Category Archives: Vermont Democratic Party

Hey, Here’s an Idea: Let’s Attack Phil Scott and Then Ask Him to Save Our Bacon

Well, in case you were wondering where Vermont Democrats’ heads were at regarding the unsheltering of thousands of Vermonters, now we know: Still firmly lodged up a windowless orifice. Instead of trying to resolve a humanitarian crisis of their own creation, not to mention heal a divide in their beloved legislative caucus, they’ve been trying to find a way to deflect the blame onto the governor. While, at the same time, begging him to solve a huge political problem for them.


Admittedly I’m somewhat burying the lead, because the most impactful thing is that Democratic leadership remains bound and determined to end the motel voucher program even though it currently provides shelter for 80% of Vermont’s unhoused.

This is [checks notes] the party of compassion, right? The party that fights for the metaphorical Little Guy? Yeah, gee, I wonder what the hell happened to that party.

That’s the real lead — the Vermont Democratic Party has lost its way — but the thing that grates on my nerves as a Vermont Political Observer is how profoundly stupid the politics of this maneuver are.

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You Know, It Was a Pretty Great Session Except For That One Horrible Thing.

In fairness to legislative Democrats, at least for a moment, they did accomplish quite a lot this session. They went much farther than they have before in standing up to Gov. Phil Scott and daring him to [obligatory journalism phrase] wield his veto pen over and over again. In that sense, they lived up to the promise made to voters that, if given a bigger supermajority, they would enact a progressive agenda over the governor’s objections.

Too bad they pulled up short on the most urgent humanitarian imperative of 2023. And too bad that their many legitimate accomplishments will be overshadowed by their willingness to unshelter some 2,500 Vermonters.

It’s as though they got a custom-tailored tuxedo and got all spiffed up and then, just as they were heading out the door, they shit their pants.

And then went to the prom anyway, thinking that no one would notice the stink and the stain.

But wait, this post was supposed to be “in fairness to legislative Democrats.” Okay, then. Let’s look at what they accomplished.

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In Burlington, the Theme Was “Hope.” In Montpelier, the Theme Was “Nope.”

The timing was juuuuust a bit unfortunate. Unseemly, you might say.

At the same hour that the House Democratic caucus was shooting down a last-ditch effort to restore the motel voucher program to the new state budget, the Vermont Democratic Party was celebrating itself at the annual Curtis-Hoff Awards event.

Celebrating itself as a beacon of “hope.”

Not for the 2,500-plus Vermonters about to be unhoused thanks to Democratic officeholders who couldn’t be bothered to find the money to keep the program going. Forgive those voucher clients for failing to appreciate the “better and brighter Vermont” that cannot make provision for its most vulnerable.

The contrast is sickening. What happened under the Golden Dome was an absolute betrayal of the values celebrated at Curtis-Hoff. For shame, Vermont Democratic Party.

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The Empire Strikes Back

Apologies for the mixed metaphors, but I’m so mad I can’t write straight.

The House-Senate budget conference committee has yet again refused to extend the motel voucher program that’s currently sheltering 80% of Vermont’s unhoused. In so doing, they ignored the pleadings of a small group of determined small- and capital-P progressives who say they won’t vote to override a gubernatorial veto of any budget that fails to address our crisis of homelessness.

And in so doing, they worked hand-in-glove with the Scott administration. I can say so because conference committee member and, God help us all, chair of the House Human Services Committee, Theresa Wood, said so: “This has been a collaborative process with the Agency of Human Services and the governor’s office.”

Great. No collaboration with housing advocates, then? No contact with the lawmakers threatening to withhold support for a budget plan that manages to combine the cruelty of Ebenezer Scrooge with the unctuousness of Uriah Heep? Nope, they confined themselves to working with an administration that has been adamant about its intent to kill the voucher program and damn the consequences.

And at almost the precise moment when this “collaborative process” came to fruition in the discussion-free approval of the new housing budget, I got a fundraising text from Vermont Democratic Party chair David Glidden urging me to support their fight against “Phil Scott and extremist Republicans [who] ae determined to sabotage us at every turn.”

Well, at every turn except when the Democrats eagerly collaborate with “Phil Scott and extremist Republicans.” If I harbored any notion of opening up my wallet to the VDP, it vanished instantly. I hope anyone else who was thinking about a donation will instead make a gift to their local homeless shelter. Fuck the Democrats.

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Bobby Starr [Reportedly] Goes Off the Deep End

When last we saw nominally Democratic Sen. Bobby Starr, he was pontificating about all the supposedly “able-bodied” homeless folk livin’ it up in state-funded motel rooms when they oughta be goin’ out and gettin’ a job. Or, as he put it, “The able-bodied, it’s time to go to work and have a place for them to work and earn and provide for their own, as far as I’m concerned.”

That was his argument for ending the motel voucher program on schedule this summer. He didn’t say we’re coddling the ungrateful lazy poors, but that was the umistakable message he was sending. Shades of the Welfare Queen.

But wait, there’s more!

Starr reportedly expanded on his asshattery in a conversation after the hearing with Brenda Siegel, housing advocate and 2022 Democratic candidate for governor. We’ve only got Siegel’s word for this, although she says there were other witnesses. But there are good reasons to believe her; she’s still lobbying for a voucher extension in the FY24 budget, and has no motivation at all to slander a lawmaker, not even Bobby Starr.

Siegel posted her account of the exchange <a href="http://<iframe src="; width="500" height="296" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="true" allow="autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; picture-in-picture; web-share">on her Facebook page. Highlights follow.

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Turtle Season

In January, when a new legislative session begins, ambitious agendas are rolled out. Big bills are proposed. Committees are ready to get down to work. This year, hopes were especially high on the Dem/Prog side, thanks to their historically large majorities in the House and Senate.

And then stuff starts to happen. Things get complicated, or are perceived to be complicated. The days rush by like the old movie trope of a calendar’s pages flying in all directions. Now, suddenly, time is short, hopes are muted, compromises are made, bills are sidetracked, and the aspirations of a new session lay in tatters. Yes, it’s Disappointment Time.

Necessary stipulations: Lawmaking is hard. It takes thorough consideration. It takes time, a commodity that’s always in short supply. Building majority support is complicated work, even when a single party holds all the cards. The Vermont Democratic Party is not a monolith; lawmakers have their own beliefs and constituencies. Many a Democratic lawmaker would have been a Republican before the VTGOP went off the rails. Now they’re moderate Democrats who often don’t support the party’s agenda.

That said, the VDP puts forward a platform every two years and urges people to give them money and elect Democratic majorities so they can get stuff done, not so they can think about it and decide that maybe it’s not such a good idea after all and they need to give it more study. It’s definitely not so they can parrot Gov. Phil Scott’s assumptions about public policy, and there’s a hell of a lot of that going on right now.

So let’s take a look at some of the areas where the Brave Hopes of January have given way to the Turtling of March.

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The Honorable Member From Lyndon Would Like Some Cheese to Go with That Whine

First-term state Rep. Charles Wilson (R-Lyndon), seen here doing his level best to stay awake during a budget hearing, has established himself as one of the most complainy of the House Republicans’ infinitesimal freshman class. He’s right up there with Barre Town’s Gina Galfetti for writing op-eds about how badly House Republicans are mistreated by the majority caucuses.

WIlson has characterized global warming as “a hoax and the majority Dems and Progs as “tyrannical.” Which only means that he has never experienced real tyranny, but let’s keep moving. He also sees organic farms as “failing” enterprises that are a waste of farm aid programs, and the state budget as an “obnoxious and unsustainable” document that “tempts unconscionable spending on policies set by unelected consultants and boards of California Dreamers.”

His latest commentary complains that Vermont has a “one-party system.” Which, ahem, Phil Scott. But yeah, the Dems and Progs have built up historic majorities in the Legislature — thanks to the VTGOP’s descent into incompetence and extremism.

One of WIlson’s complaints is that “many Republican bills are never even put forth for discussion — only Democrat and Progressive bills.” Well, sure, that’s what legislative majorities do. But let’s be fair and take a closer look at these “Republican bills” that are languishing in the circular file. I’m sure they’re top-flight examples of deep thought and creativity, right?

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Shall We Call This “The Zuckerman Rule”?

This item is almost too petty to report. But if it was that petty, then why did the Vermont Democratic Party do it?

I’m referring to a change made last year to the party bylaws that seems to be aimed squarely at Progressive/Democratic Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman.

Follow me into the weeds. The VDP allows its top officeholder at the state level to appoint a nonvoting member to the party’s executive committee. Under the former bylaw, that would be Zuckerman. But the appointment was, in fact, made by Treasurer Mike Pieciak.

That’s because the bylaw now specifies that it’s the top officeholder with “D” as their only or first party designation. Used to be, Zuckerman’s “P/D” would qualify. Indeed, during his first tenure as LG he named Ed Cafferty to the committee. (And Cafferty is, in fact, a loyal Democrat of long standing.)

This rule change didn’t matter when Democrat Molly Gray was LG. But it does now that Zuckerman is back in office.

Now, this is small potatoes to be sure. It’s a nonvoting member of a party committee. But again, if this is so trivial, why bother making the change? We’re talking about the sequence of two capital letters here. Is P/D really that different from D/P?

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Lezak to Depart as VDP Chair

Anne Lezak is about to step aside as chair of the Vermont Democratic Party after a very consequential year-plus on the job. She’s doing so of her own free will, in order to carry on with her work in Uganda. She and her husband Dr. Harry Chen, currently interim commissioner of the Department of Children and Families, spent a year in Uganda in 2017. He helped establish the country’s first residency in emergency medicine, and she worked for Hospice Africa Uganda, one of the continent’s leading training centers and providers of palliative care.

Lezak recently became chair of the board of HAU’s American arm, Hospice Africa USA. She and Chen have been aiming to return to Uganda for some time, and they plan to do so in early March. They will leave their current positions by the end of February. “We are both returning to beloved organizations we were working with,” Lezak said. “It was amazing. It was life-changing.”

Still, she wouldn’t leave the VDP if she wasn’t certain that it was “in very good hands.” She pointed to numerous accomplishments: a historically successful 2022 campaign season, the building of a strong and cohesive party staff, and party vice chair David Glidden, “a great partner throughout,” whom she has endorsed as her successor. That will be decided at a state committee meeting in late February. Lezak calls Glidden “the future of the Vermont Democratic Party in every good way.”

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Broke. Destitute. Insolvent. Beggared. Strapped. Bust. Pauperized. Skint. Embarrassed. Down at Heel.

The Vermont Republican Party doesn’t have much money to spend right now, but here’s a suggestion: Invest in a metal detector. You might improve your fortunes by finding some spare change and, who knows, maybe a pirate doubloon or two.

This isn’t exactly new for the perpetually impecunious VTGOP. But if anything, it’s gotten worse — especially when compared to the Vermont Democratic Party, which had a gangbusters 2022 by comparison.

The latest Federal Elections Commission filings covered the month of November. It’ll be a few days before we get the year-end reports. But I doubt the situation will change all that much, and the situation merits exploration right now.

(Reminder: Although the VDP and VTGOP are state parties, the vast majority of their financial activity is under federal jurisdiction. The figures that follow are all from FEC filings.)

The VTGOP ended November with a paltry $2,204 in cash on hand. The Dems: $207,060, nearly 100 times as much. And that was after generous Democratic expenditures in the run-up to Election Day. The VDP’s goal was to enter the off-cycle period with enough resources to avoid post-campaign staff cuts. They’ll have to maintain a solid fundraising pace to accomplish that, but so far things are looking good.

Meanwhile, the VTGOP just suffered its worst legislative defeat ever and couldn’t sniff a statewide victory for any candidate not named “Phil Scott.” They need some serious rebuilding, and they have no resources to even begin the work. The numbers tell the tale.

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