Sad Little Elephant

The long decline of the Vermont Republican Party hit another low point last week when the party failed to recruit a warm body to run for state treasurer. Instead, they’re offering a double dose of perennial candidate and Best Dressed Man In Vermont Politics H. Brooke Paige. He’ll run for treasurer and secretary of state, so expect a double dose of big hats in candidate forums this fall.

Also, expect him to lose. Just like all the other statewide Republicans save Phil Scott. The governor could lose, but you can’t expect it the way you can for Gerald Malloy or Liam Madden or Rick Morton or that guy who’s running for attorney general or Paige or Paige.

Joe Benning I put in a different category. I expect him to lose to David Zuckerman but at least he’s a credible candidate, unlike all those other folks.

Errrrr… all those other men.

Before I go on, yes, I did recently write about the Republican primary field, the “usual collection of unknowns, kooks and zealots.” But things have only gotten worse since then, and I wanted to put a bow on the whole verkakte mess.

Shortly after the primary, VTDigger ran a piece that tried to make sense of the Republican results, which Madden himself termed a “head-scratcher.”

In the race for U.S. Senate, GOP voters rejected former U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan, a moderate and institutional favorite, for Gerald Malloy, a Trump-aligned conservative. They nominated Sen. Joe Benning, an anti-Trump centrist, for lieutenant governor, instead of Gregory Thayer, who took part in the protests before the Jan. 6 riots in Washington, D.C. And they turned down two conservative activists, Ericka Redic and Anya Tynio, in favor of a left-leaning independent, Liam Madden.

The fundamental problem with the article is that it tried to interpret the results in terms of logic and ideological consistency. Pshaw. I would argue that the Republican primary had much more to do with ignorance and misogyny.

Ignorance? None of these candidates had anywhere near enough resources to run an effective campaign. Frankly, the vast majority didn’t have the political smarts to run effectively even if they had two nickels to rub together. One has to conclude that many a Republican primary voter cast their ballot without knowing much at all about most of the people they voted for. This creates a certain randomness to the results.

And then there’s the obvious: All the women lost. That includes Nolan, by far the most well-known and qualified candidate outside of Benning and Gov. Phil Scott, and Anya Tynio, who was the VTGOP’s nominee for Congress in 2018, won more than 70,000 votes, and presumably carried forward some measure of name recognition. Not to mention Ericka Redic, who’s been around longer and been far more active than Madden.

Combine ignorance and misogyny, and the results fall neatly into place. In the absence of actual knowledge, Republican voters opted for men whenever possible and otherwise flipped a coin. That is the only loglcal framework that makes sense of the Republican primary results.

Okay, back to the woeful state of the VTGOP ticket. Since last we met, we’ve had the embarrassing failure to find somebody — anybody — to run for treasurer. (Well, they thought they had failed 2012 treasurer candidate Wendy Wilton on the hook for a repeat performance, but after initially agreeing to run she backed out, bwahahaha.) We’ve also had the sad last act of the Congressional farce, with the Vermont Republican State Committee refusing to support Madden, who nonetheless remains on their ticket.

And lest we forget, the Republicans initially got financial analyst Kevin Divney to run for treasurer, but he bowed out after Seven Days reported that he’d been arrested on suspicion of DUI. That is, he was cited on May 11, he formally launched his candidacy two weeks later, apparently without telling Republican officials about that DUI, and then dropped out four days after that.

The VTGOP did manage to find men with pulses* for auditor and attorney general, but how much of an improvement is that? The candidate for auditor is Rick Morton, who finished out of the running in the Windham Senate primary but got backdoored onto the ballot when primary winner and fascist truck driver Mark Coester declined the honor. Now Morton is running for two offices in one year, which ought to produce results in line with his previous electoral sallies: a 50-point loss to Rep. Emilie Kornheiser in 2020 and a 35-point loss to Treasurer Beth Pearce in 2018.

*”Men Without Hats” tribute band, coming soon to Nectar’s Ballroom.

Oh, and Morton says the main reason for his Senate bid is that he’s anti-abortion and wants to bear the flag for the feckless foes of Article 22. That’ll play well in Windham County.

And then there’s Mike “Who?” Tagliavia, the Republican candidate for attorney general. He seems to have no social media presence, not even on Facebook. About the only trace you can find of him in Vermont media is an anti-masker comment he posted below a Rob Roper commentary on True North Reports in which he pooh-poohed Covid-19 as a virus with “a 99.83% survival rate,” which even if true, would consign more than a million Americans to dirt naps. Collateral damage, I guess.

Morton is positively famous by comparison.

There’s one final embarrassment for the party that once ruled Vermont for more than a century straight. The Democratic primary attracted 102,408 voters. The Republicans managed a mere 30,560 — less than one-third the Democratic total. Of course, the Dems’ ballot was full of compelling races featuring first-rate candidates while the Republicans mostly had H. Brooke Paige.

But in 2020, the Republican primary attracted 58,626 voters, and that wasn’t exactly a Viking cruise buffet. They had four unknowns running for Congress, Scott Milne and Meg Hansen “headlining” the race for lieutenant governor, Paige running for attorney general and secretary of state, Carolyn Branagan running unopposed for treasurer, and nobody at all on the ballot for Auditor. (P/D incumbent Doug Hoffer took the Republican nomination with 1,076 write-in votes.)

Long story short, the Republicans in 2020 had a dismaying lack of competitive races and little to no name recognition outside of Milne and, of course, Phil Scott, and yet they tallied almost twice as many primary votes as they did this year.

Seems like solid evidence that even to its own base, the Vermont Republican Party has become largely irrelevant. The dismal status of their statewide ticket ensures that things will get even worse before they get any better. VTGOP chair Paul Dame told WCAX-TV that “There were some things that worked but the timing did not work out this year.”

I challenge him to name one thing, just one, that worked.

6 thoughts on “Sad Little Elephant

  1. Richard Hyde

    Come on, John! The Republicans are such easy pickings. Why not address the real problem? Democrats overwhelmingly are going to vote for Phil Scott instead of Brenda Siegel. Who cares if the Democratic Party apparatus of Vermont is strong when the Democratic populace votes to the right for Scott?

    Reply
    1. John S. Walters Post author

      I’ve done that and I’ll do it again (today, in fact), but somebody’s gotta keep an eye on those f*ckers. It’s like walking and chewing gum at the same time.

      Reply
  2. H Brooke Paige

    John, sometimes you remind me of the folks who feel compelled to slow to a crawl as they pass the big auto pile-up on the interstate. I find it interesting that you remain silent on your Progressive buddies who, having failed to gain traction in the 90s, decided to hijack the Democratic Party and chase the conservative Democrats off the ballot and out of the State House !

    Another example of the damage created by Vermont’s Open Primary chaos.

    I won’t detail all of the errors in your missive, however one glaring example will suffice to make my point. You stated that: ” , , , and nobody at all on the ballot for Auditor. (P/D incumbent Doug Hoffer took the Republican nomination with 1,076 write-in votes.)” This is simply not true. Hoffer did have a competitor in the 2020 General Election and that fact is interesting in that the candidate was placed on the ballot by a handful of Progressives. Hoffer was the D/R candidate not designated as the P/D candidate as you stated. Hoffer was forced to swallow hard and accepted the Republican nomination (or, if you like, refused to decline the nomination) since he knew that the Republicans would nominate Linda Joy Sullivan to replace him if he withdrew. Linda Joy and her Republican supporters in Rutland had asked me to step aside in that race so that she would have an opportunity to win the primary, which she would have, except for Progressives abandoning their own ballot and writing in Hoffer on the Republican Primary Ballot AND the efforts of Hoffer’s Republican buddy Vince Illuzzi who staged a modest, but sufficient, write-in effort against Linda Joy. (The Progressives abandoned their own ballot in numbers so great that Hoffer LOST the Progressive primary to Cris Ericson who became Hoffers only competitor in the General Election. Final Score Hoffer (D/R) 266,445 and Ericson (P) 48,731 – the best showing for a “pure” Progressive on the Statewide Ballot !

    Reply
  3. H Brooke Paige

    John wrote “Long story short, the Republicans in 2018 had a dismaying lack of competitive races and little to no name recognition outside of Milne and, of course, Phil Scott,”

    What race was Milne competing for in 2018 !

    Larry Zupan for U.S. Senate
    Anya Tynio for U.S. Representative
    Phil Scott ran for Governor.
    Don Turner for Lt. Governor.
    Richard Morton for Treasurer
    Richard Kenyon for Auditor of Accounts
    Janssen Willhoit for Attorney General

    but . . . no Scott Milne !

    Reply
  4. H Brooke Paige

    As to your recollections on the 2020 Hoffer Auditor race . . .

    You stated that: ” , , , and nobody at all on the ballot for Auditor. (P/D) incumbent Doug Hoffer took the Republican nomination with 1,076 write-in votes.” This is simply not true. Hoffer did have a competitor in the 2020 General Election and that fact is interesting in that the candidate was placed on the ballot by a handful of Progressives. Hoffer was the D/R candidate not designated as the P/D candidate as you stated. Hoffer was forced to swallow hard and accepted the Republican nomination (or, if you like, refused to decline the nomination) since he knew that the Republicans would nominate Linda Joy Sullivan to replace him if he withdrew. Linda Joy and her Republican supporters in Rutland had asked me to step aside in that primary race so that she would have an opportunity to win the primary, which she would have, except for Progressives abandoning their own ballot and writing in Hoffer on the Republican Primary Ballot AND the efforts of Hoffer’s Republican buddy Vince Illuzzi who staged a modest, but sufficient, write-in effort against Linda Joy in the NEK. (The Progressives abandoned their own ballot in numbers so great that Hoffer LOST the Progressive primary to Cris Ericson who became Hoffer;s only competitor in the General Election.) Final Score Hoffer (D/R) 266,445 and Cris Ericson (P) 48,731 – the best showing for a Progressive on the Statewide Ballot !

    Reply

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