Category Archives: 2016 election

Two-Biter Bites Again

Remember my pre-election post about Vermont’s Two-Biters? The Progressives who ran in Democratic primaries, lost, and then ran as Progressives?

Well, one of them cost the Democrats a seat in the House.

Up in the two-seat Lamoille-Washington district, which stretches from Morrisville to Worcester along Route 12, Democrat David Yacovone and Republican Gary Nolan were elected. Incumbent Democrat Avram Patt finished a close third.

Prog-turned-Dem-turned-Prog Marci Young siphoned off more than enough votes to elect the Republican Nolan. The final returns:

Yacovone 2,449

Nolan 1,915

Patt 1,698

Young   865

Patt lost by 219 votes, roughly one-fourth of Young’s total. I think we can safely assume that without Young in the race, he would have picked up enough additional votes to finish second.

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Freeway Vermont, Two-Lane Vermont

Something struck me in last night’s election returns. Specifically, the two-seat switch from R to D in the state senate, the Republicans losing their last remaining seats in Chittenden and Washington Counties.

Those two seats had been held for years by moderate Republicans Diane Snelling and Bill Doyle. In the absence of those popular stalwarts, it’s hard to see the R’s being competitive in Chittenden or Washington anytime soon. Meanwhile, the VTGOP strengthened its grip in Franklin and Rutland Counties, which used to be prime D/R battlegrounds.

I see a clear political topography emerging. There’s Freeway Vermont, which stretches along I-89 from northern Chittenden County to White River Junction, and along I-91 from Thetford or thereabouts all the way to the Massachusetts border. That’s solid Democratic territory, with Republicans struggling to even recruit candidates, let alone win.

Then there’s Two-Lane Vermont, the back roads and small towns plus a few cities that have been, to a large extent, left behind by the tide of progress. Rutland is the prime example. I include St. Johnsbury, St. Albans, and Barre in that number.

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WOOOOOOO!!!!

For the first time, America has elected a member of the WWE Hall of Fame to the presidency.

Yes, Donald Trump is enshrined in that (so far) imaginary Valhalla of pro wrestling legends due to his starring role in WrestleMania XXIII (which, fittingly, involved hair).

It all fits together, in fact; about the only way I can frame Trump’s victory is in pro wrestling terms. But he’s not Vince McMahon or Stone Cold Steve Austin; he’s this guy.

flair

For those unfamiliar, that’s Ric Flair, legendary grappler who proudly calls himself The Dirtiest Player In The Game. That stylin’, profilin’, eye-gougin’, low-blowin’, referee-distractin’, 16-time World Champion, the lifelong bad guy who nonetheless captured the hearts of wrestling fans.

And then there’s the womanizing, the preposterous hair, the impenetrable shell of narcissism resistant to any personal, legal, or financial problems. Donald Trump is Ric Flair.

Think I’m exaggerating?

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Governor Scott and the Political Class

What was it I said? Oh, yeah…

I think Sue Minter is our next governor.

Yup, that’s it.

In my partial defense, I got just about everything else right: the breakdown of the new Legislature, the failure of the Republican ticket below the top line. But my prediction on the biggest race in the state couldn’t have been more wrong. I went further than most in predicting a Sue Minter victory, but I don’t think anybody — not even Republicans — saw a near-double-digit win for Scott. Heck, Vermont Pundit Emeritus Eric Davis said it was “too close to call.”

I warned you I wasn’t very good at predictions. I hope I’m a little better at analysis. Here goes.

After an epic-length campaign lasting a year and a half… after the spending of insane amounts of money by Vermont standards… after a unified Democratic homestretch with a healthy assist from Bernie Sanders… after a tsunami of outside money and endless TV ads and mailers… we might as well have had no campaign at all. The fundamentals going in — Phil Scott’s personal popularity, fatigue with the Shumlin administration, and Vermonters’ clear pattern of switching parties when there’s a vacancy in the corner office — were the deciding factors at the end.

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So, predictions.

Let’s get something out there up front. I suck at predictions. I’m not particularly plugged into The People or the political establishment of either party. I’m not a statistical expert; I can’t evaluate the polls for insights and/or flaws. I tend to let my heart get in the way. (Yes, I do have a heart. I’ve been tested.) In 2014, I confidently foresaw an easy re-election win for Peter Shumlin. Which is about the only real test for a would-be prognosticator in my roughly five years of being a Vermont Political Observer.

So stack up the disclaimers like firewood before I take a timorous tiptoe out on a short limb and say…

I think Sue Minter is our next governor.

It’ll be close. Might even need to be affirmed by the Legislature, should Bill Lee draw enough votes to keep her under 50 percent.

Up until three weeks ago, I thought Phil Scott would win. Since then, the momentum is all Minter’s.

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Pushing forward on ballot access

The early voting numbers have been strong, and they took a huge leap over the weekend. On Friday, the Secretary of State’s office reported that 75,342 Vermonters had cast early ballots.

The total as of Monday afternoon? 89,411. That’s more than 14,000 ballots received in one day. Ballots can be returned until the polls close tonight; there are another 9300 early ballots outstanding, so the final early-voting total could approach 100,000. Which would represent nearly 30 percent of the total electorate.

(UPDATE: As of 9:30 this morning, returned ballots are up to 91,593. More than 100,000 people have requested ballots. We’re virtually certain to break the record.)

It would also break our all-time record of 94,663 early ballots cast in 2008.

Early voting is becoming the norm, not the exception. Which is logical; our tradition of holding elections on a single weekday is, frankly, ridiculous. You’d think it was designed to keep voters away.

Vermont has taken many positive steps to simplify voting.

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The Progs’ irony trap

I just realized that it’s been a long time since I’d given any thought to the Progressive Party as a force in state politics.

What reminded me was Terri Hallenbeck’s piece about the Stanaks, “a family divided over a Vermont election.” It’s the story of a stalwart progressive (and Progressive) family that’s gone in different directions this cycle. Paterfamilias Ed Stanak, motivated by opposition to ridgeline wind, is backing Phil Scott. Daughter Lluvia Stanak is working on the Sue Minter campaign. Her sister Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, chair of the Vermont Progressive Party, is officially neutral.

That’s because the Progs opted to sit out the gubernatorial race, failing to field a candidate of their own and refusing to endorse anyone else. I vaguely recall knowing that at some earlier point, but I’d managed to completely forget it until now.

The non-endorsement kinda made sense at the time. Sue Minter looked like an offshoot of the Shumlin administration, which had burned the Progs twice over by snagging their endorsement in 2010 and 2012 and then bailing on their number-one issue, single-payer health care. The Progs were, understandably, twice bitten and thrice shy.

It looks a lot worse now, what with Prog stalwart David Zuckerman fully on board with the Democratic ticket and Bernie Sanders going all-out to boost the Minter campaign. Indeed, the Progressive Party looks out of touch and almost irrelevant.

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