The Vermont Democratic Party state committee met Saturday in Stowe, and did their level best to put the Unfortunate Incidents of this year behind them. The elections for party officer positions were uncontested, and every vote but one was unanimous. There was not a single mention of the Brandon Batham embezzlement case until the elections were safely over. At that point, one committee member asked if the party was making efforts to recoup the stolen funds. The answer: Not right away, but maybe after the criminal investigation of Batham concludes.
Otherwise, the two-and-a-half hour meeting was practically a Lego Movie singalong.
There had been some efforts before the meeting to identify other candidates, but nothing eventuated. If state committee members harbored any doubts about the handling of the Batham case, the overly lax management structure that opened the door to his theft, other leadership issues laid bare by the Batham case (including the complete lack of a vetting process for hiring party employees) or the party’s embarrassing fundraising performance over the last three-ish years, they kept those doubts behind zipped lips.
Because… Everything Is Awesome When You’re Part Of A Team!
“These two years have been a bit of a rollercoaster,” said party chair Terje Anderson, summarizing his first term in office in the obliquest of ways. “There were things we couldn’t do because we were dealing with other issues and putting out fires.” But now, he boasted of the “new office team in place,” led by executive director Scott McNeil, and a new financial regimen. The party’s books, he said, are now being kept by “a top-quality national firm,” Political CFOs (first reported in this space two months ago), on a contract worth $60,000 per year — cheaper, Anderson asserted, than doing the job in-house.
He kept things almost entirely in the future tense, talking up 2020’s potential to be “a spectacular year for us.” He promised a strong effort to increase Democratic majorities in the legislature and sweep all of Vermont’s statewide offices, including the governorship.
There were some lingering questions about finances. The vote to re-elect treasurer Billi Gosh drew a single dissenting vote. (It was a voice vote, so I couldn’t tell who broke the groupthink spell.) And her report on party finances caused a fair bit of confusion, because the VDP is in the process of converting to a new system under the aegis of Political CFOs. The numbers distributed to delegates appeared to show a 2019 deficit of nearly $75,000, but Anderson insisted the reality was much better.
Several leaders touted the Democratic Club, whose members donate to the party every month. They said membership has increased in recent months — from approximately 60 to the current 105.
Which is a nice increase, but frankly, the total is underwhelming. The Dems enjoy vast numerical superiority in Vermont. That they only have 105 monthly donors — in any amount, from a couple bucks on up — just shows how pitiful the party’s fundraising efforts have been lately. There are 117 Democrats in the House and Senate, for Pete’s sake. You can’t even get your state lawmakers to pony up? That’s sad.
But hey, I can’t really blame them for dousing that pig in lipstick, whistling past the morgue, ignoring the stench from the dumpster, or [choose your own metaphor]. They do have a party to run. And a big reason for the lack of turnover at the top is that nobody wants to take on those jobs. They’re difficult, thankless and time-consuming.
So Anderson gets a mulligan. If the Dems can actually get their shit together, he may turn out to be right about 2020. The stage is set for a Democratic sweep, with the exception of the governor’s office. That remains a tough mountain to climb.
But given the weak, divided status of the Vermont Republican Party and the perpetually third-place Progressives, there’s a clear path for Democrats to cement their dominance in statewide politics. Everything will be cool if they can work as part of a team.
I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.— Will Rogers