This Will Be a Good Test of the State of the VTGOP

In this corner: six-term state Sen. Joe Benning, former Senate Minority Leader and the only Republican to chair a Senate committee.

In that corner: Gregory Thayer, 2020 election truther, organizer of the CovidCruiser, anti-critical race theory agitator and head of Vermonters for Vermont, an all-purpose far-right Society for the Airing of Grievances.

These are the two Republicans running for lieutenant governor. It ought to be an easy choice. Prominent lawmaker, articulate, thoughtful conservative versus fringey zealot. And maybe it will be; I make Benning the clear favorite.

But it might not be, and therein lies the problem with today’s VTGOP. There are a lot of Gregory Thayers in the party ranks. Party chair Paul Dame is likely to take a cautiously neutral position because he can’t afford to inflame the far right, even though Benning is clearly the better choice. He’s the only one who’d bring credibility to the ticket, and he’s earned his party’s support through his years of service.

But we’re talking about a VTGOP that’s turned its back on Gov. Phil Scott, the only Republican who’s won a statewide election since 2008. And a VTGOP whose base probably sees Benning as a turncoat.

So yeah, this will be a good test for the party. Will the primary victor be a plausible figure with statewide credibility or a two-bit self-promoting provocateur?

This shouldn’t even be a question. If Benning doesn’t win in a rout, it’s a sign of how far the VTGOP has fallen since the days of George Aiken, Bob Stafford, Jim Jeffords and Dick Snelling. Thayer’s vote percentage will tell us exactly how delusional and uncompetitive the party has become.

Benning was labeled by VTDigger as a “moderate Republican,” which is another sign of how far the party has strayed. Joe Benning is smart. He thinks for himself. He occasionally defies expectations. But he is definitely conservative.

I’ll be voting in the Democratic primary, but I wish him well. I hope he wins the nomination. The VTGOP needs people like him on its statewide ticket if they want to be taken seriously. And our politics are healthier when there are at least two competitive parties.

Now, I wouldn’t expect Benning to win in November. Don Turner tried this in 2018 and got walloped by David Zuckerman, despite the (apparently very short) coattails of Phil Scott. But Thayer would be an embarrassment. Imagine him ranting on the debate stage as the Republican choice to be A Heartbeat Away. Not a good look.

Full credit to the Senator for taking on this challenge. Being a statewide candidate requires total commitment and all the energy you can muster. Doing all of that when (a) you’ll suffer the indignity of sharing a stage with Gregory Thayer and (b) if you win the nomination, you’ll be a decided underdog in the general election. Whatever his electoral fate, Benning is doing a great service for his party and the state.


2 thoughts on “This Will Be a Good Test of the State of the VTGOP

  1. Stu Lindberg

    Sadly, The Vermont of George Aiken, Bob Stafford, Jim Jeffords and Dick Snelling is a faded memory. I grew up in that Vermont. These deceased politicians would roll in their graves if they could see what the Democrats and Progressives have done to our once great state. John Walters, in typical fashion, calls Gregory Thayer the leader of “an all-purpose far-right Society for the Airing of Grievances” and smears Joe Benning with the label of “conservative” Of course any good citizen these days who raises concerns about real issues facing our state and nation gets labeled, alt right, conservative and much worse. It is an easy path for Walters to talk about how the majority Vermonters are inherently racist simply because they were born white. Makes for a convenient and disgusting hot button issue to distract us from problems that affect everyone living in this state.

    Walters and the establishment monopoly he represents doesn’t like to talk about the ongoing and raging heroin epidemic in Vermont that has claimed the lives of so many of Vermont’s sons and daughters. Nor do they like to talk about the large spike in crime in Vermont, the empty shelves in grocery stores, hyperinflation, the untreated human excrement still flowing into Lake Champlain and our other waterways. Nor do they like to talk about how nearly half of Vermont public school students can’t read, write, do math or understand science at grade level. They don’t want to talk about Vermont’s unfunded liabilities of 5 billion dollars or how our property taxes continue to climb. They don’t want to talk about how there are not enough workers in our state to maintain a society that serves the basic needs of everyone including the elderly and disabled.

    Walters would have us all believe that this is the fault of conservative Vermonters, candidate Gregory Thayer or Senator Joe Benning, who hold no real political power in Vermont and have not for decades.
    I sense a seismic political shift in Vermont in 2022, In my extensive daily travels I speak to a lot of once hardened Vermont Democrats who are deeply concerned about the direction that the ruling elite has taken our state. Some of them are openly hostile to the politicians they have elevated to power. I never thought I would see this. I pray more Vermonters open their eyes to the what the left has done to our state and we finally get some balance in our legislature. I am cautiously optimistic. God Speed Gregory Thayer and Thank you Joe Benning.

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      Ahh hahahahahaha, I’m part of “the establishment monopoly.” I’m one guy off on my own, and I’ve pissed off just about everybody in whatever you think “the establishment monopoly” is. Also, when I call Joe Benning a conservative, I don’t mean it as an insult. He is honest and thoughtful. Just because he’s reached different conclusions than I doesn’t mean I can’t respect him.


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