Category Archives: 2022 election

How Many Mulligans Does This Guy Get?

Another week, another cockup by the allegedly competent managers in the Scott administration. This time it’s a mysteriously sidelined program to give retention bonuses to child care workers. The Legislature approved $7 million for the purpose in the spring; now it’s September, and the administration not only hasn’t spent a dime of the money, it has no idea when it will.

Meanwhile, child care is already difficult to find getting harder, as operators are stretched to the limit because of a lack of workers.

Seven Days‘ Alison Novak broke the story on Monday. As she tells it, the state Department for Children and Families’ Child Development Division has given out precious little information — and what they have disclosed is riven with inconsistencies and unmet deadlines.

Which raises the question, does the administration really want to spend the money at all? If they did, you’d think they would have gotten it going by now. The only other explanation is incompetence of a kind that we are seeing regularly from this regime.

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Someone Feeling a Little Bit Grudgy?

The Democratic primary for U.S. Congress ended in a decisive victory for Becca Balint. She enjoyed a 23.6 percentage point margin of victory in what was expected to be a close contest. She cemented her status as a leading figure in the Vermont Democratic Party, and put herself in prime position to become the future leader.

There are a disgruntled few, however, who can’t seem to put the primary behind them. Meaning certain members of Team Molly Gray.

I hear this whenever I talk with anyone in Democratic circles or the state policy sphere. Malcontented Gray backers are, in the words of one advocate, “salting the earth.” They’re taking names and doling out threats as if they, um, actually run this joint. Which, having badly lost the primary, they decidedly don’t.

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“Uncharted Territory of Destruction” Seems a Bit… I Don’t Know… Suboptimal?

Cheery little piece in The Guardian carries an informed warning that we are rapidly running out of time to avoid truly disruptive impacts of climate change:

The consequences are already being seen in increasingly extreme weather around the world, and we are in danger of provoking “tipping points” in the climate system that will mean more rapid and in some cases irreversible shifts.

This latest canary to gasp for air in the mine shaft is a report from “United in Science,” a multi-agency international effort that issues a new climate change report each year. The new entry warns that the Earth is heading into an “uncharted territory of destruction.”

The signs are already clear. We seem to get a new catastrophe every day. Wildfires from Chile to Mongolia, the destruction of Antarctica’s Doomsday Glacier, water shortages in the American Southwest, one-third of Pakistan underwater, and widespread heat waves that pose an immediate threat to human health and the web of life itself.

Meanwhile, here in Vermont, the Scott administration’s top environmental official says it doesn’t really matter if we miss our 2030 emissions reduction target as long as we get where we need to go by 2050.

Thirty-eight years from now.

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I Seem to Have Sparked a Mike Pieciak Boomlet

Lookin’ kinda sweaty there, Mike

When you push content out into the ether, you never know what’s going to catch fire and what’s going to vanish forever without a trace. The most viral post I’ve ever written was a silly little thing about a proposal (sponsored by Sen. Joe Benning, credit where it’s due) to create a Latin motto for Vermont. A bunch of ignorant conservatives reacted angrily because they didn’t know the difference between Latin and Latin America. It was plenty of fun, but not exactly meat and potatoes.

Anyway, exhibit B in the category of “you never know” is a recent piece observing that treasurer-to-be Mike Pieciak seemed to be destined for higher office. I’d like to make it clear, as if I won’t later in this piece, that I don’t necessarily endorse the idea. I just saw the signs.

The post went live on August 10, the day after Pieciak had waltzed, unopposed, to the Democratic nomination. Three weeks and a day later, VTDigger ran a story that Pieciak was “generating significant buzz” as a potential gubernatorial candidate.

The first bee whose buzz was cited: yours truly. I appreciate that, but in retrospect maybe I should have copyrighted the idea.

To be fair to reporter Lola Duffort, she did a lot of additional digging and put quite a bit of meat on the bones. Pieciak was praised by various notables as “trustworthy,” “charming,” “very smart,” “a serious straight shooter,” “a nice guy.”

And now Vermont Public has jumped on the Pieciak Parade. Twelve days after Duffort posted her story, “Morning Edition” host and Vermont’s human alarm clock Mitch Wertlieb interviewed her about Pieciak’s bright political future. During the chat, Mitch basically stole a line from my original piece, by now a month old, when he noted that a hypothetical Gov. Pieciak “would be the state’s first openly gay governor.”

Glad to have provided some content for you all. But now that I seem to have warmed up the bandwagon, I’m disembarking.

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It’s Like a Cat Toying With a Mouse, Except the Mouse Thinks It’s a Dog

We’re in for a lot of this, aren’t we? The higher reaches of our ballot feature grossly one-sided contests between able, experienced Democrats and unknown, untested Republicans whose long residencies in the Fox News bubble are plain for all to see.

Last night’s Welch/Malloy debate was… a bit of a letdown. Gerald Malloy was the boring kind of ultraconservative, not the entertaining kind. He was Mike Lee, not Paul Gosar. Instead of a guy verbally stepping on rakes á la Sideshow Bob, we got a flavorless plate of boiled meat with a side of willful ignorance.

It wasn’t as much fun as I hoped. I think we’ll get better results next week, when Libertarian-of-convenience Ericka Redic brings her unique brand of acerbic egotism to a debate with Becca Balint and mock Republican Liam Madden. If Malloy was stepping on rakes, Redic will march blissfully through a minefield.

Peter Welch was, well, Peter Welch. Always on top of his rhetorical game and incredibly energetic for a mid-septuagenerian*. Impressive, in short. Well, not to the 35% of the electorate that will see Malloy as a military hero answering the call of duty to clean up Washington, D.C. But they don’t matter. He did nothing last night that could push his share of the vote past the mid-30s.

*Seriously. I’ve written that he might be one-and-done in the Senate but the way he looks and speaks, he might keep going for three or four terms.

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Vermont Republicans Are Trying to Sneak Their Way Into Election Oversight

How much time do you spend researching your local candidates for Justice of the Peace? I follow politics closely and try to learn about the people on the ballot. But do I pay attention to JP races? Nope, can’t say that I do. Does anybody?

Well, the Vermont Republican Party is giving us a reason to care. One of the items on its website concerns running for the resolutely obscure office.

Justices of the Peace are best known for officiating at weddings. But in Vermont they also play a significant role in overseeing local elections. And that’s what the Republicans are interested in. They want election truthers to run for JP so they can get in there and raise hell.

Well, that’s not what they’re saying out loud. But it’s clearly what they mean. Here’s the dog whistle:

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No Money, No Problems

Turns out, three of the big Democratic primary winners emptied their coffers in an effort to get across the finish line. Now they’re strapped for cash entering the general campaign.

That’d be a real problem if their Republican opponents weren’t so utterly hapless.

Charity Clark went on a mass-media spending binge in early August. She spent a massive $81,000 in the month; $64,000 of that was for TV, radio, print, mail, and online advertising. She entered September with a cash deficit of about $1,200. Turned out she didn’t have to do all that spending, as she won her party’s nomination for attorney general over Rory Thibault by a better than two-to-one margin.

Sarah Copeland Hanzas’ war chest (obligatory war chest reference) was scraping bottom as the primary approached. She spent a relatively modest $15,602 in August, not much more than half what her rival Chris Winters spent. Copeland Hanzas had entered the race very late and never caught up in fundraising. She enters September nearly $12,000 in the black, but only because she loaned her own campaign $14,000.

Still, she won — by a scant two percentage points — and that’s what matters most.

David Zuckerman spent $57,149 in August as he sought to ensure victory over Kitty Toll, bringing his campaign spending total well over $200,000. He still has $16,771 in cash on hand, and an extremely large base of small donors who can be tapped for more.

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Looks Like Maybe We Got Ourselves a Race

There were no competitive primaries for governor last month, but there were definite signs that business is picking up. Gov. Phil Scott and challenger Brenda Siegel increased their fundraising from their previous very modest levels. In fact, it seems as though Scott actually began putting some effort into it last month, which is something he famously doesn’t like to do. Conventional wisdom has it that Scott will win in a walk. Do the August numbers suggest he’s getting a bit concerned about Siegel?

As of July 31, Scott had raised a total of $49,989. In August alone he upped that to $54,580, bringing his campaign total north of $100,000. He also has a $272,000 surplus from previous campaigns, so he’s not cash-poor by any means.

Siegel, meanwhile, took in $44,259 in August, which made it her best month to date. She’s raised a total of $103,195, a few thousand less than Scott. And of course, she doesn’t have a handy-dandy surplus to fall back on.

There are a couple of notes that make Siegel’s performance better than the sheer total. First, she had a burst of fundraising in the last few days of the month. If that momentum carries forward, she’ll do fine. She won’t match Scott dollar for dollar, but her campaign won’t live or die on money alone.

It’d also help if Scott kicked a few more balls into his own net, as he did this week with the announcement that an emergency rental assistance program was virtually out of money — something his officials failed to notice or predict. As a result, thousands will lose rental support at the end of this month, and thousands more at the end of November. You know, just when it’s getting seriously cold?

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A Tale of Two Treasuries

Obligatory “War Chest” Reference

As if it needed any more emphasis, the September 1 campaign finance reports starkly illustrate the difference in fortune between the Vermont Democratic and Republican Parties. In case you need to be told, the Dems’ war chest is on the left; the VTGOP’s is on the right. The exception is Gov. Phil Scott, who seems to finally be taking the campaign seriously. Maybe he’s a little worried about Brenda Siegel?

Fundraising numbers to date for statewide races besides governor:

Lieutenant Governor: David Zuckerman $236,687, Joe Benning $38,546. That’s the good one for the Republicans.

Treasurer: Mike Pieciak $126,500, H. Brooke Paige 0.

Secretary of State: Sarah Copeland Hanzas $74,078, H. Brooke Paige 0.

Attorney General: Charity Clark $129, 835, Mike Tagliavia 0.

Auditor: Invincible incumbent Doug Hoffer $100 plus a $1,115 surplus from 2020, Rick Morton 0.

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Bruce Lisman Plays the Field (UPDATED)

While we wait for the final September 1 campaign finance reports to trickle in, here’s a little thing I noticed. Bruce Lisman, failed (and self-funded) candidate for governor, founder of Campaign for Vermont, and former Bear Stearns executive who may have been portrayed as a real dummy in the movie version of “The Big Short,” has made a total of three donations* to Vermont candidates so far this year.

*Update! Phil Scott just reported a $1,000 contribution from Lisman. So, four.

Together, they could serve as the dictionary definition of “mixed bag.” Let’s see if you can discern a pattern here.

He gave $500 to Sen. Joe Benning’s campaign for lieutenant governor. Not surprising at all.

He gave $500 to Patricia Preston’s hopeless bid for LG as a sort of centrist.

So far we’ve got what used to be called a mainline Republican and a moderate Democrat. *Plus a putatively moderate Republican.

The third fourth gift? $1,000 to “Farmer” John Klar’s campaign for state senate.

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