Monthly Archives: October 2022

Stealth Conservatives: A Formerly Respectable Attorney

Here’s Tom Kelly, candidate for Vermont House in Barre City, former Washington County state’s attorney, former Lamoille County deputy state’s attorney, since reduced (of his own volition) to addressing a crowd of anti-vaxxers.

How the respectable have fallen.

Kelly served two four-year terms as Washington County’s top prosecutor. His six-year tenure at Lamoille County ended with his firing in November 2021 due to his refusal to take the Covid vaccine or wear a mask at work. His talk before the anti-vax group Health Choice Vermont happened a couple of weeks later, and it’s the usual overheated rhetoric about freedom and tyranny.

Here’s his measured view of the vaccine requirement: “Are we in the midst of another attempt to enslave America? To enslave Vermont?”

He also blasted his boss’ “decision to require me to wear a mask at all worksites (like a proverbial leper) and submit to periodic testing.”

Oh, the tyranny. God help this man if he should ever suffer actual tyranny. He’s way too soft for that.

The usual campaign coverage, with one notable exception, completely fails to chronicle his hardcore anti-vax views.

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Joe Benning Shows Up in Surprising Company

Note: Sen. Benning has weighed in with a comment. It’s in the Comments, but I’ve also added it to the end of this post.

So there’s this right-wing fringe organization called Vermont Stands Up which you’ve probably never heard of, and neither did I until a couple days ago. It’s a freedom-lovin’, vaccine-hatin’, government-shrinkin’, gang o’ rascals who say the most pressing issues facing Vermont are “the COVID crisis of the past two years, the ensuing mandates, sanctioned discrimination against the unvaccinated, and threats to informed consent and bodily autonomy.” I’m sure we all agree.

VSU also promises “to provide authoritative resources, guidance, and outlets of support for community action.” We’ll get to their idea of “authoritative resources” shortly, and you won’t want to miss it, but first…

The organization’s website has a page called Freedom Champions. It’s a long list of approved candidates. Many of these Champions have appeared in my “stealth conservative” list and others await their time in the spotlight. John Klar is on the list, naturally. Stephen Bellows, 9/11 truther and graphene eradicator. Lynn and Lloyd Dike, two of the rabid clan of Republican candidates in Addison County. Rebecca Pitre, who sees Drag Queen Story Hour as “an atrocity.” Rob North, who says we could end Lake Champlain pollution by unleashing the farmers. Nichole Loati, who believes the housing crisis could be solved by unleashing the landlords. To name just a few.

And there, right in the middle of this list of VSU-approved candidates, is Sen. Joe Benning, Republican candidate for lieutenant governor who’s often referred to in the press as a moderate. Not true; he’s very conservative, but he’s not a nut.

So how is it that he appears on this list of Vermont Stands Up-approved Freedom Champions? It can’t be just because he opposes mandatory motorcycle helmets.

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Couldn’t Happen to a Nicer Bunch of Nimrods

Remember this little number? The newspaper ad placed by a bunch of Addison County Republican candidates with the long list of extremist talking points? Fentanyl in Halloween candy? Gender-affirming medical care is human mutilation? Carbon dioxide is good for the planet?

Funny thing. Five of the seven “co-signers” tell the Addison Independent that they did not sign it, and do not agree with the ad’s assertions.

They are all deliberately vague about which ones they disagree with because the ad is, at best, only about 10% kookier than they are, and they don’t want to offend the QAnon types in their base.

The person responsible for the ad is the kookiest of them all, state Senate candidate Robert Burton, last seen wowing an audience (especially Sen. Ruth Hardy) with his boldfaced assertion that “Climate change is a hoax.”

The details of this fiasco, per the Addy Indy, are simply delicious. But the story leaves a couple of big questions unanswered.

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This Meeting of the Mutual Degradation Society Will Now Come to Order

John Klar and Phil Scott, two peas in a pod.

Scott, so respected as a man of principle, has thrown his principles out the window as he desperately seeks to block the Democrats from winning veto-proof majorities.

Klar is on a lower perch with less at stake, but this is a stunning self-abasement for him as well, He claims to operate on nothing but his own curious set of principles. But after years of railing against the Quisling of moderation, even seeking to challenge Scott in the 2020 primary, Klar is happy to get into bed with the governor to win a seat in the state Senate.

This picture does, after all, constitute a mutual endorsement.

(By the way, love the shoutout to Lenore Broughton’s doomed political action committee in the headline.)

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Felker Video Gets the Zapruder Treatment

Hey, remember the Felker Kerfuffle? When the anti-trans chair of the Burlington Republican Committee accused attendees at this year’s Pride Parade of assaulting poor old Fred Sergeant, Stonewall vet turned cranky anti-trans old man? The alleged incident got a huge amount of attention in the teeny-tiny far-right ecosystem of Vermont journalism. At a September event held by the Pride Center, Felker tried to wring more juice from the lemon by leading a small band of protesters defending Sargeant’s honor.

Felker made his accusations. There was seemingly no evidence, so it seemed like a Rashomon situation that would never be resolved.

Turns out, Felker videotaped the entire Pride Parade “assault.” He never publicly released the video even as he continued to cry foul because it shows no assault by any legal standard. Certainly nothing that threatened Sargeant’s personal safety in any way. If there was anything like a physical attack, Felker failed to capture it on video.

I know this because someone got hold of the video and posted the entire 18 minutes on YouTube. Feel free to watch it yourself. I have, and I took extensive notes. You’ll pardon me if I go on at length. But there are no word counts in blogging, so I can Zapruder this baby if I see fit.

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Stealth Conservatives: Who’s the Stealthiest One of All?

Ohh, there he is again, Smilin’ Phil just having a grand old time with another stealth conservative. Starting to be a pattern.

Except in this case, not only did the governor pose for a photo, he met with the candidate “to discuss campaign strategies.”

The gentleman on the right, photographically and ideologically, is Rob North, Republican candidate for House in the Addison-3 district currently represented by Democrats Matt Birong and DIane Lanpher.

North is thought to be the VTGOP’s best hope of avoiding a complete shutout in Addison County, and you can tell he listened to the governor because his campaign is swaddled in a thick protective coating of performative moderation. Also, for some reason, North has virtually no online footprint. He’s got a completely anodyne campaign Facebook page, but no personal social media accounts at all.

Unfortunately, there are cracks in the façade. He went and opened his yap at a candidates’ forum and showed himself to be an opponent of climate action, a free-market absolutist, and possessor of some rather… unique… views on water pollution. Also, North sent Birong and Lanpher a couple of rabidly anti-abortion emails last winter, before he became a candidate. Also also, North is an active member of a far-right evangelical denomination that bars women from church leadership, prohibits divorce, and believes the Earth is 6,000 years old.

But first, his campaign website. You know how Republicans like to run on “restoring balance” to the Statehouse? Well, North’s website is “balancedvermont.com”. He’s all about the balance. In an odd way it makes sense; he’s far right enough to cancel out a couple dozen Democrats.

This is where we’re at. Phil Scott would rather have a misogynistic Young Earth climate denier in the House than deal with a Democratic supermajority.

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Un-Stealth Conservatives: Old Man Yells At Cloud

I was on my way to compiling another “stealth conservative” post (coming soon) when I came across this guy: Robert Burton, retired ER doc, Republican candidate for state Senate in the Addison County district, and a climate change denier so ardent, so forceful, that he made Ruth Hardy’s eyes bug out her head.

Well, I can’t swear that his rhetoric and her reaction are cause/effect or random coincidence, but I can tell you that Burton’s rhetoric could make any reasonable person’s eyes pop.

Burton has no chance of winning in a race against Democratic incumbents Hardy; and Chris Bray, but his commentary is just too delightful to pass up.

The occasion pictured above was an Addison County candidates’ forum held on September 22 featuring all the House and Senate candidates from county districts. Pretty unwieldy event. Not much time for any single candidate to stand out. Still, a few of them them managed the trick. None more so than Dr. Burton here.

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Stealth Conservatives: Just a Cozy Little Nest of Libertarians

Must be something funny in the water up Lamoille County way. The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Libertarian Party of Vermont claims a total of six candidates for the Legislature, all of them running as Republican/Libertarians. They include previous stealth conservative Rebecca Pitre, House candidate Spencer Sherman, and Senate candidate (and perennial also-ran) Dexter Lefavour.

The other three are all from Lamoille County. And they’re running in a pair of two-seat districts, Lamoille-Washington and Lamoille-2, that have been reliably Democratic for a while now. For the VTGOP to be running Libertarians in these districts speaks of a certain amount of desperation. That, or the VTGOP mainstream is the same body of water as the Libertarian puddle. Lamoille-2 is currently represented by Democrats Kate Donnally and Dan Noyes; Lamoille-Washington’s sole incumbent candidate is Avram Patt. His running mate is Saudia Lamont.

Pictured above with putative moderate Gov. Phil Scott is Nichole Loati, candidate in Lamoille-Washington. Her ticketmate is Ben Olsen, who doesn’t bear the Libertarian brand but seems to agree with Loati on pretty much everything. The R/L’s in Lamoille-2 are Richard Bailey and Mac Teale.

This post will focus on Loati, but these four candidates seem like peas in an ideological pod. Loati’s campaign website reveals little of this. She presents herself as “a married mama of six and a small business owner” and describes her politics as “fiscally conservative, socially moderate and hyper-focused on America’s constitution.” (Lower case hers)

But then you get to the details and it becomes clear that while she’s definitely fiscally conservative, she isn’t that socially liberal. Really, it’s hard to find any distinction between Loati and your typical stealth conservative.

Makes you wonder, again, why Phil Scott endorsed her. You might also wonder why she’s been endorsed by other pillars of Republican moderation: former governor Jim Douglas, outgoing state Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, and Lamoille’s perpetual Senator, Richard Westman. Is it time to stop pretending there are two kinds of Republicans, the extremists and the moderates? They’re all on the same side this fall.

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LIe Down With Dogs…

Ah, what a happy group of Republicans! There’s Gov. Phil Scott, Lite-Gov candidate Sen. Joe Benning, and U.S. Senate candidate Gerald Malloy. I can’t identify all of the other people, but I know quite a few.

Next to the governor is state Sen. Russ Ingalls, almost certainly the most conservative person in the Senate. The people in the back row behind Benning are House candidates Lloyd and Lynn Dike, state Rep. (and VTGOP vice chair) Samantha Lefebvre, and House candidate Joe Gervais. Front row, yellow shirt, state Senate candidate and far-right rabble-rouser John Klar, who posted the picture on his Facebook page. The three on the right are three House candidates: Rob North, James McClay, and Jon Christiano. (North is the subject of an upcoming “steath conservative” post.)

That’s a whole bunch of extremists in the company of Smilin’ Phil.

I previously wrote that the extremists have taken over the Vermont Republican Party. They’re in party leadership, they’re on the state and county committees, and they constitute a goodly share of the Republican ticket.

Until now, Scott has kept his distance. Not any more. He has made common cause with the nutbars. Phil Scott owns this Republican Party and should be made to answer for every one of the people in this photograph.

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Big Ol’ Cop Whines Like a Baby

Oh noes, Northfield Police Chief John Helfant has a bad case of the hurt fee-fees. Helfant, who has somehow kept his job despite being labeled as an unreliable witness by the Washington County State’s Attorney, claims he’s a victim of retaliation for his bigoted comments about transgender athletes.

Let’s back up a minute. Helfant felt it necessary to wade into the controversy triggered by a disgrace-to-journalism report by WCAX-TV, since taken down and banished to purgatory, about the situation with the Randolph High School girls’ volleyball team. WCAX’s original report, for which it has failed to apologize and devoutly wishes would go away forever, featured one interview with an athlete who, at the bidding of her mother, went public with a complaint about a transgender team member. By all other accounts, she made up some shit about being harassed by the trans girl.

Helfant, who previously made a fuss about a Black Lives Matter flag at the high school, wrote a letter to school officials complaining about the equal accommodation offered to the trans girl and accusing the district of abetting criminal activity. Just to be sure it went public, he offered it up for publication by the Vermont Daily Chronicle. In it, Helfant repeatedly referred to trans girls as “biological males” or even as “male students” and called for them to be segregated in locker rooms and bathrooms. He wrote that the district might be criminal accessories to voyeurism for allowing the trans girl — oh, pardon me, “male student” — to use the gender-appropriate locker room.

The district has temporarily removed him as a volunteer coach for the girls’ soccer team, citing unfinished paperwork related to the customary background check for school coaches. You know, because there have been so many instances of youth coaches sexually abusing their charges, background checks seem like a good idea, no exceptions, even if you’re a police chief. Or, say, a Catholic priest.

Maybe it’s retaliation, I don’t know. But if I were running the district, Helfant would be kicked to the curb for good.

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