, are entitled to make their decision. Sen. Sanders has been a longtime friend of Vermont Democrats and I know many of them will be supporting his bid.

Good luck, Julia. I think Bernie made a good hire.

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Vermont Dems bring back a familiar face

Didn’t take long for the Vermont Democratic Party to line up a replacement for departing Executive Director Julia Barnes. The VDP is announcing today that Conor Casey will be her successor.

“I’ve been a Democrat my whole life,” he says. “It’s an honor to be in this position.”

If the name sounds familiar, well, Casey spent eight years working for the Vermont State Employees Association, most recently as “widely respected legislative coordinator,” as he was dubbed by Seven Days’ Paul Heintz.

Casey’s tenure ended in 2012 when then-new VSEA Director Mark Mitchell was pulling a Samson act, causing six staffers to leave due to his “untrustworthy and reckless manner,” as one of the ex-staffers put it. Mitchell also burned more than a few bridges in the Statehouse. His year-and-a-half on the job included one firing and one reinstatement before he left in May 2014.

Meanwhile, Casey’s been working for the National Educational Association in Connecticut, from whence he now returns. His decade-plus in the labor movement is, I think, worthy of note:

“My background is as a labor organizer. I’ve spent my career representing working people. We want to put forward a message of economic justice; I think that resonates with all Vermonters.”

Could be, could be. On the other hand, the party’s top politicos (*cough*PeterShumlin*cough*) have often slammed public-sector unions when trying to prove their managerial toughness. Maybe there’s a realization that the Party and the labor movement work best when they work together?

Casey cites the late Teddy Kennedy as a key influence; he was a press aide to the Senator in 2003-04. “His passion really made me want to pursue politics as a career.”

Casey grew up in Ireland, and there’s a touch of the Ould Sod in his voice. But he’s spent much of his life in Vermont, and is happy to be moving back. Politics in Vermont is quite a bit less rough-and-tumble than in Connecticut.

Welcome aboard, Governor

Seemingly out of nowhere today, Governor Shumlin threw his support behind the idea of an independent state Ethics Commission. The idea’s gotten a lot of push in recent months, thanks to a string of public-sector embarrassments including (but not limited to) Attorney General Bill Sorrell’s squicky relationships with big national law firms, Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell’s landing a state job after he’d lobbied for its creation, the revelation that longtime lawmaker Norm McAllister is (allegedly) a felony-class sleazeball, and most recently, Brent Raymond’s overnight transformation from EB-5 regulator to EB-5 project manager.

So congratulations, Governor, for finally seeing the bright, glaring, blinding light.

His spokesperson Scott Coriell claims, according to VTDigger, that “Wednesday was the first time, to his knowledge, that the governor had been asked whether he supports such a commission.”

That might be true in the narrowest of senses. But until now, Shumlin has been down on the general idea of tougher ethics standards, insisting that we’re all good Vermonters, we all know each other, and we’re above this sort of tawdry behavior. But hey, better late than never.

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