Matt Dunne: first impressions

I didn’t attend Matt Dunne’s campaign launch on Monday. (Didn’t make Sue Minter’s on Tuesday either.) But I have looked over his prepared remarks and his updated platform, and here are some thoughts.

Overall: He’s positioning himself as the outsider, using some pretty strong language about the current crowd in Montpelier. He’s also positioning himself as the candidate of new, fresh ideas; to some extent his platform delivers on that. There are disturbing whiffs of New Democrat (a.k.a. Republican-Lite), but not enough to make a definitive judgment.

Before diving into details, let me emphasize that these are early impressions. I don’t have a horse in this race; I could see myself backing any of the three Democrats. Plenty of time to achieve clarity. That said…

His speech can be viewed online; I don’t see the text posted anywhere. (I received the text in a media email blast.) It’s pretty standard stuff, connecting his own experience to the issues in play. Indeed, there’s an almost comical bit of job-description tailoring:

We need new leadership with different experience, experience that reaches beyond the traditional structures of state government ot incorporate the best of the public, private and nonprofit sectors.

Leadership that is grounded in Vermont, but has had experience around the country to understand what can be done to move our state forward.

That definition fits Dunne with a startling precision, and conspicuously excludes his Democratic opponents. And Phil Scott.

As for policy, Dunne is clearly making economic development the centerpiece of his campaign.

That part of his platform is much longer, and more detailed, than the others. That’s an appropriate choice, given the mood of the electorate and his own strengths; but some of his positions seem a bit perfunctory by comparison.

He does have a solid theory of economic development: take advantage of Vermont’s strengths and assets, and try to spread prosperity across the state. Many of his ideas are very target-specific. Taken together, are they enough to make a significant difference as Vermont battles very strong headwinds? I don’t know. But I do know that traditional ideas, like broad-based tax incentives or cutting regulation or permit reform (the Republicans’ favorite battle cry) are unlikely to do the trick. Vermont, as a small rural state, can’t compete on the same terms as New York and Texas and Massachusetts; we have to capitalize on our specific assets.

By comparison, his Health Care platform is unfortunately meager. He wants to make Vermont Health Connect work, which looks like it’s going to happen very soon. He wants to shift to outcome-based pricing, which is a pillar of Gov. Shumlin’s reform plan. He sees universal access as a human right, but he’s vague on how we get there. Indeed, he seems to fence in that right by calling for “universal primary care access.” Which isn’t the same thing as universal access. There’s not much on how we address our worsening shortage of primary care doctors. And there’s not a peep about single-payer. That’s disappointing for liberal voters, and a deal-breaker for Progressives.

The other issue that’s near and dear to his heart is education reform. He’s got some good ideas that would involve additional spending — either up-front or ongoing commitment — with no hint of how to pay for it. Except for his suggestions on squeezing costs out of the system, such as centralizing common functions. He wants to shift the burden of non-educational costs back to the General Fund, which would be a welcome development — but where do the dollars come from? Same with his call for better early education and intervention, and for greater investment in higher education. He’ll be vulnerable to Republican attack if he doesn’t have a solid plan for identifying the resources.

One issue position that troubles me is on Energy and the Environment. He doesn’t mention wind or large-scale solar, which either means he opposes them or he’s trying to dog-whistle his way to appeasing renewable skeptics. He doesn’t mention the state’s goal of 90% renewable energy by 2050. His positive ideas are laudable, but mostly small-scale in nature.

As with my recent post about Dunne’s community brainstorming sessions, I fear this is coming across as more negative than it really is. He does have some good ideas. He is energetic, whip-smart, and seems open to others’ views. If he were the only Democrat in the race, I would happily vote for him.

Is he the best candidate in a very competitive three-way race? The magic 8-ball says, “Ask again later.”

3 thoughts on “Matt Dunne: first impressions

  1. newzjunqie

    Haven’t said much – didn’t want to discourage good ideas or a fledgling up-and-coming good start. Difficult for me to say anything bad about truly nice guys – having guilt pangs over hurling it at Scott.

    Buuut … thought bubble following ‘Brainstormin’ was “Office Manager-in-Chief” as I drifted into a fantasy right out of one of my fave movies Office Space, a sequel in which one of the cast characters runs for office (Peter is rehypnotized???). Opening scene, cue the star Matt Dunne and his “whiteboard” getting elected and running the 5th floor as an ‘office manager’ as opposed to Douglas ‘ribboncutter’ repeating the procedure all over the state instead of the usual politicing. All who attend are part of the traveling focus group dutifully raising hands, quite a laugh.

    “Second, when I walk into a room containing oversized pads of white paper on easels and a goodly supply of Sharpies, something inside me shrivels up a little. I guess it’s all those idea sessions I sat through in my previous working lives. The assembled are addressed with great earnestness, we offer ideas, they get written down on the white pads, the full pages get taped to the walls, everybody leaves, and — in my experience — nothing much comes of it”.

    Aforementioned spawned Bullshit Bingo. Was afraid I’d say something sarcastic then overcome with self-loathing so just shut the hell up.

    I admire Dunne as much as I do Milne depite the officey boardroom brainstorm approach. And I believe he would do just fine as he has some political experience. Having a positive outlook, nice smile and fresh face goes a long way. If I were to vote D it’d be him as he is clearly segregating himself from Shummy while the other two only claim to be as it sounds good but I give them both a few pinnochios.

    We are fiscally so far up shit creek as a state only legalizing maryjane, gong to the federal healthcare website and having more than two insurance carriers will fix the mess Shummy and the legislative majority have left. Still won’t be easy and will take a very long time.

  2. Walter Carpenter

    “gong to the federal healthcare website and having more than two insurance carriers” How is that going to help us, when they charge the same high premiums for high deductible policies that do not insure us? And I hear that the Federal exchange has worse subsidies than Vermont. Whether federal or state, the exchanges are so complicated that Einstein would have trouble with them. A good first step would be universal primary care…

    1. newzjunqie

      So sorry for the typo sir my baaad…
      “We are fiscally so far up shit creek as a state only legalizing maryjane, go[i]ng to the federal healthcare website and having more than two insurance carriers will fix the mess Shummy and the legislative majority have left. Still won’t be easy and will take a very long time.”

      You “hear” the federal exchange is worse – relying on vague subjective info as source rather than real numbers is unhelpful. I suggest you do a little research. Competition is known to drives costs down and quality up. And state exchanges that are failing one by one:

      It’s the cost to run it that will kill us on top of our ever-increasing debt. The numbers in link below have been dwarfed by the new numbers — $54 million to operate an exchange Shummy said would be $14 million and then quickly demanded $18 million from lawmakers – at present a 400% increase and counting. And VT has other IT projects in the offing.

      Single payer faces uncertainty as Shummy and merry band of bungling bureaucrats concealed the facts primarily that the numbers showed single payer will not viable in VT to keep six-figure jobs. And have screwed up so badly imo none of them can be trusted which is why I believe we need total regime change and complete purging. Difficult to comprehend how anyone could fail this spectacularly. If all are not in it cannot work and all do not want to be in as there is nothing to gain.

      NH was given less than $12 million and used the federal website. With a pop half again or double VTs’ it cost around $5 million to set up:

      Ppl don’t understand universal. Many are not single payer and some are a mix of public and private funds.

      Anyone who believes the myth of free health care will soon find you get what you pay for. And it is not free – cost can be 1/2 of income in taxes.

      NHS in UK is a frikkin mess. And people die waiting for care. Check out Staffordshire Hospital for a little fun.


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