Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell was on VPR’s “Vermont Edition” today. And eventually*, the conversation turned to Norm McAllister.
The topline: Campbell expects the Senate will suspend McAllister pending the outcome of his criminal trial.
Yup, the coward’s way out. They don’t have to get their hands dirty, and they’ll have a pretext for keeping him away from the Statehouse, thus limiting the potential media circus. At least they hope so.
Now, Campbell dressed it up in talk of not interfering in McAllister’s right to a fair trial. But that ignores some inconvenient facts:
— If they’d wanted to, Senators could have come up with a way to oust McAllister without trampling on his rights.
— By taking this course of action, the Senate will be putting its own needs ahead of the disenfranchised voters of Franklin County, who will be short one Senator for the entire 2016 session. (Trial is scheduled for March, but there will almost certainly be delays beyond adjournment.)
— Said voters have no recourse. There is no recall provision in state law. The people are dependent on the tender mercies of the Senate, which oh God.
By suspending McAllister, the Senate will drop this hot potato right in the laps of Franklin County Republicans. Because if McAllister is clueless enough to resist the near-universal calls for his resignation, there’s a good chance he will actually run for re-election. (Unless he is convicted and sentenced, but that’s not likely to happen until the campaign is well underway and the filing deadline is past. And if he is convicted, why not appeal and drag it out even longer?)
So let’s say the as-yet-unconvicted McAllister announces he is running for another term. What can Franklin County Republicans do?
I doubt they can bar him from the ballot. They can’t stop anyone from voting for him. Even if they field an “official” candidate in his stead, he might well prevail on name recognition alone — especially if their guy has to campaign as a write-in. And then he’ll be on the November ballot right alongside Dustin Degree and Corey Parent and Steve Beyor and Carolyn Branagan and Eileen Dickinson and Larry Fiske and Marianna Gamache and Albert Pearce and Brian Savage.
And Phil Scott and Randy Brock.
How do you like them apples? Can’t wait for the Unity Rally in St. Albans.
Now, back to VPR.
Campbell was the primary guest on “Vermont Edition”. His appearance ran from the beginning of the show until 12:37. Care to guess when the subject of McAllister came up?
No chance for listeners to call in. Just a quick Q&A and goodbye.
C’mon, VPR. Get off your high horse.
I know you wanted to prioritize the “real issues” facing the Legislature, and bully for you. But the McAllister affair is going to be front and center on Day One. It’s going to suck all the oxygen out of the room until the Senate can send him back to the farm. It is, literally, the elephant in the room.
Yes, it’s going to be a media circus, and We At Public Radio Are Above Such Goings-On. But it’s also a serious public policy question, particularly for everyone who lives in Franklin County. It also concerns the oversight of legislative ethics, or should I say the lack thereof. That’s a matter of legitimate public interest.
VPR may have avoided soiling its white linen gloves by minimizing discussion of McAllister, but they did their listeners a disservice. And, in trying to avoid tainting itself with an icky-sticky sex scandal, it failed to see the forest for the trees.