There’s something about immortality, about escaping the finite bounds of a lifetime. If not in corporeal form, at least in lasting impact. Making a mark, leaving a legacy, your name remembered long after your contemporaries have returned to the dust. Escaping the curse of Adam and Eve. It’s an almost universal human yearning, reflected in the appeal of religious belief and, well, superhero comics.
Well, you didn’t come here for the warmed-over philosophy. Let’s get to Jim Condos.
The outgoing Secretary of State put his thumb on the sca — I should say, smashed his fist on the scale and jumped up and down on it with all his considerable weight* when he endorsed his deputy Chris Winters to succeed him when he leaves office.
He wants that legacy, doesn’t he? He wants his impact on the office to last beyond his physical tenure. He wants one final validation from the voters, who have treated him kindly over the years.
Not saying it’s all about ego gratification. I’m sure Condos earnestly believes that Winters is the best candidate for the job. After all, he kept Winters by his side for all those years. But really. Consider:
— Condos broke with longstanding political tradition that you don’t step into a primary contest in your own party. You can do what you want behind the scenes, but you keep a neutral face in public until the votes are counted.
— Not only did he issue an endorsement, but he called a press conference to do so. Putting out a written statement wasn’t enough.
— Not only did he endorse Winters, but he very openly trashed his two Democratic opponents. Not by name, but in the aggregate:
“This is about who can do the job going forward, who’s the most qualified person going forward. That’s clearly Chris. He understands the office, and this is not a time for someone to come in and learn on the job.”
“Learn on the job”? Really?
We’re not talking about a pair of jamokes fresh off the turnip truck. Sarah Copeland Hanzas is an experienced lawmaker who happens to chair the House committee that oversees much of the Secretary’s work. She knows the office as well as anyone who’s not actually in it. John Odum has been Montpelier’s city clerk for a decade and he’s a certified ethical hacker, which means he has deep knowledge of computer security issues crucial in safeguarding elections.
To characterize either of them as needing to “learn on the job” isn’t just a diss. It’s a blatantly exaggerated attempt to put distance between Winters and his two opponents.
And it’s a lie.
Sure, Winters has been right there on the job. But that’s not the only thing, and it’s not always a good thing. Fresh perspective can be more impactful than tenure.
In Vermont, we’ve got a powerful tendency to keep doing it The Way We’ve Always Done It. That can mean consistency, or staleness. There’s an argument to be made that, after a decade under the same officeholder, we’d be better off electing an outsider than someone who’s been the incumbent’s right hand for seven years.
Winters may well be bursting with great ideas for how to improve the office’s operations. But I don’t know that. Until I learn otherwise, I have to assume that Winters has some attachment to how the office has been run, and personal loyalty to his employer.
I don’t like dynastic succession. I don’t like it when an officeholder treats a position as their own personal property instead of a temporary beneficence granted by the voters.
That said, there are exceptions. Condos may be right about Winters, even if he went about it like a rhino smashing its way across the veldt. We have three perfectly good candidates who would each bring different strengths and experiences to the office. For me, Condos’ endorsement isn’t necessarily a positive for Winters. I need to know how Winters would handle the office himself and whether he’s got ideas that Condos never thought of. If so, my objections to endowed succession don’t apply.
Will Condos’ endorsement make a difference? Clearly he hopes so.
I hope not. If Winters wins, I hope it’s on his own merits. I don’t want to see him dragged across the finish line by a powerful ally.