Category Archives: 2022 election

Voldemort, Palpatine To Hold Fundraiser For Christina Nolan

Well, well. On Monday afternoon, we learned that Republican U.S. Senate candidate Christina Nolan would hold an all-star D.C. fundraiser Tuesday night featuring… uh… Mitch McConnell, Bill Barr, and a bunch of other Republicans.

On Monday evening, Politico reported that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade.

This ought to stick to Nolan like hot tar for the duration of her bid to succeed Patrick Leahy. Nolan, that alleged moderate Republican, is jetting off to our nation’s capital so Mitch Fucking McConnell can raise money for her campaign.

McConnell is the man most responsible for this Supreme Court decision. He is responsible for shackling women to their rapists or abusers and forcing them to choose between giving birth or seeking illegal and likely dangerous off–the-books abortions. He is the man who stole two Supreme Court seats and paved the way for this revolting development.

For those just joining us, McConnell blocked action on President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland for almost a full year, leaving the seat open for Brett “I Like Beer” Kavanaugh — and then frogmarched Amy Coney Barrett to confirmation in record time before the 2020 election could take that power away from him.

And Nolan is going to take his money, come back to Vermont, and pretend that nothing is wrong? No fucking way.

(Apologies for readers with tender sensibilities, but there are times when nothing but bad language will suffice. This is one of those times. We’re just getting started.)

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A Potentially Wacky Race for a Newly Created Senate Seat

Whose idea was THIS?

In the category of “Get your popcorn ready,” no state Senate race is likely to outdo the contest shaping up in the newly-created Chittenden North district, a.k.a. “The Democrats’ Gift to the VTGOP.” The Democratic majority who controlled redistricting managed to create a new district out of Chittenden County that seems to have a pretty strong Republican lean. Chittenden North includes the strongly Republican towns of Milton, Fairfax and Westford, plus most of Essex, whose internal politics are as fraught as a Montague-Capulet family reunion.

The declared candidates are Rep. Leland Morgan (R-Milton) and Democrat Irene Wrenner. In addition, potential candidate Brian Shelden has yet to declare — but he has set up a website for a Senate candidacy and filed a campaign finance report in March detailing more than $4,000 in donations. Those would seem to be rather outsized hints. Shelden is chair of the Essex Democrats and a former candidate for House and Selectboard.

Before we get to the particulars, I must point out the half-hearted job done by VTDigger in its story “2 early contestants join race for new Chittenden North state Senate district.”

Should be “Two,” not “2”, but that’s a detail. The real problem is that the story gave an incomplete and misleading account of Wrenner’s community activism and didn’t discover Shelden’s proto-campaign at all. In addition to missing the Shelden for Senate website, Digger also missed Shelden’s campaign finance filing. This seems to be yet another case of going through the motions on a rote article about a developing campaign. Really, people, if you’re going to produce these pieces, put some effort into them. In the age of The Google, it shouldn’t be that hard.

Back to the race itself. Assuming Shelden is a candidate, the Democratic primary may produce more fireworks than the collective Fourth of July festivities in all of Vermont because Wrenner and Shelden have serious beef.

Meanwhile, Morgan can sit back and chuckle. The makeup of the district seems to give him the edge to start with. And the Democratic primary may splinter the party base; there are plenty of Essexians who support either Wrenner or Shelden and wouldn’t be caught dead voting for the other. (Some of ’em will cross the aisle and vote for Morgan out of spite for the Democratic winner.)

Now, let’s talk Wrenner/Shelden beef.

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The Enjoyable Weight of Massive Talent

Vermont’s Democratic electorate is yet again spoiled for choice. Not only do we have multiple credible candidates for U.S. Congress; now we have a three-way race for the party’s Secretary of State nomination among candidates with differing, but equally impressive, qualifications and political associations.

Yesterday, State Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas entered the fray, joining Montpelier City Clerk John Odum and Deputy Secretary of State Chris Winters in the running to succeed the retiring Jim Condos. Each would make a great nominee and a worthy successor to Condos.

Each also has a different set of experiences and political associations. The latter will likely have the most impact in a party primary, and I frankly don’t know how the political stuff will play out. So let’s bullet-point the three of ’em, shall we?

Winters. Pluses: Top deputy to Condos, who turned out to be a strong and capable Secretary. Winters knows the job, and ought to have a handle on where the office needs to go next. Condos isn’t endorsing, but he’s made no secret that he wants Winters to succeed him, and Condos is very popular. Nice guy.

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Christina Nolan Must Be Questioning Her Life Choices Right About Now

It’s gotten to the point where I feel sorry for Christina Nolan, the drug-enforcin’ former U.S. Attorney turned nudge nudge, wink wink moderate Republican candidate for Pat Leahy’s Senate seat. First, whatever she was promised in terms of financial and organizational support has failed to materialize. Second, she’s going to spend the next several months sharing the stage with a bunch of far-right zealots before like-minded audiences. The crowd and the stage will doubtless include people who don’t believe that Her Kind are entitled to equal rights or, for that matter, existence.

If these events get any coverage at all, they’ll torpedo her effort to campaign as a moderate. She’ll have two choices: play to the crowd and hope not to be quoted in the press, or stick to her campaign’s message and risk getting booed off the stage.

The first stop on this Trail of Tears is on Saturday at the palatial Double Tree Hotel, the flower of South Burlington, where the VTGOP will hold a luncheon (which is what they call “lunch” when they’re trying to sell expensive tickets*) and meeting to discuss and approve the party’s dog-whistly platform, in which the concept of moderation gains no purchase.

“Trying” is the operative word here. Last week, the party was offering a $15 discount off the $55 list price for those who bought tix before this week; then, on Monday and Tuesday it offered the same deal. In fact, on both days it sent an email saying the discount was still available but would end at “midnight tonight.”

And while we’re on the subject of Republican desperation, the party is STILL selling merch from the infamous “Let’s Go Brandon” rally held last November. Paul Dame’s garage must be full of that junk.

Nolan will be forced to have the opportunity to share the stage with the likes of her little-known and veeerrrrryy conservative primary opponent Gerald Malloy and the party’s two hopeless Congressional candidates, Anya Tynio and Ericka Redic. Also sharing in the rubber chicken: the party’s two candidates for lieutenant governor, the estimable Sen. Joe Benning and the execrable Gregory Thayer, 2020 election truther and Vermont’s most ardent opponent of whatever he imagines critical race theory is.

Nolan and Benning should expect the crowd to be ideologically in sync with the True Believers on stage and skeptical (at best) of their professions of inclusive Republicanism. At least the two can commiserate about waging an uphill battle with no resources and feeling compelled to cozy up to the VTGOP’s far-right base.

After the jump: Coming Soon to a Grange Hall Near You

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A Bucket of Goat Entrails Might be More Predictive

Hey folks! A poll! We’ve got a poll! Dispatch the political reporters immediately! Let them gather quotes from people with axes to grind! Surely We Shall Learn More About the Coming Campaign!

Or nah.

The online survey comes to us from the University of New Hampshire, which has a vibrant polling institute built on the spoils of the first-in-the-nation presidential primary. It’s a little creakier than most polls, especially when it comes to the August primary (the margin of error for August races is a whopping 5.9%). That’s a big deal since the race of greatest interest is the August primary for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Congress.

I mean, we hardly need a poll to tell us that outgoing U.S. Rep. Peter Welch has a gargantuan lead over likely Republican nominee Christina Nolan. Or that Gov. Phil Scott is already being fitted for his fourth-term tiara.

What does the poll tell us about the race for the Democratic Congressional nomination? Basically, that it’s very close and a lot of people haven’t made up their minds.

Now, that’s excitement.

Not that the paid political operatives weren’t out there spinning like dervishes on Red Bull. Lt. Gov. Molly Gray’s campaign manager Samantha Sheehan takes the prize for highest spin rate. She pointed to slight advantages for her candidate in hypothetical November matchups as evidence that Gray is “best positioned to keep this House seat in the hands of Democrats in November.”

How slight are Gray’s advantages? Couldn’t possibly be slighter.

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About ISAAC! And Other Unknowns

I received a couple of polite emails over the weekend from one Isaac Evans-Frantz (or ISAAC! as his campaign logo identifies him), informing me that he would announce his candidacy for U.S. Senate today at noon, and inviting me to cover the event. “We haven’t seen much press yet about the campaign and thought you might be interested,” he wrote with a touch of wistfulness.

ISAAC! is a young man who’s done a lot of good things in his life. He brings ideas and energy to a campaign that exists entirely in the shadow of Senator-In-Waiting Peter Welch.

But no, I won’t be covering his announcement. Well, I guess I’m sort of covering it by writing this, but the rest of this piece won’t be about him. It’ll be about Quixote-style candidates and what we owe them.

Which is not much, really.

Look, I respect anyone who gets into the arena. Almost anyone; nothing for Cris Ericson here. Extra respect if ISAAC! really commits to the campaign instead of sitting around waiting for invitations to debates. But that doesn’t mean he deserves coverage.

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VTGOP Platform is All the Dog Whistles

The good people — and the rest — of the Vermont Republican Party will gather this Saturday to hear from distinguished candidates like [checks notes] Gregory Thayer, Ericka Redic, and Gerald Malloy*, whoever he is. They’ll also consider the party’s draft platform which, as you might expect, is one long exercise in dog-whistling — using coded language to appeal to the far right while refraining from overt statements that couldn’t be countenanced by serious Republicans like Phil Scott, Joe Benning, and Christina Nolan.

*Malloy is challenging Nolan for the booby prize, I mean Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. He’s against mask and vaccine mandates, wants to Build the Wall, and opposes not only Roe v. Wade but also Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court decision that established a right to contraception.

The platform ties the modern Republican Party to the Civil War and the ending of slavery, but fails to mention that the Republican Party ended its support for equal rights during the Ulysses S. Grant presidency and, since the days of Richard Nixon, has been the home party of American racism. It makes pleasant noises about environmentalism but slams the Global Warming Solutions Act and any other policy that might increase fossil fuel prices. It posits that the solution to health care affordability is — wait for it — giving people the ability to buy insurance across state lines and, yup, tort reform. It supports vouchers for K-12 education and parental access to all teaching materials, the favored code phrase for opposing critical race theory.

It also cites a “right to private property,” which is kind of not a thing? The Fifth Amendment establishes a limited right that bars the abrogation of property rights without due process or just compensation. (One wonders what the party’s position would be on Daniel Banyai.)

It also quotes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I’ll give you one guess which quote.

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Lightning Round!

Well, the shower drain of political news is once again backed up, so it’s time to apply some rhetorical Liquid-Plumr and get the system going again. In today’s installment: the VDP at a crossroads, a really stupid lawsuit from a once-reputable publishing house, a complaint about Peter Welch being too good at fundraising, and maybe the worst political cartoon I’ve ever seen. Let the plunging begin!

The Vermont Democratic Party needs to take a look in the mirror. The VDP is once again looking for an executive director. Claire Cummings lasted about one year on the job before offering her resignation under circumstances unknown. As I wrote upon her hiring, “Cummings is the fourth person to hold the job in less than four years — and the fifth, if you count then-party chair Terje Anderson’s unfortunate tenure as interim ED in 2019.” Well, now they’re looking for their fifth in five years, or sixth if you count Anderson.

It’s sad. It’s pathetic. It’s a mess. And now the VDP must hire a new ED in the middle of election season. It needs someone who can hit the ground running with deep knowledge of Vermont and of campaigning. And it desperately needs someone with the guts to confront party elders if need be. I can think of at least one person who fits that descriptor to a tee. No names, because I don’t know where the search is going to go. But i can tell you one thing: If they hire someone from outside the state and/or someone under the age of 25, it’ll mean they’re happy with the status quo. Or, to put it another way, it’ll mean they’re seriously out of touch and full of unwarranted conceit.

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When is $2,900 Not Really $2,900?

The answer, in this case, is “when you can’t spend it.”

I’m referring to the maximum allowable individual contribution to a Congressional candidate, which is $2,900 for a primary campaign and another $2,900 for the general election. Candidates can collect both amounts before the primary, but they aren’t allowed to spend the second $2,900 until after the primary.

Well, in most cases it’s $2,900 twice. Some give the full $2,900 for the primary and some lesser amount for the general. All gifts are notated “Primary” or “General” in Federal Election Commission filings. But the gifts earmarked “General” still count towards a candidate’s total haul and cash on hand.

Should it? It’s arguable, but it’s the rules. Let’s set up a second category for primary dollars only and call it “effective cash on hand.”

This is kind of splitting hairs in the case of Republican Senate candidate Christina Nolan, who is the overwhelming favorite to win her primary. As reported previously, $37,700 of her cash on hand cannot be spent until the general election because nine of her donors gave more than $2,900 apiece. But at least she will get to spend that money… eventually.

That is decidedly not the case in the Democratic primary for U.S. House. It appears to be a close and lively contest among three leading candidates: Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint, Lt. Gov. Molly Gray, and state Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale. One of them will get to spend those general election dollars; the other two will not.

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For Nolan, It’s Bad News All the Way Down

Christina Nolan’s longshot bid for U.S. Senate got quite a bit longer last week, with the filing of first-quarter campaign finance reports. For starters, as expected, U.S. Rep. Peter Welch did what he’s always done — fundraise the hell out of his opposition. He pulled in $839,000 and spent roughly half of that, bringing his total warchest to a daunting $2.96 million.

Nolan? She received $157,000 in donations and spent about one-third of that, leaving her a smidge over $100K in cash on hand.

Sort of.

Thirteen of Nolan’s donors gave the maximum $2,900 for the primary campaign. Eight of those 13 also gave an additional $2,900, which must be reserved for the general election. That adds up to $37,700. One other person gave $5,000, of which $2,100 must be spent on the general. So her effective cash on hand — money she can spend between now and August 11 — is only $61,747. Which means that right now, today, Welch’s kitty is effectively an astounding forty-eight times as large as Nolan’s.

Ouch. Double ouch with nuts. I was going to make a David v. Goliath reference, but this is more like Bambi v. Godzilla. If this race wasn’t done and dusted already (hint: it was), these filings remove any remaining whispers of doubt.

But wait, there’s more! Bad news, that is.

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