Over the weekend, when I realized that much of the Vermont political media corps had decamped for Iowa, I jokingly Tweeted an alert to politicians: this would be an ideal time to dump some bad news, because it would likely be under-reported by our depleted media corps.
Well hey, turns out I was right. Because not one, but two Democratic candidates for statewide office took the opportunity to fire their campaign managers: gubernatorial hopeful Sue Minter, and Rep. Kesha Ram, running for lieutenant governor. (Technically, Minter reassigned her campaign chief, but that’s so transparent it fails the laugh test.) The news was broken by one of the only political scribes who didn’t decamp to Iowa, Seven Days’ Terri Hallenbeck.
I think we’ve just achieved a great deal of clarity on the likely Democratic ticket. I don’t know for a fact that the Minter and Ram machines are in the ditch, but I do know that this is something that only happens when a campaign is in deep trouble. It’s like a baseball team going into a new season with a new manager — and then firing the poor bastard on Memorial Day. It doesn’t happen unless there are exigent reasons, such as a 12-30 record and dead last in the standings.
Both candidates tried to put a brave face on things. Minter anointed ex-campaign chief Sarah McCall with the face-saving title of “senior adviser,” but her duties sound more like “traveling secretary,” as Hallenbeck reported:
[New campaign manager Molly] Ritner will be the main media contact for the campaign, Minter said, while McCall will handle scheduling and other duties.
Possibly including dishwashing and light housecleaning.
The only potentially positive note about the Minter Shuffle is that Molly Ritner came recommended by Emily’s List, the high-powered PAC that supports female candidates. Its backing would provide Minter a nice fundraising boost. On the other hand, Ritner comes from out of state — and as Hallembeck pointed out, Vermont newbies have a lousy track record running campaigns here. Ritner faces a steep learning curve. Of course, she will be able to benefit from the wise counsel of the campaign’s new “senior adviser.”
As for Ram, she says that she and ex-campaign manager Brandon Batham “didn’t have a great dynamic.” Which sounds like the classic breakup line, “It’s not you, it’s me.” Meaning, “It’s you.”
But how bad does the dynamic have to be, that she feels the need to start afresh?
Another bad sign: Batham’s not being replaced. Ram will soldier on with a single paid staffer. Which sounds like a campaign that’s gasping for cash.
It’s still early, and both candidates have time to restart their machines and get back on the road. But right now, judging by appearances, you’d have to say Matt Dunne is the favorite for the gubernatorial nomination and Dave Zuckerman is out front in the race for lite-guv.
If true, it’s a shame and a missed opportunity for female candidates to bust through Vermont’s glass ceiling. This is a rare year of turnover at the top of the Democratic ticket, and if we elect another slate of male Dems — and/or male Republicans — then it might be several years before women get another chance.