A Vermont state of mind

Looks like Garrett Graff hasn’t given up his ambition of becoming Vermont’s next Lieutenant Governor. As VPR’s Peter Hirschfeld reports, Graff is seeking an official ruling on his eligibility for the 2-16 ballot.

He seems to have run afoul of an oddly-worded Constitutional provision that appears to require four years of Vermont residency preceding the election. Graff, however, had lived in Washington, D.C. for ten years before returning to Vermont, uhh, two months ago.

By the way, is it just me, or does it seem like our Constitution was written by a bunch of drunks? (I mean, “he shall have resided in this State four years next preceding the day of the election,” WTF?) There’s a lot of stuff in there that I’d change if I had a magic wand. Unfortunately, Our Framers devised a maddeningly difficult process for amending the Constitution, so I think we’re stuck with it.

Anyway. First problem with Graff’s request? There is no process for an official ruling. (That darn Constitution again.) Secretary of State Jim Condos says it’s a matter for the courts to decide. Which would involve (a) Graff formally launching a campaign and (b) someone filing a court challenge against him. And even if that process began tomorrow, would the courts deliver a ruling in time for Graff to pursue a credible candidacy? Seems unlikely.

The impression is that Graff failed to do his homework.

That’s not a good look for someone reintroducing himself to the electorate after a ten-year absence. Also, someone who’s never been a political candidate before.

Graff insists, with some reason, that he’s always been a Vermonter at heart. He’s got a Vermont driver’s license, he’s registered to vote here, his cell number has an 802 area code. And if that’s not enough, his Twitter handle is @vermontgmg.

Too bad Our Framers didn’t consider Twitter handles in their deliberations on residency. Conducted, I’m sure, over many a tankard of their publican’s finest ale.

For a moment, let’s ignore the Constitutional eligibility quibble. Let’s just examine the question, Did anybody ask for this?

Garrett Graff has accomplished a lot of things in his 34 years. He worked on Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign, he’s been the editor of a top political/media blog and two prominent D.C. media enterprises. But in terms of the Vermont political scene, which is famously insular, he is an unknown. Well, except for being Chris Graff’s son, which is arguably a net negative in Democratic circles. But let’s say in terms of networking, connections, and (lest we forget) political beliefs, there is no there there.

(It doesn’t help that he still looks like a 22-year-old frat boy, but let’s not get caught up in appearances.)

So why does he think he can just waltz in here and grab a major-party nomination for a statewide office? I don’t know. He should be aware enough of Vermont’s foibles; you’d think that he’d do a lot more groundwork before launching a political career. I mean, heck, if he was a Republican they’d welcome him as a returning savior: “Hey look, a Republican under 50!” But the Vermont Democratic Party is loaded with young talent, and it’s been blocked for years by tenured occupants of our top offices. On top of being fresh off the boat, he’s kind of Just Another Guy.

He says he is eager to make his case:

“The onus is certainly on me to discuss the vision, and my hopes and dreams for the future of the state of Vermont,” Graff says. “And then it’ll be up to the people of the state and the voters of the state to decide whether that’s a vision they agree with.”

Yeah, nice, the vision thing. But look, everybody’s got ideas. Everybody’s got hopes and dreams. Doesn’t mean you can live elsewhere for pretty much your entire adult life, then return to Vermont and expect everybody to listen to your hopes and dreams. That takes time and work and conversations and dedication.

For all I know, Garrett Graff would make an excellent public official. He might be the world’s best politician. But if he wants a career in Vermont politics, he’ll have to do some time in the trenches and earn it.

3 thoughts on “A Vermont state of mind

  1. Seth Hopkins

    The requirement to actually live in Vermont for the four years preceding the election is a valuable one. I imagine the framers wrote it to ensure that we would not be governed by absentee landlord types living in other states, a real danger in 1793 and, evidently, in 2016.

    Running for office aside, I am offended that for ten years he has been living 500 miles away from the Vermont address that he claims for voting purposes. You should vote where you live, not where you used to live or where you wish you lived. Two reasons: one, why should someone not affected by any of the impacts of his vote in Vermont be permitted to impact the rest of us by continuing to vote in Vermont; and two, doesn’t that mean that he is not participating as a voter in the place where he has been living for ten years? Not an inspiring example of citizenship.

  2. Cc

    What he needs to do is make lots of money on Wall Street, come back and donate a little bit, constantly brag about said donations, and start a ‘non-partisan’ think tank. That strategy always works.

  3. Steve Beck

    I think you are missing the point. The guy went to Harvard, Harvard for cruing out loud, and, taught at G-town, G-town I tell you and was the first blogger to officially get credentialed to cover the White House. Not to mention his stints at Politico and The Washingtonian, that glossy magazine all about living in the DC area, you know restaurants, exhibits, best plastic surgeons, who makes what, you know really important stuff that makes you a good Lt. Guv’na. Give the guy a break. Personally, I think we should elect him! He could not do any worse than Shumlin or Scott. Seriously.


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