Endorsement Wars: Backstage with Bernie

There was some excitement behind the scenes at Bernie Sanders’ Super Tuesday shindig. Sharp elbows, bruised feelings. In the long run, it won’t mean much; but hey, this is a blog about politics, and backstage maneuverings are part of the deal.

Both Democratic candidates for governor spoke from Bernie’s podium — a big opportunity, a very visible platform. Important for both. Well, here’s what happened beforehand according to multiple sources, some on the record and some off.

“[Sanders campaign manager] Jeff Weaver reached out to Matt and asked him to speak before Bernie,” says Matt Dunne’s campaign chief Nick Charyk. “They had a history; Jeff did fundraisng for Matt [in 2010] and endorsed him.

“It was an incredible honor. We had a busy Town Meeting Day schedule, but Matt was jetting up to Burlington when the Sanders campaign contacted us, and told us that Sue Minter had reached out, said she was now endorsing Bernie, and wanted to share the stage.”

Parenthetical: Minter had earlier said she would vote for Bernie in the primary but wasn’t formally endorsing — a rare distinction, but one she chose to make. On Tuesday, with the chance to appear with Bernie in the balance, she changed her tune.

There was some dispute over whether she actually did endorse. But her campaign did issue a press release with the endorsement:

“I am excited to endorse and vote for Bernie Sanders for President.  I am proud of the work Bernie has done for our state. As Secretary of Transportation and Irene Recovery Officer I had the pleasure of working alongside Bernie to help deliver for Vermont,” said Sue Minter. “I am inspired by Bernie – he is spreading Vermont values nationwide. Too many people are struggling to make ends meet and the challenges of income inequality have been ignored for too long.  It’s time to level the playing field by creating livable wage jobs, making sure that our kids go to great schools and fighting for affordable health care and housing.”

“The fact is, as Sue explained on Tuesday, Bernie has always been an inspiration for her,” says her campaign manager Molly Ritner. “The issues he’s fighting for nationally are the same ones Sue wants to fight for as Governor.”

Charyk is skeptical and a bit disappointed at the way things went down. “I understand that the Sanders campaign wanted to show a united front” including both Dunne and Minter, “and I appreciate Sue coming on board. Its problematic that her endorsement came so very late.”

Yes, it did. Matt Dunne wins the seniority battle, having endorsed Bernie in October of last year. Minter’s carefully timed and titrated endorsement appears to be a matter of opportunism balanced against principle. She was actively seeking the support of EMILY’s List, a key source of funds for liberal women candidates. I don’t know if endorsing Bernie over Hillary Clinton would have been a deal-breaker for EMILY’s List, but it might have been.

EMILY’s List endorsed Minter on Monday; she didn’t formally endorse Bernie until Tuesday, just before (or during, or maybe after, it’s not clear) the big Bernie rally at the Champlain Valley Fairgrounds.

If you’re a Matt Dunne supporter, this may strike you as sneaky. If you’re a Minter fan, it may look more like smart politics.

I can see it both ways. There’s a gray area in politics; things that are impolite or even impermissible in everyday life are okay in the political realm. It’s like hockey: if someone drives you into the boards, the solution is to keep your head on a swivel.

On Tuesday, Matt Dunne got cross-checked by Sue Minter. The ref says, let ‘em play on.

2 thoughts on “Endorsement Wars: Backstage with Bernie

  1. Paula Schramm

    Well, it WAS nice to see them both there, enthusiastically supporting Bernie – so that felt good. And that wonderful rally was all about feeling good. We sure do love Bernie ! But it may be comforting to Matt to know that he came on strong, and totally looked and sounded like a Governor. He’s got the knack of speaking to a crowd, and while Sue did fine, it made him shine to come on after her.

    1. Al Walskey

      I was there with Paula in the bleachers as part of the backdrop behind Bernie. We were all too willing participanst influenced by the infectious enthusiastic positive energy of the crowd. This energy was sustained during the entire event with the spontaneous waving Bernie placards.

      Of late Vermont politics on the Democratic side of the aisle has been very congenial. Governor Shumlin was one of several well qualified Democratic candidates, including Matt Dunne, who agreed to cooperate for the benefit of “the people” of Vermont rather than tear each other apart.during the primary. Kudos to Bernie for sharing the stage with both Sue Miner and Matt Dunne. In Vermont we have been blessed to have several eminently qualified candidates run for the various state offices. Here we hove the unique opportunity to get up close and personal with our candidates who begin their campaigns with listening tours. The nation would do well to follow our example.


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