Category Archives: Dan Feliciano

Hey look, Doug Hoffer may have a fly to swat

Don’t ever accuse the VTGOP of not being generous. They’ve apparently gifted Auditor Doug Hoffer with a new toy to play with a “serious” challenger for his post. I haven’t seen a news release or anything; all I’ve seen is this Tweet from VTGOP Executive Director Jeff Bartley.

Yay! Dan “Mr. Four Percent” Feliciano! The man who can never quite make up his mind whether he’s a Libertarian or a Republican. But no matter what the label, there’s one thing you can count on:

He. Won’t. Win.

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The “moderate” VTGOP is a mythical beast

A few interesting things came out of the Vermont Republican Convention on Saturday — besides revealing that Phil Scott can’t take a rhetorical punch.

I thought it shone a harsh and unforgiving light on the idea that Vermont Republicans are a breed apart — the last surviving redoubt of moderate Republicanism. That’s largely a fiction created in a desperate effort to appeal to the liberal Vermont electorate. It takes on the veneer of reality thanks to the thoroughly moderate image of Lt. Gov. Phil Scott. But the party ranks are full of garden-variety 21st Century Republicanism. Vermont Republicans may have thrown in the towel on social issues like marriage equality and abortion rights*, but they are a stoutly conservative bunch when it comes to brass-tacks issues like government spending, regulation, and taxation.

*Well, let’s say they are withholding the towel. I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts they’d change their tune if they ever achieved political power.

After all, this is a party that eagerly embraced John Kasich, a man whose tax plan would make Ronald Reagan blush with embarrassment. George W. Bush, too, for that matter.

But there were signs aplenty at the Convention that this is a party with a strongly conservative core.

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The other Gun Show

Last night’s Statehouse hearing on gun registration didn’t interest me much; the fate of the bill is a foregone conclusion (it’s dead), and the hearing was just a bit of political theater. But there were some entertaining moments on Twitter that I’ve plucked from the everflowing Tweetstream.

The Ethan Allen Institute, for example, got all poetical.

Aww. They’re right, you know. An inanimate object can’t initiate violence. But a gun is one hell of an expediter.

There was this bit of reportage from the Vermont Press Bureau’s Josh O’Gorman, revealing which side of the debate cornered the market on boorishness.

My favorite, though, was a brief dominance display by two of the lesser players in the 2014 election season. First, consistently losing political consultant Darcie Johnston, chief flag-waver for Dan Feliciano’s doomed campaign; and second, Brent Burns, who briefly helmed the Scott Milne effort.

Ooh, scorch! The “4%” is, of course, a reference to Feliciano’s underwhelming share of the vote. Ball’s in your court, Ms. Johnston.

“#navysniper”? A bit of resume inflation, perhaps? Feliciano did serve in the Navy, but according to one source, he “spent six years as a sonar technician.” Yeah, well, sonar/sniper, same diff. Mr. Burns begs to differ.

After this, the two parties adjourned the contest. Burns resisted the temptation to add “[mic drop],” which he would have been absolutely justified in doing. Johnston returned to her lair to, presumably, plot strategery for Feliciano’s 2016 campaign.

Next time, six percent!

Dan the No Longer Libertarian Man

(UPDATE: Per VTDigger, he’s joined the Republican Party. See below.)

Here’s a little piece of political news so shocking that I almost stifled a yawn.

Oooooookay, then. I imagine this will rattle around the Vermont political media for a few hours and then we’ll get back to stuff that actually matters.

Not to disparage the contributions of Mr. Feliciano. But we are talking about a guy who enjoyed a boatload of free publicity, including widespread speculation that he might outpoll Scott Milne, and in the end he barely managed to fend off the bottom-of-the-ballot Nutbar Brigade. He couldn’t even push the Libertarians into automatic ballot status for 2016.

I can see three possible implications. In order of likelihood:

— He’s had enough of politics and will turn his attention back to work and family. 10% chance; once bitten by the political bug, the fever usually persists beyond one election cycle.

— He doesn’t know what’s next, he’s on the outs with the Libertarians anyway, so he’s clearing the decks. 30% chance; it’s neat and clean, but I suspect he has an idea what he wants to do. Which is…

— He’s aiming to run for governor in 2016 as the darling of the right wing. 60% chance. The opening is there, unless Randy Brock re-emerges from the weeds. (Which I doubt.) The right needs a front man with some sort of credibility, and Feliciano was a perfectly cromulent candidate in 2014. He’s got some name recognition, he’s got a foothold in the Vermont political world. He impressed the likes of Darcie Johnston, even if he pretty much failed with the electorate.

There are problems with this scenario, obviously. His “proven appeal” amounts to 4% of the vote, even with all the publicity he got and all the troubles of his Republican counterpart. He’d be aiming to represent a wing of the VTGOP that’s clearly on the outs; if the 2014 election proved anything, it’s that a center-right position is much more appealing to voters than a hard-right stance.

Plus, in a hypothetical primary against Phil Scott, he’d get flattened.

Of course, the fact that the right wing is clearly on the outs makes them desperate enough to see Mr. Four Percent as their knight in fiscally conservative armor.

UPDATE: VTDigger’s Tom Brown reports that Feliciano has joined the Republican Party, saying its larger base would give him a better chance of winning a future campaign. That might be another run for governor; he might also pursue another office:

“It depends on what it is,” he said. “I have to be in a position where I can really influence things and get things done. I would not be good in the middle.”

I think we can all agree on that.

She’s spinning so fast, she’s gonna explode

DarcieThis is incredible, even by the standards of Darcie “Hack” Johnston.

She’s gone full Orwell on the election returns, which once again revealed her consistent wrongness. I’ve heard that she’s a nice person who’s always accessible and capable of turning on the charm,  especially with the media. But she’s just plain wrong. All the time.

She managed Randy Brock’s campaign to an embarrassing defeat. And this time, she managed Dan Feliciano to a disastrous 4% finish. Remember, in July and August this guy was widely believed to be a stronger candidate than Scott Milne. Who, lest we forget, outpolled Feliciano by a better than 10-to-1 margin.

But Johnston is desperately spinning the results to make herself look better. Or, should I say, less of a train wreck. From the Freeploid’s (sadly departing) Terri Hallenbeck:

Johnston… said she had no regrets pushing Feliciano as a candidate even though she was surprised at how well Milne did.

“It was never evident to me that Scott Milne had a chance to win,” she said.

This ace political strategist admits she missed the Milne trend. And, in retrospect, who does she credit for Milne’s showing? She and her candidate.

…she said Milne could have done more to prevail over Shumlin. She contended he was late to pick up on the problems with Vermont Health Connect and offered a split message on government-financed health care when he said he would consider it down the road if it worked elsewhere.

Okay, now that’s amazing. She says the candidate who got 45% of the vote should have been more like the guy who got 4%? I guess so. Plus, according to Johnston, Mr. Four Percent was actually the driving force behind Milne’s surge:

She argued that some voters would not have come out at all but for Feliciano. She also contended that Feliciano’s stance on health care helped generate supporters for some Republican legislative candidates who also hammered that issue, including Valerie Mullin, who ousted Democrat Mike Fisher, chairman of the House Health Care Committee.

Uhh, Darcie? (And, I hate to say it, Terri?)

Valerie Mullin lost.

She finished in fourth place, behind Mike Fisher, in spite of the fact that Mullin outspent her opponents. And put out a last-minute mailer falsely accusing the Democrats of plotting a Medicare takeover. The candidate who unseated Fisher, Fred Baser, is a widely-respected moderate Republican who refused to take part in the Johnston/Mullin health care bashing.

I don’t know whether the factual error was Johnston’s or Hallenbeck’s, but it’s a clear example of Johnston’s “black is white, war is peace” analysis of the election.

And if, after all this, Johnston is still taken seriously as a campaign consultant — if any candidate hires her ever again — well, there are no words.

Look, I’ve got nothing personal against Johnston. I just hate to see someone rewarded, over and over again, for brazen incompetence. And taken seriously as a political figure in spite of her repeated cluelessness.

The biggest winner of the Vermont election

You can probably guess. It’s Lt. Gov. Phil Scott.

Not just because he cruised to an easy victory over Dean Corren. Not just because he leaves the campaign with almost $100K in cash on hand for whatever he wants to do next.

Not just because the decks are clear for him to be a very dangerous candidate for Governor in 2016.

No, on top of all that, there’s this: the results of the election ought to cement his control of the Vermont Republican Party. The true believers ought to be marginalized by the impressive success of Scott Milne as a moderate Republican candidate and the dismal failure of their pet project, Dan Feliciano.

Hey, remember when two of the VTGOP’s top four officers, Brady Toensing and Mark Snelling, openly supported Feliciano in the Republican primary? Brady Toensing and Mark Snelling were the two holdovers from the Jack Lindley era who retained their offices last fall in a patched-together compromise with the Phil Scott people.* At the very least, their views ought to take a back seat. At the very most, Scott and party chair “Super Dave” Sunderland ought to feel free to replace them with more like-minded people.

*Correction: I mischaracterized the VTGOP’s leadership race last fall. Toensing was not a holdover from the previous admin; originally, according to Paul Heintz, the conservatives wanted Toensing as chair and David Sunderland as vice chair, while the Phil Scott camp wanted them switched. In the end, the party unanimously went with Scott’s pairing. 

And, lest we forget, prominent conservatives Wendy Wilton and John McClaughry also jumped into the Feliciano lifeboat, only to see the S.S. Milne sail on blissfully without them.

And if there’s any justice, this ought to be the death knell for Darcie “Hack” Johnston as a serious political voice. She piloted Feliciano’s campaign straight into the Randy Brock Memorial Iceberg. As far as I can tell, she represents nobody but herself. Her true-believer approach to politics is a proven loser, a dead end for the VTGOP. She might keep on being quoted in the media because she’s an easy get, but as a political strategist? Nope.

For all his faults as a campaigner, Scott Milne succeeded where nobody has since Jim Douglas: he convinced a lot of centrists, independents, and even Democrats to abandon their standard bearer. Part of that is circumstance; a lot of it is a loss of faith in Governor Shumlin; but it also had to do with a Republican candidate who was not an ideologue, who even entertained the notion that some Democratic ideas might be acceptable.

Future Republican candidates would do well to learn the art of public speaking better than Milne, but they would also do well to follow the moderate Republican playbook.

And that’s the biggest win of all for Our Lieutenant Governor.

Drivin’ down the highway, throwin’ money out the windows

That would appear to be Governor Shumlin’s campaign strategy in the final two weeks of the campaign. Faced with less-than-daunting opposition from the likes of Mr. Blandy and Mr. Fringey, not to mention Ms. Hempy, Hat Lady and The Beard, the Governor has been spending money like he’s running against a Koch brother.

The final pre-election campaign finance deadline was today, and Shumlin’s money machine was in overdrive, raising another $179,000* since mid-October and spending an incredible $342,000, more than half of it on TV advertising.

*Including $96,000 in cash, and $83,000 in “in-kind” donations. The latter were services performed by the state Democratic Party: robocalls and mailers. I guess his campaign was too strapped for cash to foot the bills himself, sheesh. 

That’s $342,000 spent in two and a half weeks. 

That brings his total spending on the campaign to $890,000, which is almost three times as much as he spent two years ago to defeat Randy Brock. Unless he’s really scared of Scott Milne, I’d say he’s going all out to boost his vote total. A finish under 50% would be embarrassing and make a serious dent in his political clout for his third term; anything less than 53% or so would be a significant deflation of his 2012 total, and weaken him going into the fight for single-payer health care.

Scott Milne, meanwhile, did well by his low standards, but mainly because he injected a bunch of his own money into his own campaign. He took in $91,000 since Oct. 15, but that includes a $50,000 loan to his campaign and $25K in “in-kind” contributions; the lion’s share of that was in the form of mass mailings done by the Vermont Republican State Committee on Milne’s behalf.

For the entire campaign, he’s raised $238,000. But that includes almost $90,000 from himself and his family. Plus another $20K or so from the famous Boieses.

He spent $98,000 since Oct. 15, mainly on TV ads, bringing his total spending for the campaign to $211,000. Which would be a nice total if he were running for Lieutenant Governor, but it’s simply not enough to be competitive, especially against Governor Moneybags.

Libertarian Dan Feliciano, meanwhile, limped to the finish line with a few thousand bucks in outside donations plus another $10,000 in self-funding. Most of his recent spending was on airing his awful TV ad. But again, Feliciano showed no sign of attracting broad support as expressed in campaign donations. He got damn little, in fact. In the marketplace of ideas, nobody was buying Dan the Libertarian Man.

In the race for Lieutenant Governor, incumbent Phil Scott eased back the pace. He raised less than $10,000 and spent about $10,000 since the last report. For the entire campaign, he’s raised $289,000 and spent $233,000.

The big news there is that Scott will head into the next campaign with a good-sized warchest by the standards of anyone other than Peter Shumlin, Pat Leahy, Peter Welch, and Bernie Sanders. He reports cash-on-hand totaling $98,000, which is a nice head start on 2016.

His opponent Dean Corren, as reported in this space, went on a spending binge in the last two weeks. He spent $92,000 since Oct. 15, including an intensive (by Lt. Gov. standards) TV ad campaign. And he planned out his expenditures intelligently; his campaign to date has spent $188,000, leaving only $12,000 left of his (mainly publicly financed) $200,000 kitty.

And now, ’tis the night before Election, and all through the state, not a candidate was stirring. Not even… hmm… does anybody’s name rhyme with “state”?