Author Archives: John S. Walters

About John S. Walters

Writer, editor, sometime radio personality, author of "Roads Less Traveled: Visionary New England Lives."

The LG Race Is a Good Test of Endorsement Power

Of all the contested Democratic primaries up for grabs on Tuesday, one race has effectively split the Democratic base in two more or less equal parts. Well, equal in import if not in numbers.

All of the liberal and progressive interest groups — labor, environmental, political — have all lined up behind former lieutenant governor David Zuckerman. They include VPIRG Votes, Vermont Conservation Voters, Sierra Club Vermont chapter, Sunrise Montpelier, Vermont State Employees Association, Vermont State Labor Council, AFSCME Local 93, American Federation of Teachers, Sheet Metal Workers Local 93, Rights & Democracy, Renew U.S., and Our Revolution.

At least two unions have not endorsed: Vermont NEA and the Vermont Troopers Association.

As for former Rep. Kitty Toll, the “Endorsements’ page on her website includes no organizations of any kind. She has an impressive list of individuals on her side, but none of the groups that normally support Democrats.

This is not true of any other primary race I know of. The groups are split between candidates.

What are those organizational endorsements worth? That’s the question, isn’t it?

Continue reading

Sarah Fair George Needs to Kick Ted Kenney’s Ass All Over Chittenden County

The ability of TV cops and lawyers to mete out justice in a cool 42 minutes notwithstanding, America’s criminal justice system is an unholy mess and a human rights catastrophe. We lead the planet in prison population and incarceration rate.

According to World Population Review, the United States is the only country on earth with more than two million people behind bars. China is second in the counting stat with 1.7 million — but they have a much larger population, so its incarceration rate is pretty reasonable, actually.

Our rate is, hip hip hooray, number one in the world. 629 of every 100,000 Americans is behind bars. We’re the only country over 600. There are only four other countries over 500, and it’s not a group you want to be part of. The four are Rwanda, Turkmenistan, El Salvador, and Cuba.

And yet we often live in fear of crime and violence. Funny, huh?

The system badly needs an overhaul. Progressive prosecutors around the country are trying to nibble away at the worst excesses of the system. They need to be supported and validated by the voters.

Which is why incumbent Sarah Fair George not only has to win the Democratic primary for Chittenden County State’s Attorney, but she has to win by the widest possible margin. Ted Kenney has to lose, and lose badly.

Continue reading

Well, Digger Has Belatedly Removed That Dwyer Essay

Three days after it posted a thinly-veiled endorsement of Molly Gray by an advisor to the Molly Gray campaign, VTDigger has thought better of it and taken it down.

Not sure why they did it, but to judge from the above Editor’s Note, lawyers may have been involved.

Ouch.

For those just joining us, on August 3 VTDigger posted a commentary by Carolyn Dwyer, longtime Pat Leahy consigliere and advisor to the Gray campaign, that laid out the attributes Dwyer wants to see in our next U.S. Representative. Those attributes closely tracked with Gray’s own biography. Dwyer also tried to posit Becca Balint as an “ideological warrior,” which is laughable considering that Balint has spent the past six years in Senate caucus leadership. In that position her first duty is to keep the caucus united, not impose her own policy vision. And the biographical note accompanying the essay failed to disclose Dwyer’s role in the Gray campaign.

I wrote up this adventure in journalistic carelessness soon after it happened. The next day, Digger rewrote the biographical note to include a reference to the Dwyer/Gray relationship.

Which only made posting the piece look worse, because it was a tacit admission that Dwyer was, in fact, promoting her candidate on Digger’s commentary page. That’s a no-no, and Digger has apparently realized that only three days late.

Continue reading

A Ridiculously Deep Dive Into Molly Gray’s Money Pit

More signs of flailing from Lt. Gov. Molly Gray’s campaign for Congress. She’s now attempting the astounding feat of presenting herself as simultaneously (1) a paragon of Vermont values and (2) a Washington insider.

I dunno. Simone Biles might balk at that bit of gymnastics.

Gray’s last pre-primary (read: last) campaign ad leans heavily on her ties to Sen. Patrick Leahy, prominently featured, and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, who is named but not shown. Maybe Welch is being more judicious than his Senate colleagues and staying out of the primary. Or maybe, just maybe, he prefers Gray’s opponent?

But that’s not why I called you here on this muggy day. My purpose is to look at a couple of issues with Gray’s fundraising. The first is the portion of her war chest (obligatory “war chest” reference) that she can’t spend before the primary. The second is how much money this living embodiment of Vermont values has raised from inside the Beltway.

Hint: It’s a lot.

Continue reading

VTDigger Lets Carolyn Dwyer Throw a Dog Whistle Party — UPDATED

And updated again three days later in a separate post!

Curious thing happened today on VTDigger’s online dumpster commentary page. It was noteworthy for both its branding and its content.

The piece in question was written by Carolyn Dwyer, longtime Pat Leahy confidante and campaign manager. The headline: “What we need as Vermont’s federal delegation changes.”

What we need, according to Dwyer, is an unidentified individual who looks like Molly Gray, walks like Molly Gray, and quacks like Molly Gray. I assume Digger has a policy against actual endorsements on its commentary page, so Dwyer resorted to this cunning bit of subterfuge.

Before we get to the substance, I must address the brief identifier at the top of the essay.

This commentary is by Carolyn Dwyer of Burlington, a 25-year veteran of local and national Democratic politics. She has managed campaigns for Sen. Leahy and Congressman Welch and supported countless candidates for office at all levels in Vermont. She is not employed by any candidates for office in 2024.

Wait a minute. “Not employed by any candidates for office in 2024”?

What the blue hell?

UPDATE! Did someone at Digger read this piece? They’ve retroactively changed the Dwyer bio. Details below.

Continue reading

Vermont’s Anti-Abortion Movement Just Acknowledged It Can’t Win

The Vermont Right to Life Committee, which has led the losing battle against abortion in our state for decades, is strangely absent from the campaign over Article 22.

Or so it would seem.

In a tacit acknowledgment that their brand is irredeemably tainted, anti-abortion activists have gone under cover. They’ve created a new group with the anodyne monicker of Vermonters for Good Government Action to lead the fight against Article 22. They’ve adopted rhetoric that never expresses blanket opposition to abortion. No fetus pictures, nothing whatsoever about life beginning at conception, no screaming about The Abortion Industry.

Because hey, who could possibly oppose Good Government Action?

But look at who’s funding this thing: ultraconservative donor Lenore Broughton has dropped a cool $100,000, ardent prolife donor Carol Breuer gave $50,000, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington, which long ago forfeited any claim to moral superiority, kicked in another 50 G’s. The rest of the human race donated a total of $14,039.

Also, there on the “Treasurer” line of VGGA’s campaign finance filing is the name “Sharon Toborg,” who is merely the second most prominent (behind Mary Beerworth) anti-abortion activist in Vermont and a stalwart leader of Vermont Right to Life.

The one to watch is Broughton, who once spent more than a million bucks in a futile bid to swing the 2012 election for the Republicans. She could top that figure easily. I think we should expect that she will.

The problem with Broughton’s backing is, well, it’s kind of a curse.

Continue reading

Pre-Primary Campaign Finance: AG and SoS

Previously: Gov and Lite-Gov.

Well, the lively Democratic primary contests for attorney general and secretary of state continue to be lively, according to the latest campaign finance reports.

…with one sad exception. To judge by his campaign finance filing, Montpelier City Clerk John Odum has pretty much folded his bid for secretary of state. He’d been trailing in the money race with his two competitors, Deputy Secretary Chris Winters and Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas, but in July he fell off a cliff. Odum raised $375 (from four donors) and spent $653. His only donation of more than $100 came from Montpelier property owner Fred Bashara, who kicked in $250.

As for the front-runners, Winters has modest edges on Copeland Hanzas with one exception: He has more than $25,000 in cash on hand to SCH’s $4,545. What he’s going to accomplish with that money between now and next Tuesday, I don’t know. If he loses, he may regret opportunities missed. The winner, after all, won’t need much of a bankroll to defeat whoever the Republicans dig up. And unspent cash won’t do the loser any good at all.

From the top: Winters raised $13,100 in July for a campaign total of $73,763. Copeland Hanzas netted $12,004 to reach $51,116 for the campaign. Not bad considering that she got a late start in the race.

Continue reading

Pre-Primary Campaign Finance: Gov and Lite Gov

Hey, the final pre-primary campaign finance filings are in! Let’s start with the races for governor and lieutenant governor.

The topline in the governor’s race is that Phil Scott isn’t even trying. For the LG race, it’s two royals and a bunch of paupers.

The incumbent governor, sitting blithely atop some crazy good poll numbers, came as close as he could to not having a campaign at all. He raised $12,660 in July, bringing his campaign total to just under $50,000. Scott took in a mere 16 donations in the entire month of July.

That $12,660 included $4,000 from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and another $4,000 from Barre City Councilor (and former mayor) Thom Lauzon. The entire rest of the human race gave Scott less than $5,000.

His Democratic opponent, Brenda Siegel, worked hard for not a lot more money. She raised $15,786 in July and $56,471 for the campaign. But while Scott had only 16 donors giving an average $813, Siegel had 191 donors in July, for an average donation of $83. Thus the problem with running a people’s campaign: You need a ton of small donors to make up for a handful on the other side.

Continue reading

Here’s the Last Thing Vermont’s Anti-Abortion Movement Needs

A rift may be developing in our state’s tiny anti-abortion movement, which already is vastly outnumbered and vastly outresourced in its campaign against the reproductive rights amendment known as Article 22. The last thing they need is an internal dispute.

On Saturday the Vermont Daily Chronicle posted a written exchange between far-right activist Jim Sexton and Mary Beerworth, longtime leader of the Vermont Right to Life Committee. In his letter, Sexton upbraided Beerworth for endorsing Christina Nolan for U.S. Senate over the thoroughly anti-abortion Gerald Malloy, and for making a donation to the Nolan campaign. He called on Beerworth to either “come out Publicly and disassociate from Ms. Nolan and her campaign, or to resign from VT Right to Life.”

Beerworth replied that she made the endorsement because Nolan is (1) staunchly opposed to Article 22 and (2) the only Republican with a chance of beating “100% pro-abortion and 100% pro-Article 22, Peter Welch (D)” in November.

It’s a rare moment of pragmatism from an activist known for her doggedness in fronting lost causes. And it comes at a time when pragmatism is a dirty word for many on the right.

Continue reading

“Undecided” Polling Strong in Lite-Gov Race

I suppose it’s only befitting that the race for Vermont’s Warm Bucket of Piss has produced a lot of voters who don’t have a preference or even know who’s running.

The UNH Survey Center Poll Sponsored by WCAX-TV dropped its final piece on Friday, covering the races for governor and lieutenant governor. Nothing new in the gubernatorial; Scott has a commanding lead and he gets substantially better job approval ratings from Democrats than Republicans. (The Democratic voters professed to care more about climate change than anything else, which shows either how little they’re paying attention to the policy debate or how much they’re lying about caring.) Democrat Brenda Siegel remains a heavy underdog, but I think she’s used to being underestimated.

The LG headlines were all about the leaders, Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman and Sen. Joe Benning, but the real news was the number of undecideds. Both races remain in doubt with the primary just around the corner. The front-runners have the edge, but not as much of an edge as expected.

Continue reading