The Dems’ Campaign Begins With a (Literal) Bang

Besides that, Mr. Sullivan, how did you like the play?

When outgoing state Rep. Mary Sullivan agreed to emcee this morning’s post-primary Democratic unity rally, I doubt that she realized she was taking her life into her hands. But there, right in the middle of her introductory remarks, came a-tumblin’ the state flag of Vermont, crashing down within inches of her head, rattling the podium on its way to the earth.

Undaunted, Sullivan continued to speak. Although afterward, there might have been some sharp words for whoever set up that flag.

That wasn’t the only cock-up of the morning. The microphone was not correctly tied into the Facebook Live feed of the proceedings, so most of the speakers could barely be heard. A note must also be passed to whoever wrangled that podium, which was too tall for a couple of the speakers — Sen. Debbie Ingram and President Pro Tem In Waiting Becca Balint. They looked like old drivers peeking over the wheel to get a glimpse of the road.

The speakers’ list was comprehensive. The winning and losing candidates for governor and lieutenant governor were there (except for Carcajou), as were the rest of the party’s candidates for statewide office, U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, designated hitters for our two U.S. Senators, and legislative caucus leaders.

All the speakers touted unity. Not all were specific about their calls. In fact, it wasn’t until the sixth speaker that someone actually endorsed the party’s nominee for governor, Progressive/Democratic Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman. It was Attorney General T.J. Donovan who broke the ice, “proudly” endorsing Zuckerman and lite-guv nominee Molly Gray and devoting the bulk of his remarks to praise for the Democratic ticket.

I should also credit the two unsuccessful candidates for the gubernatorial nomination, Rebecca Holcombe and Pat WInburn. Both endorsed Zuckerman and urged Democrats to line up behind him.

Most others were briefer and more generic with their remarks. Welch briefly waved to Zuckerman and Gray, then spent most of his time bashing Donald Trump before closing with “On to victory in November!” Several speakers voiced calls for unity without naming any names.

This lack of specific endorsements underscores one of Zuckerman’s many post-primary challenges. Many Democrats would rather re-elect Scott than elevate Zuckerman, either because his primary identification is Progressive or because of his past squishiness on vaccines or they just don’t like him for whatever reason.

Or because they don’t want to be faced with a governor who wouldn’t be a roadblock to enacting a progressive agenda. It’s much easier for legislative Democrats to sit back and bemoan Scott’s veto pen than it is to own the issues they claim to champion.

So it would have been nice to hear more top Dems say out loud that David Zuckerman should be our next governor, but maybe that’s too much to ask.

For his part, Zuckerman began to lay out a case against the incumbent Republican. “I want to thank Gov. Scott and his administration” for their work in the pandemic, he said. “But as we look forward, we must lead in a new way, a creative, inclusive, innovative way, or we will miss opportunities to build a better Vermont.”

Hopefully from here on, Zuckerman will get more than generic support from the Democratic Party. He’s going to need it.


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