Monthly Archives: July 2022

All Hail the Queen

Yes, it’s Photoshopped.

But seriously, Becca Balint’s latest campaign finance report is a wonder to behold. And it couldn’t be more different than Molly Gray’s.

The most dramatic number isn’t the bottom line, in which Balint outraised her Democratic rival in the race for Congress between July 1-20 by a margin of $145,000 to $65,000, putting her narrowly in the lead for the campaign to date. (And leaving her at a disadvantage in cash on hand, thanks to Gray’s lower spending.)

But that pales in comparison to the margin in unique donors, where Balint outguns Gray by basically a 12-to-1 margin.

Yes, I said twelve to one.

Balint’s FEC filing includes 6,548 “itemized receipts.” Gray’s: 532*. Balint’s campaign was absolutely flooded with donations in that 20-day period.

*Note: When a donor gives via ActBlue, the donation is credited to the donor AND to ActBlue. It’s counted once in the dollar total, but listed twice. There are a lot of these; many donors use ActBlue. So the number of donors is much lower than the number of “itemized receipts.” but that’s true for both campaigns. If Balint’s actual number of unique donors is 30-40% lower than 6,548, the same is true for Gray. The ratio remains more or less the same. Also, even if Balint “only” got donations from, say, 4,000 people in 20 days, that’s still incredible.

Balint’s list of donors is a remarkable thing. The vast majority of donors gave less than $100, and most of those gave $50 or less. Quite a few gave less than $10. There were very few large-dollar donations.

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This Guy Again

As you might deduce from the above, Brian Judd can’t take a hint. The Barre Republican is raising the concept of “perpetual candidate” to heights unimagined by the likes of Cris Ericson or H. Brooke Paige.

Even as Judd was already running for House, it was only last week that his 2021 run for city council finally sputtered to its heat death.

Yes, Twenty-twenty-one. He dragged it out for fourteen months.

In that election, Judd challenged incumbent Democrat Teddy Waszazak and lost by a wide margin, too wide for Judd to demand a recount. Which he did anyway. And was rightfully refused.

That wasn’t enough for Judd, who filed suit against the city citing irregularities of some sort. Maybe chicanery as well. Possibly even skulduggery. It was kind of a “throw the spaghetti against the wall and see if anything sticks” legal strategy. And of course, Judd represented himself in court.

Fool for a client.

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Back to the Condiments Aisle (and Other Notes on That Poll)

Back on April 22, I wrote that I almost felt sorry for Christina Nolan, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate. Since then, she’s lived through the dreadful mayonnaise video, a failure to identify a single campaign staffer, a disastrous campaign finance report, and the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, a terrible development for a candidate with a squishy-soft position on reproductive rights.

Well, now I really do feel sorry for her.

The UNH Survey Center poll of Vermont’s two Congressional races was laughably bad for Lt. Gov. Molly Gray. It was downright embarrassing for Nolan. The poll has her six points behind Generic Angry White Guy Gerald Malloy and 18 points behind “Undecided.”

More on this in a moment, but I wanted to add three thoughts to my earlier post on the Gray/Becca Balint poll.

First, this is not about Super PAC spending. Sure, three progressive PACs have spent a combined $600,000 on independent activities in support of Balint. But the bulk of that money was spent this month, and a 42 percentage point spread just doesn’t happen that quickly. Even people who run these campaigns would acknowledge that they’re working the margins, trying to move the needle by a few percentage points. The Super PAC support certainly makes Gray’s task harder but if she blames her predicament on them, she’ll be wrong.

Second, if a 42-point deficit wasn’t enough bad news for Gray, there’s also a favorability gap. Balint was seen favorably by 72% of respondents, and unfavorably by a mere 6%. Twelve percent had no opinion. The same categories for Gray: 42% favorable, 19% unfavorable, 8% no opinion. The gist: there’s only a small pool of gettable voters for Gray. Only 13% are undecided. If this poll is anywhere in the ballpark, Gray has a huge deficit and little room to make progress.

Third, Natalie Silver is a freakin’ genius. She’s run a seemingly flawless campaign for Balint. Maybe we should have seen this coming; TJ Donovan never looked better than when Silver was his chief of staff. (She was also involved in Gray’s surprising run to the Bucket of Warm Piss in 2020.) I suspect that if Balint goes to Congress, Silver will be in her inner circle because why the hell wouldn’t you want Silver at your side? But if Silver doesn’t go to Washington, she’ll be the hottest commodity in Vermont politics. And rightfully so.

Ahem. Back to Christina Nolan.

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The Great Chittenden County State’s Attorney Candidate Forum Kerfuffle of 2022

Warning: This post concerns a trivial political battle that should interest absolutely no one in their right mind. In other news, it’s Wednesday.

I seem to have triggered something with my recent post about Ted Kenney refusing to participate in forums and surveys in the primary race for Chittenden County State’s Attorney. After my original post about the Vermont ACLU, I was told that the Chittenden County Democrats had wanted to hold a forum for Democrat Kenney and incumbent Dem Sarah Fair George, but they canceled because Kenney declined all of the proposed dates and never suggested alternatives of his own.

So I added the Chittenden County bit to my post about the ACLU.

The resultant kerfuffle, recounted below in excruciating detail, amounts to this: Did Kenney refuse to participate in the Chittenden forum or not?

The answer to that question, in my mind, is: Literally no, but effectively yes.

And now the details.

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This is Kind of Hard to Believe

This Just In from the University of New Hampshire Survey Center: a poll sponsored by WCAX-TV that shows a shockingly one-sided Democratic primary for Vermont’s Congressional seat. Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint 63%, Lt. Gov. Molly Gray 21%.

Yikes. Double yikes with nuts.

This is waaaaay outside the margin of error or any reasonable disclaimers you could devise. I mean, there aren’t enough grains of salt on the beach.

I mean, I had the sense that the momentum was with Balint. But 42 percentage points?

Considering that Gray has spent much of her campaign complaining about out-of-state “dark money” (from national LGBTQ+ groups, primarily), I expect she’ll release a statement decrying “out-of-state pollsters.”

Or she’ll grit her teeth and try to ignore it.

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Let’s Not Blame the Prosecutor

I don’t know if the Ted Kenney campaign will have the gall to capitalize on Monday’s fatal shooting in Burlington, but if they don’t shout it from the rooftops, they will surely whisper it in the shadows. It seems like a political gift from the heavens for a tough-on-crime candidate looking to displace a progressive prosecutor.

But here’s the thing that caught my eye:

Using an AR-15 rifle, Dixon shot 22-year-old Kayla Noonan, a UVM student from New Jersey, and another 22-year-old woman who police have not identified, striking her multiple times, [Burlington Police Chief Jon] Murad said. Dixon subsequently shot and killed himself, the chief said.

Noonan was pronounced dead at the scene.

An AR-15, the gun of choice for mass murderers. Available for purchase just about anywhere.

Yeah, that’s not Sarah Fair George’s fault.

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Mr. Kenney Declines (UPDATED With Fresh Perfidy)

The busy beavers at the Vermont ACLU are giving some attention to the seldom-considered races for state’s attorney, especially the contested primaries in Addison, Chittenden, and Washington Counties. They’ve distributed an issues questionnaire, and they’re sponsoring a candidate forum on July 28 featuring the candidates from those three counties.

Well, most of them, anyway.

Declining to participate in the forum, you’ll be shocked to learn, is Ted Kenney, challenger to Chittenden incumbent Sarah Fair George and advocate of a vaguely defined admixture of reform and lock-’em-up.

Kenney also failed to return the ACLU’s candidate survey.

I guess it’s no surprise, since the ACLU supports the kind of reforms that George has championed. But it’s disappointing. I mean, if Kenney is tough enough to clean up Chittenden County, surely he’s got the cojones (or ovaries, if you prefer) to handle a skeptical encounter with a legitimate advocacy group.

Late add. I’ve been told that Kenney repeatedly stiffed the Chittenden County Democrats, who invited him to a forum. He told them he couldn’t make any of the suggested dates but never proposed any alternatives. So there’s that.

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Flaw and Disorder

The criminal justice system, always on hand to defend the defenseless and bring the perpetrators to heel.

Eh…

Doesn’t always work out that way. Two fresh examples from our own backyard: A judge vacates emergency protection orders against a sheriff who faces multiple charges related to domestic violence, and a cop shrugs his shoulders over a series of hate crimes.

Let’s take the latter first. Seems that some brave patriot is running around at night on Isle La Motte, setting pride flags on fire. VTDigger quotes “police” as saying “this is one of several similar incidents in the area occurring in the last month.” In at least one case, the same address has been repeatedly targeted.

Which must make the occupants feel vulnerable indeed, although the perp seems to have no appetite for direct confrontation — preferring to act under cover of darkness. As I’ve said before, these guys are paper tigers.

But I hope those occupants aren’t waiting for the police to swing into action. State trooper “Not That” Jordan Peterson:

“I think it will take the community coming together to try to figure out who did this and hold them responsible.”

Oooookay then. How about we make law-abiding drivers responsible for traffic enforcement or tell banks to solve armed robberies?

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Upstairs, Downstairs in State Senate Campaigns

This, ladies and germs, is Jared Duval, the undisputed king of fundraising among candidates for the Vermont Senate. Best known as executive director of the Energy Action Network, a nonprofit that encompasses business, nonprofits and government to address energy issues and climate change, Duval is now running for Senate in the Washington County district. And as of the July 1 reporting deadline, he had raised $23,629.

He outraised the number-two finisher in the entire state by nearly $10,000.

In fact, only six Senate candidates have managed to tally five figures. And one of those, Erhard Mahnke of the Chittenden Central district, donated $10,000 to his own campaign, so he barely counts.

None of the other five-figure fundraisers are from Chittenden, Vermont’s most populous and most prosperous county. Two are from Washington County: Duval and Montpelier Mayor Anne Watson, who raised $10,815. (Bit of an asterisk there; Watson transferred $1,735 from her mayoral campaign fund and her husband Zach Watson, fka one-term state Rep. Zach Ralph, donated $1,580. Even so, she has substantial support.)

Two more are from Windham: Wichie Artu with $14,027 and Nader Hashim with $12,213. The other Parent Warbucks is a real surprise: Self-styled “Agripublican” and unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate John Klar has raised $12,019 in his bid to unseat perpetual incumbent Democrat Mark MacDonald in the Orange district. While Klar topped five figures, MacDonald didn’t even file a report. I doubt that he will be much troubled by Klar’s surprising bankroll. Still, it’s a considerable feat for a marginal political figure to raise more than $12,000 for a Senate race. It’s a hell of a lot better than any other Republican Senate candidate has done.

These few success stories aside, the narrative in most Senate campaigns is “How can we do more with less?” The money is, indeed, thin on the ground.

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The VDP Got Its Groove Back

At the beginning of this year, the Vermont Democratic Party was in bad shape. Constant turnover in leadership and staff, low morale, poor fundraising, ineffectiveness in the face of Phil Scott.

Well, that last one hasn’t changed. Yet.

But the other stuff? Things are looking up. The credit, it would seem, belongs to party Chair Anne Lezak and Executive Director Jim Dandeneau. They’re the new leadership team, and they’ve turned things around in a hurry. The money is flowing, party regulars are engaged, they’ve refilled a bunch of staff vacancies, and their latest press release shows a newfound willingness to get in there and mix it up.

At the dawn of 2022, the party had a single staff member. This week, the VDP announced the hiring of its fifth staffer, Finance Director Shelden Goodwin. She joins Dandeneau, Coordinated Campaign Director Elliot Kauffman, Senate Caucus Director Sally Short, and House Caucus Director Cameron McClimans. They’re geared up for the campaign season.

They’ve been able to assemble a team because, well, they’ve got the money. Major donors and officeholders are doing their part, and the donor lists are getting longer.

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