Category Archives: Energy

There’s been an outbreak of negative campaigning! Quick, alert Phil Scott!

Our lieutenant governor slash governor-wannabe has been ultra-vigilant during this campaign season, ever on the lookout for negative tactics and quick to criticize those (cough*BruceLisman*cough) dastardly enough to join the Dark Side.

Well, warm up the ScottSignal (searchlight w/stencil of the big green #14), because we’ve got a dangerous outbreak of negative campaigning.

Surely, under the circumstances, Our Hero will leap into action and upbraid the miscreants.

Over there, Phil — Look! it’s the Vermont Republican Party!

Go get ’em!

Hey, Phil, wait up! Where you going?

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The Energy Rebellion is a fizzle

In the runup to Tuesday’s primary, I suggested that Peter Galbraith’s candidacy could backfire on his allies in the anti-renewable camp. I thought he was likely to finish a poor third, and that could damage the antis’ claim to represent a sizable and growing force in Vermont politics.

Turns out, they may be loud but they’re not terribly numerous. Galbraith did worse than I thought, finishing with a mere nine percent of the Democratic primary vote.

It remains to be seen if Galbraith’s poor showing diminishes the pull of groups like Vermonters for a Clean Environment and Energize Vermont; but it sure can’t help them.

I can almost hear them arguing that their numbers were split among Galbraith and Republicans Phil Scott and Bruce Lisman. But even if Scott wins the governorship, Democrats will hold the legislative power, and they should be unimpressed by the small number of anti-wind voters in Democratic ranks.

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@VTDems: The Odd Couple, and other observations

Mixed bag on the Democratic ticket: Sue Minter for governor, David Zuckerman for Lite-Guv. Not that there’s usually much coordination between the #1 and #2 candidates, but I expect little to none from this pairing.

Indeed, one question worth asking: Now that Zuckerman is the Democratic nominee, will the party share its voter database with him?

But let’s take a step back and ponder tonight’s results and what they mean for Democratic politics. In no particular order:

A good night for the mainstream Democratic Party. I say so despite Zuckerman’s win; he took a plurality of the vote, nowhere near a majority. If he’d been matched up with Shap Smith alone, he would have lost badly. (Yes, I’m assuming that the bulk of Kesha Ram’s votes would have gone to Shap.)

And, of course, Minter had little trouble outpacing Matt Dunne. Some of this was due to Dunne’s Six Days of Hell, but it’s impossible to know how much.

Bernie’s coattails proved surprisingly short. Dunne believed that turning himself into Bernie Lite was the key to victory. We know how that turned out, don’t we?

Truth is, as we can see from the Lite-Guv totals, much of the Democratic electorate is moderate to liberal, not progressive. Bernie’s popularity is partly a matter of policy, but more a matter of persona. Bernie is extremely popular. It’s yet to be proven that his policies alone are a winning formula in Vermont.

Matt Dunne blew it. Last fall, he seemed the clear favorite. Minter was untested and tied directly to the Shumlin administration. Dunne was the more experienced candidate. He raced out to an early fundraising advantage.

He should have won the primary.

Why didn’t he?

Well, part of it was the Six Days of Hell — his position shift on renewable energy siting, his restatement/retraction of said shift, the blatant hypocrisy of his stand against self-funded campaigns even after he self-funded his own, the scorched-earth tactics of blaming the media and “the establishment” for problems of his own making.

But even before that, I’d argue he blew the primary by deciding not to be himself. There’s a Matt Dunne who could have won this race. It’s the plausibly liberal technocrat with high-tech chops who would have brought managerial know-how and broad experience in government and the private sector. That’s a pretty appealing candidate, especially after the administrative misfires of the Shumlin years.

But he simply wasn’t plausible as Bernie II. He had too much of a track record. His policies were part Bernie, part moderate Dem. His personality was a poor fit. And, to the extent that Bernie and the Vermont Democratic Party have a touchy relationship, his embrace of Berniedom did nothing for his own standing with party regulars.

His late-days mistakes only reinforced his reputation in many minds as an overly ambitious pol willing to say anything to become governor. He is now a three-time loser who burned quite a few bridges; a political comeback is possible but seems unlikely. He might have to be satisfied with being a well-paid Google executive. Such a burden.

Sue Minter has a lot of work to do. She’ll have to unify the party, which should be easier since Matt Dunne prioritized party unity in his concession speech. But she will be the underdog against Phil Scott. She spent heavily to fend off Dunne. She’s got some political seasoning in the primary, but now she’s in the spotlight. It’s a big step up for someone who hasn’t run a general election campaign outside of Waterbury.

I’m sure I will have some thoughts on possible strategy for Minter and the Democrats, but all in due time.

The VTGOP will use Zuckerman to attack Democrats. Actually, that’s not a prediction; it’s already begun.

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Zuckerman’s nomination increases the chances that Randy Brock will be our next Lieutenant Governor. Zuckerman’s still the favorite, but he’ll be a weaker general-election candidate than Shap Smith would have been.

And the stakes are high in that race. The lieutenant governor presides over the Senate, sits on the influential Committee on Committees, and casts tie-breaking votes. Brock would be a strong conservative presence; On the other hand…

If Zuckerman does win, we could have a very different Senate. Zuckerman as presiding officer, potentially Tim Ashe as President Pro Tem, and Chris Pearson a very capable lawmaker. Although Zuckerman has been in the Senate for a while, I can’t see him supporting the status quo. He’d have very little patience for the niceties and obscure mores of the Senate.

And whither the omnipresent Dick Mazza? The perennial kingmaker will have to adapt to — or try to conquer — a changed landscape. Will he continue to serve on the influential Committee on Committees? How would he get along with Zuckerman and Ashe as the other two members?

I know one thing. I’m voting for Zuckerman, if only for the entertainment value.

No sign of the Energy Rebellion much touted by the likes of Annette Smith and Mark Whitworth. Peter Galbraith is pulling less than 10 percent of the vote. One might presume that some of Matt Dunne’s 37 percent was due to his last-days revision of his renewables siting policy, but that seems a stretch. Smith and Galbraith loudly denounced Dunne after he re-explained his revision. It’s unlikely that their core supporters would have stuck with Dunne.

Whither Shap? I have no idea, but I’d be shocked if this was the end of his political career. He entered the Lite-Guv race very late, and he was hampered by Kesha Ram’s presence in the race. She’d garnered quite a few endorsements from the House Dem caucus, and many of them stuck with her.

Shap’s young enough to regroup and restart. He remains very popular in Democratic circles. He is highly respected for his shepherding of the House caucus. I doubt he’ll be tagged as a loser; he finished a strong second after a late entry, and he’ll get a lot of credit for that.

If Phil Scott wins the governorship, Shap ’s the early favorite for the Democratic nomination in 2018 — or maybe he’d wait until 2020, a presidential year.

The question will be, what role does he play in the near future? I don’t know, and I doubt that he knows right now. If Minter wins, he could probably have his pick of cabinet posts. Otherwise, he could run silent, run deep: continue to build relationships across the state and prepare for his next political venture.

I think that’s about enough for primary night. I’l turn to the Republicans next.

Son Of The VTGOP’s Super Deluxe Trip to the Bennington Battle Monument

Okay, I screwed up in my most recent post. Surprisingly, my math was okay — but I misread Google Maps. 133 miles is the one-way distance between Burlington and Bennington. A roundtrip is 266 miles.

But my basic point still stands: the Vermont Republicans vastly overstated the impact of a carbon tax on a hypothetical family excursion to the Bennington Battle Monument.

Not to mention that a re-examination of the VTGOP’s fantastical Tweet shows that their exaggeration was even greater than I gave them credit for. They claim that the carbon tax will impose “an additional $236” in costs. Not that the whole trip will cost $236, but that the carbon tax alone will raise the cost by $236. Which is truly ridiculous.

So let’s redo this thing with the correct assumptions, shall we?

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The VTGOP’s Super Deluxe Trip to the Bennington Battle Monument

:UPDATE: I got a crucial bit of information wrong in this post: the mileage for a roundtrip from Burlington to Bennington is twice what I stated below. My point is still valid, however. Please see my next post for the rest of the story.

Vermont Republicans continue to yammer endlessly about an item that wasn’t on the Legislature’s agenda this year and won’t be anytime soon: the notorious, job-killing and family-devastating carbon tax.

(Cue theremin: woooooooo-OOOOOOOO-oooooo)

This, despite the inconvenient fact that none of the Democrats running for governor or lieutenant governor actually supports the thing. (David Zuckerman does, but he’s a Prog flying a flag of convenience.)

But as outlandish as their attacks have been until now, the Republicans have outdone themselves in less than 140 characters. Behold the Tweet From Hell!

Wow. 236 dollars for a trip downstate. That’s really something. That’s…

… wait a minute.

That can’t be right.

And as a matter of fact, it’s not. Not even close.

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Everybody hates Matt

Looking forward to Matt Dunne’s memoir of his bid for governor, working title “My House Is On Fire and All I’ve Got Is Gasoline.”

It’s been a remarkable, perhaps unprecedented, four days in Vermont politics: the self-immolation of a well-regarded candidate for governor.

And it just keeps getting worse. Today, prominent environmental groups threw their support behind Sue Minter. And then Dunne compounded the damage by trying to re-explain his new position on renewable energy siting — and in the process, he provoked backlash from the very people he tried to bring on board last Friday, the opponents of ridgeline wind.

Add it all up. Governor Shumlin and most Democratic lawmakers are mad at Dunne because he threw shade on Act 174, the compromise siting bill they carefully shepherded into law this year.

The environmental community is mad at Dunne for shifting ground on renewables in a way clearly intended to empower its opponents.

And now those opponents are mad at Dunne. The Queen Bee of oppositionalism, Annette Smith, sees Dunne as a fake and a poseur. Gubernatorial candidate Peter Galbraith, last seen complimenting Dunne in the latter’s ill-fated Friday press release, now says:

Snap!

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He spins right round (like a record)

Matt Dunne has forgotten the cardinal rule of what to do if you find yourself in a hole: Stop Digging.

The series of events he triggered with his spinaroonie on renewable energy siting continue to echo through Vermont’s gubernatorial race. It’s clearly the single most significant passage of this interminable campaign, which is why I keep writing about it. And I am frankly shocked at the lack of media coverage it’s received. (Except for Seven Days, which jumped on it immediately and has followed it ever since.) Digger? VPR? Free Press? Vermont Press Bureau? Bueller?

I withdraw the preceding comment. VPB’s Neal Goswami wrote it up Monday afternoon. VTDigger’s Mark Johnson filed a story that appeared Tuesday morning.

Today brought two more events, neither of which will do Dunne any good — and one that will further damage his standing (or what remains of it) with ‘mainstream Democrats.

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Matt Dunne loses his biggest environmental booster

For those who thought I was making a mountain out of a molehill, here’s your Monday morning wakeup: environmental activist Bill McKibben has withdrawn his endorsement of Matt Dunne for governor. He’s shifted his support to Sue Minter. The news was broken today by Seven Days’ Terri Hallenbeck.

This is big in two fundamental ways. First, obviously, McKibben is the planet’s number-one climate change activist. His endorsement of Dunne was effectively an environmental seal of approval.

Second, McKibben was an early and enthusiastic supporter of Dunne — indeed, he encouraged Dunne to run for governor, presumably because he thought that Dunne was the best candidate to continue Vermont’s renewable energy push. As recently as last Wednesday, McKibben co-signed a letter to the Addison Independent endorsing Dunne.

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“No one will ever trust him again.”

Matt Dunne, pre-Friday:

Dunne says the state can’t meet its 90 percent renewable energy goal by 2050 unless it encourages the development of large-scale wind and solar projects.

Dunne is a proponent of large-scale renewable wind and solar projects.

That’s from VTDigger’s guide to the primary candidates. and it’s completely at odds with the Matt Dunne who came out against ridgeline wind on Friday.

“We must battle climate change and continue down the path to 90% renewable energy by 2015. …But we must do this in a Vermont way.

… “Large-scale ridgeline wind projects should only take place with the approval of the towns where the projects are located.

… “Vermont’s renewable energy future is largely in solar and small-scale hydro.”

In short, Matt Dunne has executed a last-minute flip-flop on one of the key issues in Vermont politics. And that’s why a well-connected liberal insider told me today that “No one will ever trust him again.”

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Matt Dunne just lost my vote

I’ve been thinking about the race for governor since the very beginning. I’ve never felt a sense of clarity because I thought the two frontrunners, Matt Dunne and Sue Minter, were both good candidates. There were good reasons to go either way.

Until now.

Dunne just released a renewable energy siting policy that would make it much harder to expand our renewable capability. It would give veto power over large-scale wind projects to local communities. In all respects, it adopts the rhetoric of the anti-renewable movement.

And, in a turn that may be unprecedented in our politics or anyone else’s, his press release includes a quote from his gubernatorial rival, Peter Galbraith, a persistent opponent of ridgeline wind.

Seriously, has that ever happened before?

(Yes, I know it happened earlier in the cycle when Dunne adopted Galbraith’s stance on corporate contributions. But at the time, Galbraith hadn’t officially entered the race. Now, so close to the primary? That’s a whole different ballgame.)

There’s something fundamentally Nixonian about this. Two candidates ganging up on Sue Minter — who I must now presume is the front-runner, and clearly the biggest threat to Dunne’s election.

It’s also very close to a white flag from Galbraith, a tacit acknowledgment that he’s not going to win.

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