You know, I’d hate to be new Vermont Democratic Party Chair Anne Lezak right about now. She took on the job with hopes of ending a long period of internal turmoil at the ought-to-be-prosperous party.
And now, at the beginning of campaign season, she’s dealing with something of a staff exodus. Three party employees have left in recent weeks, leaving only three paid staffers who have a combined tenure of less than one year. Executive Director Claire Cummings came on board in April 2021; Senate Caucus Aide Sally Short was hired in January; and Data Director Madison Thomas joined the staff less than two weeks ago. And speaking of brief tenures, a reminder that Lezak herself just became party chair in December. They’re probably still wearing name tags at the party offices.
The good news, kinda-sorta: This doesn’t seem to be a case of stampeding to the lifeboats or disappearing in shame, as has happened at VDP HQ in the recent past. Rather, all three have left the VDP for better professional opportunities.
Still, their departures are a big setback for the VDP’s campaign machine at a critical time.
The departees: Party finance chair Kate Olney, who’s given notice that she’s taking a job in VTDigger’s fundraising operation; Spencer Dole, who coordinated the Dems’ House campaign for the last two election cycles, is now field director for Lt. Gov. Molly Gray’s Congressional campaign; and party comms chief Asha Carroll, who’s landed a gig with a national nonprofit organization.
“We’re actively looking to fill all three vacancies as quickly as possible to maintain our momentum,” said Cummings.
The Sanders Institute, the vanity project vaguely defined policy nonprofit founded by Bernie and Jane Sanders, has a distinguished list of “Fellows,” a title with few if any actual duties.
It’s impressive. Robert Reich, Bill McKibben, Cornel West, Danny Glover, Ben Jealous, Nina Turner…
… and Tulsi Gabbard.
Gabbard used to be an interesting political phenomenon with some solid progressive credentials, but she long ago became an unreliable self-guided policy missile. She just had a star turn at, ahem, the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), where she “defended parents protesting at school boards, attacked Big Tech censorship and referred to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as an ‘autocratic leader’ for his response to the trucker protests against COVID-19 mandates,” according to the Washington Times.
In my pre-TMD series on far-right candidates seeking local office, I’ve criticized our news media for taking a cookie-cutter approach to the races. They often put in the absolute minimum effort, and thus fail to reveal the actual agenda of these hopefuls.
Well, I have to say the Bennington Banner hit this one out of the park. In a story profiling a school board race in Arlington, reporter Greg Sukiennik wrote all that needs to be written about the candidate pictured above: Luke Hall, who resigned from the Vermont State Police last year for social media posts in support of the January 6 insurrecrtion.
Posts like “Cheers to the great Patriots in Washington DC,” and “it might be war.”
Yeah, not a good look for a keeper of public order. (Although I suspect that if someone did a social media sweep of Vermont’s law enforcement community, they’d find a lot more Luke Halls.)
The agenda for his candidacy seems to boil down to one thing: He doesn’t like mask mandates.
This week, Vermont’s Public Broadcasting ConglomerateTM has been releasing Part 2 of its (obligatory full name here) VPR – Vermont PBS 2022 Poll. And today’s story about one result is a study in journalistic imbalance.
The article is about the above question: Would you recommend that a young person stay in Vermont or leave?
The total result goes right down the middle: A bit more “leave” than “stay” with a sizable tranche “not sure.” Within that, however, Republicans were far less sanguine on Vermont as land of opportunity. A full 63% of Republicans said “leave.” Among independents, that number was 32%, and for Democrats it was 43%.
That’s perfectly fine fodder for a think piece. But the story that came out of the VPBCTM sausage factory was basically PR for a tired Republican talking point. A talking point that’s been repeated so often, for so long, that it’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
We take you now to the Mill River Unified School District, where a small number of very loud white people are trying to take over the school board. And they may do just that on Town Meeting Day. Voters should be aware of who’s on the ballot, because some of these people are stealth candidates hiding behind bland statements about quality education and transparency and parental involvement. I previously mentioned one of them: Ingrid Lepley, a QAnon believer whose online jewelry business used to offer a bunch of Q-inspired pieces before she partially scrubbed it upon launching her campaign. (And like many of these people, she refused interview requests from Seven Days and the Rutland Herald.)
For the last few years, these folks have been making life miserable for board members, school staff and anyone who tries to watch a meeting with their yammering about critical race theory, Black Lives Matter, and the alleged misbehavior of members who don’t buy their agenda.
This all started in 2020, when the board approved the flying of the Black Lives Matter flag outside Mill River Union High School. This raised the hackles of those who believe that racism doesn’t exist, and that it’s used as a pretext for social engineering by, uh, you know, educators and the elites, and what the heck, maybe George Soros as well. The BLM flag was the original trigger, but the disaffected have added a laundry list of allegations to their agenda.
The electoral landscape isn’t easy to wrap your head around because the district includes four towns (Clarendon, Shrewsbury, Tinmouth and Wallingford) that independently elect board members. But the bottom line is this: The Congregation of the Aggrieved currently hold four of the eleven seats, and could potentially net another three on Town Meeting Day. That’d give them a solid majority.
So, former U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan has entered the race for U.S. Senate as a Republican. She launched her campaign with the requisite folksy video that touts her record as prosecutor, trumpets her native Vermonter status, and includes the obligatory barn scene.
And positions herself as a moderate who can “work across the aisle” to Get Things Done For Vermonters. As opposed to U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, who she characterizes as “too left.”
Yes, the Peter Welch whose lowest vote total in the last ten years was 64.4%. Yes, the Peter Welch who constantly boasts of his work with the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus. And yes, the Vermont that keeps electing Bernie Sanders.
Oh well, she doesn’t stand a chance anyway. The only way Welch will lose is if he dies before Election Day, and he seems awfully healthy to me.
Doug Racine, the former lieutenant governor, state senator and Human Services secretary, is considering a third run for the state’s top job. Racine had been considering a candidacy for lieutenant governor, but that field has gotten crowded. He told methat as he was gauging potential support for an LG run, he was encouraged to set his sights higher.
His willingness to run, he said, depends on assurances that he’d have the necessary support from state and federal Democratic donors and organizations. “The question is, is it a viable race or not?” Racine said. “The answer depends on the level of support.” He said he’s getting “a lot of enthusiasm” for his potential candidacy, but “that doesn’t pay the bills.” Especially since, he pointed out, the Republican Governors Association has spent millions on behalf of Gov. Phil Scott in 2016 and 2018.
Although, he said, there’s bit of uncertainty on that front. “I don’t know if Trump would let them” spend on Scott’s behalf, Racine said. “Phil is not the most popular guy in Republican circles.”
“Others who have explored a run for governor have something to lose,” he noted. “I’m retired. It’s not like I’d have to leave my job.” That’s a very real consideration for many — especially since a race against Scott is a risky endeavor.
The 69-year-old Racine was the Democratic candidate for governor in 2002; he lost narrowly in a three-way race with Republican Jim Douglas and independent Con Hogan. He sought the party’s nomination again in 2010, but lost a squeaker of a five-way primary to eventual governor Peter Shumlin, whose margin of victory was a mere 197 votes. He was Shumlin’s human services secretary from 2011 to 2014.
Pictured above is Jason Herron, self-described “maple farmer,” candidate for Select Board in Guilford and believer in a bunch of ultra-conservative nonsense. Like other stealth candidates for local office around Vermont, he presents himself as a simple guy who merely wants “transparency” in town government.
Transparency, as we have seen before, is one of the code words used by far-right candidates in an effort to con mainstream voters. Because, you know, if these candidates came right out and said what they believe, they’d get a tiny sliver of the vote and they know it.
Some of his supporters have been writing letters to local media endorsing Herron in the most generic of terms: “tree farmer,” “open, sincere, honest,” “no hidden agenda.” I have seen three such letters, and they make the same arguments using the same phrases. Almost as if they’re working from the same set of bullet points.
Herron is known among a certain tranche of the community as the organizer and presenter of a series of “educational” events under the rubric of “Constitution Alive!” That sounds benign enough, but “Constitution Alive!” is headed by David Barton, disgraced amateur historian, and Rick Green, identified by a far-right website as “the man Chuck Norris calls a ‘Constitutional Expert.'”
This, friends and neighbors, is a typical streetscape in Amsterdam. Note the balanced, complete integration of auto, pedestrian, bicycle and public transit.
Meanwhile, here in America, the best we can do is staple bikeways and walkways onto existing streets and roads in ways that put non-motorists in danger and force our buses to fight their way through traffic. And I fear that our coming investments in infrastructure and greenhouse gas reduction will do little to change this dysfunctional reality.
Funny thing. The Netherlands is a far better place to drive than any American city. In fact, it’s been rated the best country in the world to drive in. It’s faster for motorists in spite of the relatively narrow roadways, and it’s a damn sight safer.
And before you can say “Oh, well, the Dutch have always been weird,” their towns and cities used to be car-centric until fairly recently. And they were loud and crowded and difficult to get around in, just like their American counterparts. But the Dutch made a concerted effort to define “transportation” as it should be defined: “getting the most people from one place to another as quickly as possible.” And that doesn’t mean more and wider roads, because more and wider roads actually slow things down.
Vermont’s Climate Action Plan includes a lot of pretty noises about equity, creativity, and alternative modes of transportation. Sounds nice, but Gov. Phil Scott’s plan focuses almost entirely on electric vehicle subsidies and infrastructure. That would mitigate our climate footprint, but it would do nothing to make our transportation system better, safer or more equitable. Right now we have a flood of federal Covid cash to invest; if we adopt Scott’s plan, we will squander this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Oh, maaaan. I hear and read a lot of outlandish stuff while checking out the far-right zealots clogging up Town Meeting Day ballots around Vermont, but this one takes the cake.
According to the gent pictured above, Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah Fair George “may have been funded by George Soros. I don’t know that for a fact, but she isn’t doing her job.”
Ah yes, the globalist conspiracy, dipping its toes into the Chittenden County justice system for who knows what nefarious purpose.
This man, who doesn’t know how to center himself on a Zoom call, is David Xavier Wallace, candidate for Winooski City Council, speaking at an online candidates’ forum earlier this week. Seriously, he spent almost the entire event looking downward.
I don’t know why he’s running for office in progressive, cosmopolitan Winooski, of all places. He’s got about as much chance of winning as David Foster Wallace.
Mr. X, as we might call him, makes no bones about his beliefs. But the voters of Winooski should know that he has a much subtler kindred spirit on the ballot: Chad Bushway, who loosely wears the cloak of Concerned Moderation but whose true colors show through from time to time. We’ll consider him in a moment. First, let’s hear more from David Xavier Wallace.