The second-biggest winner of the campaign cycle so far is (I would argue) Mike Pieciak, newly-minted Democratic nominee for Treasurer. (Lovely 8-bit illo courtesy of Epicenter, a podcast devoted to blockchain, cryptofinance, and other stuff I am blissfully ignorant about.)
I say so despite, and because of, the fact that he sailed unopposed to the nomination.
I completely underestimated the guy. When he entered the race, I saw him as the unknown technocrat who, like Chris Winters, would be vulnerable to a Democratic officeholder with relevant expertise. Kitty Toll, perhaps. Shap Smith. Mitzi Johnson. Etc.
Turned out he wasn’t another Winters. He was another Beth Pearce, a technocrat who blossomed into a political force.
Or maybe it was there all along, and I wasn’t in a position to see his appeal to Democrats of all stripes. As it turned out, Pearce quickly endorsed Pieciak and nobody else even tried to enter the race. (H. Brooke Paige falls into the category of “nobody.”)
Pieciak will be our next Treasurer, and it’s absolutely not out of bounds to see him as a viable gubernatorial candidate in a few years’ time. Maybe even 2024.
(That idea can be attributed to fellow Vermont political observer and disappointed Ted Kenney supporter Ed Adrian. When he suggested it, a light bulb appeared above my head. I think he’s absolutely right.)
In light of Pieciak’s pending coronation, let’s take a fresh look at his assets.
He has served in both Democratic and Republican administrations, and earned a reputation as a straight shooter who knows state finance as well as anybody.
He was, after Phil Scott, the biggest beneficiary of the governor’s weekly Covid Variety Hour. Pieciak was Scott’s numbers guy and he gave us the numbers even if they were at odds with Scott’s policies. (Compare to Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine, who often fudged his views to conform with the administration.)
It’s obvious in retrospect that Pieciak must have been networking like crazy behind the scenes long before he entered the arena. The timing of Pearce’s endorsement made it clear that it was pre-arranged. Nobody in Democratic circles batted an eye.
Did you know anything about the guy before he launched? Did you know he was gay? I didn’t, not that I’m the best-connected person in the world. I think his identity was a net positive among the Dem/Prog electorate. It gave him a human dimension and made him more attractive to voters who might have been skeptical about a technocrat with no known policy positions.
In terms of political profile, Pieciak is Beth Pearce 2.0. He’s known for expertise, not policy. And like Pearce, it turned out he was a natural-born politician who could inspire Democratic Party figures, deliver on the stage, and appeal to voters in general.
The biggest rocket from the primary is on Becca Balint’s back. The second biggest is firmly attached to Mike Pieciak. First openly gay governor? Why the hell not?