Update: I don’t know how this escaped my notice (and that of the entire Vermont political media), but WCAX-TV beat me to the punch by about six weeks. See addendum below.
The Democratic race for governor is a three-way (at least) tossup, with no one willing to lay odds on a single contender. The Republican race, on the other hand, appears to pose a stark contrast: if Lt. Gov. Phil Scott runs, he would enter the 2016 gubernatorial race as the favorite. If he doesn’t run, the VTGOP will be left with an unappetizing choice of steam-table leftovers. Or maybe Bruce Lisman, the canned succotash of the Republican buffet.
However… another name is being bandied about the political rumor mill, and it’s one hell of a good one.
Let me make it clear, he’s not running for governor. He’s not even running for running for governor. If Phil Scott does run, he’ll have Lunderville’s wholehearted support. Or so I hear.
But if Scott chooses not to run? Lunderville could be a formidable candidate. He’s got solid Republican credentials from his service in the Douglas administration. He knows how to run a campaign, dealing the dirt so His Nibs could sail above it all. And, thanks to the generosity of our Democratic leaders, Lunderville has steel-plated credibility as a bipartisan fixer.
He’s been called upon by Gov. Shumlin to manage the Irene recovery, by Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger to get the Burlington Electric Department back on its feet, and by House Speaker Shap Smith to save on the Speaker’s sub rosa study committee on school reform. In short, he’s the Democrats’ #1 choice to handle really tough jobs.
Or so he can position himself, and the Dems can’t say a damn thing in response.
Oh, just imagine the TV ads he could run: photos and video of Lunderville arm-in-arm with Shumlin, Weinberger, Shap Smith, Sue Minter, John Campbell, et al. Sound bites of top Democrats heaping praise on Lunderville.
Yeah, if Neale Lunderville ever becomes governor, we can blame the Democrats who kept hiring him for high-visibility jobs.
Exactly one year ago, I nominated Lunderville as “the most dangerous Republican,” for the reasons I outlined above. (At the time, I believed that Phil Scott didn’t have the stomach for a gubernatorial campaign.)
My post drew a back-channel response from a top Dem, who was completely convinced that Lunderville would never become governor. I put a fair bit of stock in those words, but if the chatter is to be believed, he’s at least considering a run.
If he gets the Republican nomination, he’d be a dangerous adversary for the Democratic nominee. After all, he’s got an abundant supply of political ammunition — most of it handed to him by Democratic officeholders.
UPDATE 7/26/15. Fellow blogger Ed Adrian has drawn my attention to a story posted by WCAX-TV about six weeks ago, which quotes Lunderville as saying he would consider running for Governor if Phil Scott didn’t.
“I think you can serve Vermont in or out of elected office and still do great things. If Phil decided not to run, I’d take a look at the race and see if it was– frankly the right decision for Vermont. If I could really help improve the state and make it better for generations to come,” Lunderville said.
I guess I don’t watch enough TV. What really puzzles me is how this escaped everybody else’s notice. I mean, every news outlet in Vermont has run a list of possible gubernatorial candidates, and NONE has included Neale Lunderville. Far less plausible candidates have been cited, but never Lunderville.
Maybe we all need to watch more TV. Kudos to channel 3.