I don’t know how much influence Rights & Democracy has. It’s a fairly new organization, but it’s made some waves in its brief existence. And it drew a crowd of hundreds Wednesday night for a combination political rally and concert.
At which it endorsed David Zuckerman for lieutenant governor — no surprise there — and Matt Dunne for governor.
Hmm, I thought. Matt Dunne. Not Peter Galbraith. From a group whose stated goal is to advance Bernie Sanders’ political revolution.
Overall, Dunne’s a better candidate than Galbraith, but some of his positions are rather centrist. I would have expected a bit more puritanical and less practical approach from a left-wing group. So I gave R&D chief James Haslam a call to find out how the group settled on Dunne.
Many people liked [Galbraith] a lot. What might have been the biggest factor is, we believe it’s important to beat Phil Scott. We concluded that Matt has the best shot at beating Phil Scott. He’s built a strong campaign.
Galbraith got a late start. People were concerned about his ability to be a strong candidate.
When pressed, Haslam acknowledged that Galbraith has the reputation of not being able to play well with others.
There is some truth to that. It was in some people’s minds. Peter is an extraordinary policy mind. But some are concerned with his ability to work with people to move policies forward.
I see Galbraith finishing third in the Democratic primary. I thought he’d burned too many bridges to earn much support from mainline Democrats. But if his reputation is also costing him support among small-P progressive voters, then he’s a weaker candidate than I thought.
Earlier, Dunne had beaten out Galbraith for two big union endorsements, from VSEA and the Vermont AFL-CIO. The Progressive Party decided not to endorse until (perhaps) after the primary. Aside from the anti-wind crowd, Galbraith is losing out on formal endorsements and organizational backing.
Rights & Democracy took a thorough approach to its first-ever endorsements. The group’s endorsement committee sent questionnaires to the three Democratic contenders, and also conducted in-person interviews. The fact that the candidates took the time to participate is an indication that this new group wields some influence. Or at least the candidates think so.
It’s an interesting turn of events for an organization that spun off from the still-extant Vermont Workers’ Center. It was only a year and a half ago that VWC made itself very unpopular in mainstream political circles by staging a sit-in that interrupted Governor Shumlin’s inauguration. Some of the people who organized that protest, including Haslam himself, now find themselves being actively courted by would-be Democratic candidates. It’s another sign of the Bernie Effect: Democrats aren’t taking their left wing for granted these days.
Just for the sake of completion, I asked Haslam about the third contender, Sue Minter.
People saw a lot of merit in her campaign. She would be a much better option than Phil Scott. But on policy, the other two are much more in line with the beliefs of our members.