Gov. Phil Scott must be feeling extra invulnerable right now. On Monday he decides not to appoint new state’s attorneys in two counties because it’s too close to the next election; on Wednesday he appoints a new Attorney General even though Election Day is even closer. He’s not even bothering to be subtle about it.
Scott declined to appoint anyone to the SA vacancies in Addison and Rutland Counties because there’s not enough time left in the SA’s term. It would create continuity issues, supposedly. Instead, the current interim occupants will serve out the remainder of the time.
Meanwhile, Scott is parachuting administration stalwart Susanne Young into the attorney general’s office to serve out the remainder of TJ Donovan’s term even though Donovan’s chief deputy Joshua Diamond is right there in place to, um, provide continuity. In a much more important and complex office.
So what is Scott doing here? Hell if I know, but I have a guess or two.
The big unknown is, what will Susanne Young do in her roughly six months as AG? Will she make sure the lights are on every morning, sign whatever papers hit her desk, and ride off into the sunset with a nice addition to the ol’ resumé? Or will she take an active role and drive policy in a Phil Scott sort of direction? Might she decide to settle some big consumer protection lawsuits, for instance? Or maybe file charges in cases where progressive state’s attorneys like Sarah Fair George or Rory Thibault (a Democratic candidate for, um, attorney general) declined to do so?
Yeah, I’ll be on the lookout for prosecutorial ratf*cking.
As for the two other vacancies, the gubernatorial thumb seems to have made an appearance in the case of Addison. The departed SA is Democrat Dennis Wygmans; the interim is Peter Bevere, a political independent who ran against Wygmans in 2018 and lost by a sliver. Bevere has already said he will run again this year as an independent, and will be opposed by a Democratic nominee. Who won’t have the benefit of occupying the office and holding press conferences and issuing official statements for the next five months.
The county Democratic committee submitted three names to Scott. He chose not to appoint any of them. He has effectively replaced a Democrat with an independent, breaking his own commitment to replace like with like. In fact, Bevere interviewed with the county committee, which specifically chose not to submit his name because his values don’t align with the party’s. Scott’s non-decision may lead to a Democratic seat going to an independent with different values presumably of the more conservative variety.
Scott’s non-decision in Rutland leaves Ian Sullivan in place as interim. Sullivan is running for a full term, and is unopposed in the Democratic primary.
That seems above board, except that Scott had previously said he wouldn’t appoint anyone who was running for SA. Scott spox Rebecca Kelley in May, quoted by VTDigger:
“Governor Scott does not think it is appropriate to tip the scale for any one candidate, so he does not plan to fill this vacancy with anyone who is running for this position in this year’s election. This is a principle he has committed to in the past and will follow through on with any other vacancies before the November election.”
Well, he’s fine with tipping the scale now, and he has abandoned his supposed principle.
It may be that nothing nefarious is going on. But it’s pretty remarkable that Scott feels free to contradict himself so blatantly, and to make contradictory decisions on the same subject within a couple of days.
Is this a sign that, after three terms in office with little opposition, he’s gotten a little too full of himself? Yeah, probably.