Scott Milne started the general election season with a vow to run an issues-oriented campaign. He backed it up with his big glossy 60-point ProgressVT action plan.
And ever since, he’s used ProgressVT as a fig leaf for an overwhelmingly negative campaign. Which is par for the course. This is, after all, the guy who ran an entirely negative campaign against Sen. Partick Leahy that included an amateurish TV ad that accused Leahy of having contracted “the DiCa Virus,” short for District of Columbia and a dumb play on the Zika virus. The spot looks even worse in retrospect, now that we’re actually in a battle with a deadly pandemic.
We got another taste of The Gutter’s menu on Monday, aided and abetted by WPTZ anchor/reporter/apparent Milne honk Stewart Ledbetter. (Who, in a mere two days, will be moderating a debate between the two candidates. Yeesh.)
On a day when Gray held a press conference announcing endorsements by 15 state senators, Ledbetter obtained a list of tweets sent from Democrat Molly Gray’s campaign account during business hours — when she was supposed to be working as an assistant attorney general. His report, which is partially available on Channel 5’s website (the video cuts off before the end), begins by recounting the endorsement event. He notes, as did I, that Gray’s list doesn’t include eight members of the majority caucus.
He then pivots to footage of Milne pointing out the senatorial absences with that familiar smirk on his face.
And then Ledbetter rolls out the Twitter bit. Or, as he put it, “A new list of Twitter posts emerged Monday with timestamps suggesting Gray conducted some campaign activities during the workday.”
Yeah, ha ha ha, “emerged.” As if out of the clear blue sky.
We know from one of the earlier debates that someone with the Milne campaign, or someone backing him, submitted a wide-ranging public records request for all Gray’s communications between the launch of her campaign and her taking a leave of absence from the AGO, hunting for signs of electioneering by Gray during business hours.
Well, they labored mightily and produced a mouse: The list of 101 allegedly offending tweets.
Gray’s response? “Every campaign has staff with access to its campaign Twitter account.”
Shocker, that. And yes, it’s standard operating procedure for campaign staff to tweet approved messages. Milne’s got nothing. I’m not surprised; in my experience, Gray was very careful to confine her campaigning to non-work hours until she took her leave.
What Milne or his backers were hoping to find was clear evidence of campaigning on the taxpayer’s dime. And all they got was a few dozen tweets from a campaign account that’s accessible by others in Gray’s campaign team.
Ledbetter’s a smart guy. He knows this. But he ran with the story anyway, either because he couldn’t resist a “scoop” or he’s in the bag for Milne.
And again, on Thursday night he’ll be moderating a debate between these two candidates.
A brief review of Milne’s grievance-fueled political career. In 2014 he ran an almost entirely negative campaign against then-Gov. Peter Shumlin. Milne didn’t take any positions on issues until very late in the race, and spent the bulk of his time slamming Shumlin over ethical and policy failures. It worked that time, because it played into a narrative well-established in the minds of many: Shumlin the slick politico who’s willing to say or do anything. Milne almost won — although, as I’ve written previously, it’s far more accurate to say that Shumlin almost lost.
Milne completely failed with the same strategery against Leahy, who doesn’t carry anything like Shumlin’s baggage. MIlne actually refused to get into the issues — with rare exceptions, such as his off-the-cuff remark that the U.S. might have to “take out” North Korea — as he fervently bashed Leahy as a D.C. insider and creature of special interests.
And here he is again, the scorpion who can’t resist deploying his stinger. After all, it’s the only weapon he has.