Category Archives: Vermont Progressive Party

Initial Thoughts on a Robust Primary

So many votes, they barely fit

With the exception of the 462-candidate pile-up that was the Chittenden County Democratic Senate primary, it was an election night bereft of drama. The big races turned out to be uncompetitive, and all were called early in the evening. Which is not to say it wasn’t interesting, at least not to political dead-enders like me. So, thoughts in no particular order:

The Laracey Effect is strong. My own invention, the Laracey Effect is named for Mel Laracey, a deputy city treasurer in Ann Arbor, Michigan many moons ago. He decided to run for State House in an extremely competitive primary. It did not go well; he finished in the back of the pack. Because everyone in and around City Hall knew him, he thought that meant everyone knew him. But in truth, the vast majority of voters had no connection to City Hall.

Tim Ashe is well known in Burlington and Montpelier. He and pretty much everyone else thought that made him well known across the state. Not true. And when the pandemic prevented him from campaigning until the end of June, his fate was sealed.

I thought Molly Gray was going to win, but I was far from certain about it. Turned out she won easily. More easily in a competitive four-way race, in fact, than David Zuckerman did in (effectively) a two-way race. Zuckerman beat Rebecca Holcombe by 10,552 votes. Gray beat Ashe by 11,679, and came within 510 votes of Zuckerman’s total.

Ingram, by the way, was an even bigger victim of the Laracey Effect, believing she had a substantial statewide profile. She finished a distant fourth, and was never a factor in the race. So was former legislative counsel Peter Griffin, who ran for the House seat being vacated by Kitty Toll and finished a poor second.

Expanded mail-in voting was a resounding success. Record turnout when neither of our Senate seats were on the ballot, and with little apparent drama in either race for governor. With universal mail voting available in November, we’re on course to set another turnout record. It’s also a strong argument for mail voting everywhere — that is, if you like maximizing participation in our democracy. At least two of our three political parties do.

There was a lot of unhappiness with the Democratic gubernatorial choices. There were 6,569 write-in votes, more than six percent of the total. (Most of them presumably cast for Gov. Phil Scott.) There were 7,739 blank ballots for governor. Think of that: Seven percent of those who bothered to cast votes couldn’t be bothered to choose a gubernatorial candidate. That’s stunning. And seems to reveal a broad dissatisfaction with the choices on offer. One more sign that Zuckerman has some serious work to do.

Continue reading

Where Are The Ashes Of Yesteryear?

Objects In The Mirror May Be Fuzzier Than They Appear

The following was written in 2003. I’d ask you to guess the author, but I’ve already given away that game.

I should be a Democrat. From Massachusetts, mother a teacher and father a civil servant, family of Kennedy-philes… I’ve got a long life of political activism ahead of me. My loyalties are to ideas and not a party, so if my energies are not going to the Dems, they’ll be going somewhere else.

… Younger people like myself can understand the importance of getting the message to different types of voters. But we also understand the nature of a chameleon, and we don’t want to vote for a leaf and elect a reptile.

That’s a short excerpt from “Letter from a Democratic Party Pooper, and it was indeed penned by Young Tim Ashe, progressive firebrand. The letter was included in Crossroads: The Future of American Politics, written in 2003 by the future governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo. (This tidbit came to my attention courtesy of urban archeologist and Twitter buddy Ed Adrian.)

In the letter, Ashe bemoans the Democratic Party’s habit of tacking to the center. He certainly sounds like a former Bernie Sanders staffer and future Progressive Party officeholder. He doesn’t sound much like Ashe the Senate President Pro Tem, who’s known for cosseting the chamber’s old guard, a cadre of change-averse centrists.

So. Which Tim Ashe is running for lieutenant governor?

Continue reading

Two-Biter Bites Again

Remember my pre-election post about Vermont’s Two-Biters? The Progressives who ran in Democratic primaries, lost, and then ran as Progressives?

Well, one of them cost the Democrats a seat in the House.

Up in the two-seat Lamoille-Washington district, which stretches from Morrisville to Worcester along Route 12, Democrat David Yacovone and Republican Gary Nolan were elected. Incumbent Democrat Avram Patt finished a close third.

Prog-turned-Dem-turned-Prog Marci Young siphoned off more than enough votes to elect the Republican Nolan. The final returns:

Yacovone 2,449

Nolan 1,915

Patt 1,698

Young   865

Patt lost by 219 votes, roughly one-fourth of Young’s total. I think we can safely assume that without Young in the race, he would have picked up enough additional votes to finish second.

Continue reading

The Progs’ irony trap

I just realized that it’s been a long time since I’d given any thought to the Progressive Party as a force in state politics.

What reminded me was Terri Hallenbeck’s piece about the Stanaks, “a family divided over a Vermont election.” It’s the story of a stalwart progressive (and Progressive) family that’s gone in different directions this cycle. Paterfamilias Ed Stanak, motivated by opposition to ridgeline wind, is backing Phil Scott. Daughter Lluvia Stanak is working on the Sue Minter campaign. Her sister Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, chair of the Vermont Progressive Party, is officially neutral.

That’s because the Progs opted to sit out the gubernatorial race, failing to field a candidate of their own and refusing to endorse anyone else. I vaguely recall knowing that at some earlier point, but I’d managed to completely forget it until now.

The non-endorsement kinda made sense at the time. Sue Minter looked like an offshoot of the Shumlin administration, which had burned the Progs twice over by snagging their endorsement in 2010 and 2012 and then bailing on their number-one issue, single-payer health care. The Progs were, understandably, twice bitten and thrice shy.

It looks a lot worse now, what with Prog stalwart David Zuckerman fully on board with the Democratic ticket and Bernie Sanders going all-out to boost the Minter campaign. Indeed, the Progressive Party looks out of touch and almost irrelevant.

Continue reading

Two bites of the apple

The Progressive Party doesn’t have much of a ticket this year. Many of its candidates are running as Democrats because they stand a better chance of winning. Smart tactics in the short term, and something of a worry for Dems. They’re seeing previously “safe” seats peeled off by the Progs, potentially weakening their legislative caucuses.

This year, we have a new twist on that technique: Progressives running as Democrats, losing the primary, and then refiling as Progs for the same contest.

There are four such candidates (that I know of), all running for the House, and all in “safe” Democratic districts. The Two-Biters:

— Jill Charbonneau, Addison-1

— Steve May, Chittenden-1

— Marci Young, Lamoille-Washington

— Carl Etnier, Washington-5

This is of direct interest to me, because I live in one of those districts.

Each person must make up their own mind. Me personally, I’m disinclined to vote for a Two-Biter.

Continue reading

Progs be progs, I guess

Like that old fable about the scorpion riding a frog across the river. It’s in their nature to bite, even if it could mean their own end. From Ye Olde Twitter Feede:

On the one hand, yeah, the Progressives are well within their rights to point out unsavory (from their POV) behavior by Vermont Democrats. On the other, the timing seems just a wee bit off, considering that…

— Pretty much all the Progressive candidates are running as Democrats, taking advantage of the Democratic brand while seeking to undercut its value. And threatening their own purity in the process: taint by association is hard to remove.

— Their boy David Zuckerman just gained access to the fabled and much-desired Democratic Party voter database*, which has taken years and many dollars (some from corporate sources) to assemble.

*Correction: The Dems and the Zuckerman campaign reached agreement on resource-sharing and a coordinated campaign, but if does not include full access to the database.

At the very least, they might have waited a few days after Zuckerman’s organizational victory to start taunting the party that’s tangibly propping up their own prospects. And what did they gain? The fleeting satisfaction of sending a Mean Tweet.

As the scorpion sank beneath the waves, he belted out a hearty chorus of “My Way.”

Progressive Party: sovereign entity or barnacle?

Here’s an interesting factoid. Voters in the August 9 primary will have their choice of three ballots — Democratic, Republican, and Progressive.

The latter will be available statewide in printed form. And in most of our precincts, the entire Progressive ballot will contain precisely one name: Boots Wardinski, Capital City Farmers Market stalwart and Progressive candidate for lieutenant governor. He’s run for Lite-Guv twice before, both times on the Liberty Union ticket, with minimal result.

We are all paying (by one account, $80,000*) to put Boots Wardinski’s name on ballots that will be largely ignored by voters. Most Progressives won’t take a Progressive ballot because so many Progs are running in Democratic primaries. Like, for instance, real live actual Progressive David Zuckerman, running as a Dem for lieutenant governor — in a tough race against Democrats Shap Smith and Kesha Ram. How many Progs are going to pass up a chance to influence that race just to cast a vote for Boots Wardinski?

*According to the Secretary of State’s office, the total cost of this year’s primary ballots is roughly $160,000. One-third of that would be $53,333.33. So there’s your Boots Tax.)

Beyond the unfortunate use of public funds for all those straight-to-the-shredder Wardinski ballots, this raises an existential issue about the Progressive Party.

Is it gradually ceding its sovereignty, and turning into nothing more than a barnacle on the Democrats’ underside?

Continue reading

Galbraith pipped at another progressive post

I don’t know how much influence Rights & Democracy has. It’s a fairly new organization, but it’s made some waves in its brief existence. And it drew a crowd of hundreds Wednesday night for a combination political rally and concert.

At which it endorsed David Zuckerman for lieutenant governor — no surprise there — and Matt Dunne for governor.

Hmm, I thought. Matt Dunne. Not Peter Galbraith. From a group whose stated goal is to advance Bernie Sanders’ political revolution.

Overall, Dunne’s a better candidate than Galbraith, but some of his positions are rather centrist. I would have expected a bit more puritanical and less practical approach from a left-wing group. So I gave R&D chief James Haslam a call to find out how the group settled on Dunne.

Continue reading

Chris Pearson gets a big assist

The Democratic race for six Senate nominations in Chittenden County will be an all-out affair, with two vacancies in a district that tends to automatically re-elect incumbents. But State Rep. Chris Pearson, the Progressive hopeful, just got a big dose of good news.

(Note: Hallenbeck later issued a correction. It’s eight candidates, not seven.)

Yep, Bernie is starting to open his fundraising apparatus to more candidates — which is the best way for him to build a progressive movement.

In a crowded Democratic primary that could get expensive, this makes Pearson a front-runner. Because “expensive” by Vermont standards is “piddling” almost anywhere else.

Continue reading

The Progs demur

The Progressive Party’s State Committee met on Saturday, and decided to stay out of the race for governor. Which strikes me as a small but measurable setback for Peter Galbraith, the self-described progressive choice.

As reported by Seven Days’ Terri Hallenbeck, the Committee did endorse Sen. David Zuckerman for lieutenant governor and the re-election bid of Auditor Doug Hoffer. No surprises there.

But the Committee opted not to endorse any of the three Dems running for governor, even though Galbraith, Sue Minter, and Matt Dunne each addressed the gathering in hopes of earning the nod. There were two major factors in the non-decision, party chair Emma Mulvaney-Stanak told me.

First, the Progs’ 2010 decision to stay out of the gubernatorial race in hopes that Peter Shumlin would deliver on single-payer health care and other key issues. “That left a very bad taste in Progressives’ mouths,” she said, and little enthusiasm for supporting a Democrat.

And second, the Democratic candidates failed to inspire the Committee. “None brought a Progressive ‘wow factor,’” she explained.

Their presentations were pretty similar. They didn’t exactly make a strong case for why the Progressive Party should endorse them. They seemed unwilling to go beyond what the Democratic establishment supports

All three have tried to wrap themselves in the Bernie Sanders mantle. But Galbraith more insistently than the other two. Was Mulvaney-Stanak surprised that Galbraith didn’t impress?

Continue reading