David Sunderland picked the wrong guy to mess with.
The easily-outraged Vermont Republican Party chair tried to manufacture a phony-baloney uproar about an alleged affront to nonpartisanship in the Secretary of State’s office. An affront that, mirabile dictu, had its origin right here in this little ol’ blog.
And in response, he got a quick trip to the Smackdown Hotel courtesy of Secretary of State Jim Condos.
Let’s take this from the top, shall we?
Today, Sunderland sent a letter to Condos about “a concerning display of political bias.” And immediately released it to the media, and posted it on the VTGOP website. Almost as if he was more interested in raising a stink than in resolving the situation.
It has been brought to my attention that in comments on a hyper-partisan, far left blog the state’s Director of Municipal Elections, Campaign Finance, Candidates/Parties, and Party Organization, J.P. Isabelle, makes comments that clearly establish a concerning political bias.
Oooh, “a hyper-partisan, far left blog.” I wonder what he could be talking about.
A couple weeks ago, I wrote a post about one of Matt Dunne’s Community Forum events. It was entitled “Brainstormin’ with Mr. Google,” and it wasn’t exactly complimentary. I said it was “a perfectly cromulent way to low-key a campaign launch,” but I basically hoped he had ideas of his own instead of actually building a platform based on input from a self-selected group of like-minded liberals.
(Kind of ironic that the “hyper-partisan” post was, in fact, critical of a leading Democrat. I guess I’m not a very good hyper-partisan.)
As it happened, J.P. Isabelle was one of the attendees that night, and he posted a comment reflecting his own, much more positive, view of the event. And this appears to be the bug that got up Sunderland’s butt. (Nice to know he’s a VPO reader. If I ever put out some merch, I’ll have to send him a coffee mug.)
Mr. Isabelle’s credentials as a neutral and nonpartisan administrator have been irreversibly undermined by his statements. …
We respectfully request that immediate action be taken to ensure Mr. Isabelle has no administrative obligations, input or influence in elections in which the political parties, Unions or candidates for governor may have an interest.
My initial reaction? Geeze, we’re talking about an office whose chief executive is, himself, a partisan political figure. Jim Condos is a loyal Democrat, but that doesn’t keep him from taking his obligations very seriously. Unlike some Republican Secretaries of State I could mention (Katherine Harris, Ken Blackwell). It’s hard to imagine he’d let an underling’s political views taint the integrity of his office.
Well, I may not have taken it seriously. But Condos, to his immense credit, handled the situation perfectly — before Sunderland had even written his letter.
The Secretary of State’s office is entrusted with the integrity of our electoral process and I take that responsibility seriously. …Because of this, even the appearance of bias is something I am concerned about, which is why I had already addressed this more than a week ago when it was first brought to my attention. I am confident that the employee will continue to perform his job in a dedicated and fair manner, as he always has.
And then, the knockout punch.
A simple contact by you before sending out this letter would have made you aware of my actions.
Oh, and one more thing:
Contrary to your premise, the employee in question is not the Director of Municipal Elections. He is an elections administrator with no policy making authority.
I would invite you or anyone else to pick up the phone and call me if ever there is an allegation of impropriety in how our elections are administered.
[walks off stage]
I doubt that Condos’ advice will have any effect. Given Sunderland’s track record, I fully expect him to keep on running to the media in pursuit of a “Gotcha” moment whenever he possibly can. Which hey, I suppose that’s his job.
But he learned a valuable lesson today. Like the song says, You Don’t Mess Around With Jim.