The primary campaign was a rough one for the Vermont Republican Party. While the Democrats had enough good candidates to populate several robust primary contests, the Republicans offered the usual collection of unknowns, kooks and zealots in such low numbers that H. Brooke Paige reprised his ever-popular “run for a bunch of offices” ploy just to prevent Democrats from winning Republican nominations via handfuls of write-in votes.
Well, primary day has come and gone, and somehow things have gotten even worse for the VTGOP. First, we have the usual aftermath of the Paige maneuver: As he has done before, he withdrew from all but one race to allow the party to choose replacement candidates. Second, we have a Republican Congressional nominee who’s treating the nomination like it’s dogshit on the bottom of his shoe.
Back to the Paige situation. The VTGOP now has to scramble to find people willing to fill out the ticket even if they have no chance of winning and will barely even try. These are people who didn’t want to run in the first place. They’ll get a terribly late start on what will surely be underfunded, low-wattage efforts that might bear the slightest of resemblances to real, functional campaigns.
This has become SOP for the VTGOP, but it should be seen as the disgrace that it is. In a system with only two parties competing statewide, this Republican failure is not only bad for the party, it’s bad for democracy.
In addition to that, we have the embarrassment of a top-ticket nominee who wants nothing to do with the VTGOP.
Liam Madden finished first in a three-way race for the Republican nomination for U.S. Congress. He’s an antiwar combat veteran who promises to challenge Democratic nominee Becca Balint from the left. Before the election, he said that if he won the Republican primary he’d forswear the nomination and run as an independent.
After he won he changed course, saying that he’d drop the nom and go independent only if the VTGOP promised not to choose another candidate. He wanted a one-on-one race against Balint.
Then, oopsie, he realized he’d failed to register as an independent, which would have been simple but now it’s too late. His fallback plan: Accept the Republican nomination.
Madden seems like a sincere fellow, but really. He couldn’t be bothered to learn the rules, and he sought to become the nominee of a party he despises. That’s disingenuous. It’s treating the process like it’s some sort of game. I mean, the Republicans open themselves up for this by failing to field quality candidates of their own. Madden couldn’t have pulled this stunt if there had been a real, plausible Republican alternative. There wasn’t.
But that shouldn’t excuse Madden’s duplicity.
Look at it this way. What if Charity Clark came out the day after winning the Democratic nod for attorney general and said, “Actually, I’m a conservative Republican but ha ha ha I’ve got your nomination and I’m not giving it back unless you promise not to use it. And if I win, I’m going to investigate how you stole the election from Donald Trump.”
Yeah, you wouldn’t like it very much.
But wait, there’s more!
The second place finisher in the Republican Congressional primary, Ericka Redic, now says she will run as a Libertarian because she doesn’t want Madden to be the only alternative to Balint.
Clever, but just as dismissive of the process as Madden. Candidates are supposed to represent their party and its ideas, not use a nomination like a flag of convenience.
This leaves the VTGOP with a real conundrum. They can’t reclaim the nomination unless Madden voluntarily gives it up. I suppose they could pass a resolution disavowing Madden, but he would remain on the Republican ballot and, given the minuscule name recognition enjoyed by most of the party’s candidates, he’ll probably get the bulk of the Republican vote. And lose badly.
It’s kind of academic; any Republican would be uncompetitive. But still, even by VTGOP standards, this is an embarrassment. As is having to rely on Paige to occupy multiple primary slots so the Republican ticket doesn’t consist of Phil Scott, Joe Benning, and a bunch of Democrats.
Bit wait, there’s even more!
Mark Coester, he of the big rig emblazoned with Fascist symbols, finished first in the VTGOP primary for Windham County Senate. And now he says he doesn’t want the nomination because he plans to run for U.S. Senate as an independent. Sheesh.
When Jack Lindley was party chair and Jeff Bartley was executive director*, I made sport of their ill-fated efforts to make the party more competitive. But they look awfully damn good in retrospect. At least they were trying to build the party and field plausible candidates. Their successors have meandered from failure to failure and lack the imagination to even navigate a path out of the wilderness. They’re on the Aguirre, the Wrath of God track. Eventually, they’ll be drifting down a river on a corpse-ridden pestilential raft, still dreaming that El Dorado is just around the next bend.
*Correction: Got my Republican sequencing wrong. Lindley and Bartley were not in VTGOP leadership at the same time. It is true, however, that I criticized both of them for their inability to move the party in a positive direction. And it’s true that in retrospect, they look better than they did at the time.