Category Archives: Vermont Republican Party

Stumping For the American God

Earlier this week, after Liz Cheney was purged by the House’s minority caucus, Gov. Phil Scott was asked about the sorry state of the national GOP. His response, per WCAX: “It appears as there’s a sign that is being placed in the window saying you need not apply and if you don’t adhere to those values or that litmus test, you are no longer welcome.”

A natural follow-up, which went unasked, would have been “In that case, what about the Vermont Republican Party, whose leadership is as intolerant as the national crowd?”

Take, for example, Jay Shepard, Republican National Committeeman and generic Mike Pompeo knock-off. He is one of two VTGOP representatives to the national Republican Committee, which makes him a very big fish in the shallow pool of our conservative politics.

Shepard styles himself a genius of inside politics. He runs Junction Consulting, a conservative firm offering its expertise in campaigns, fundraising and so forth. During the 2018 election cycle, his firm got nearly $200,000 from the Republican State Leadership Council to run ads against select Vermont Democratic lawmakers. Hmm, a Republican committee funneling funds to a Republican committeeman. Sounds a little grifty to me.

Well, Shepard’s got himself a new grift. He’s using the VTGOP email list to pump a national group that he co-founded. So, if you signed up for information about what Vermont Republicans are up to, congratulations. You’re getting Shepard’s fundraising pleas for the group, plus a regular email newsletter from its rhetorician-in-chief.

Said group is the American Council for Education and Knowledge. Named, as is customary in right-wing circles, to apply a mainstreamy veneer on a collection of far-right ideologues. As if that’s going to fool anyone.

And what, pray tell, awaits if you click on the link above?

For starters, how about “The time has come to restore the American God, His natural law, and His code of ethics to their proper roles in everyday life.”

Yep, “the American God.” Just like it says in the Bible.

Not.

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That “Big Tent” Lacks an Entrance or Two

It was probably inevitable that Kolby LaMarche would resign as chair of the Burlington Republicans. A bit less so that he left the GOP altogether. But here we are.

Whenever she’s asked about extreme elements in the party, VTGOP chair Deb Billado resorts to the “big tent’ analogy. The party, she says, is big enough to include all comers.

Nice theory, but it’s not working in practice. The kind of die-hard Trump supporters who still believe he was cheated out of the election are more than welcome in the party ranks and, what the heck, leadership. But people like LaMarche, who believe the GOP must abandon the Trump delusion, are made to feel so unwelcome that they eventually leave. And the party’s rightward tilt gets that much more pronounced.

If the VTGOP really believes in the “big tent,” then Billado and her colleagues would be pounding the phones, begging LaMarche to give them another chance. Somehow I doubt that’s the case. Because to the chair and her allies, including vice chair Deb Bucknam and national committee members Jay Shepard and Suzanne Butterfield, fealty to Trump is a litmus test for good Republicans. Not to mention local party officials like Ron Lawrence of Essex, co-instigator of the CovidCruiser that went to Washington for Trump’s attempted insurrection on January 6. That’d be the same Lawrence who launched a petition drive to get Gov. Phil Scott to abandon his party affiliation.

Yes, the Phil Scott who is the one and only Republican success story in statewide elections. According to Lawrence and the 2200-odd signers, he’s the real problem in the VTGOP.

Did Billado rush to Scott’s defense? Uhh, no. She “declined comment” on the petition, claiming she hadn’t read the thing and wasn’t involved. No “big tent” references this time.

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Running Out of Metaphors Here (UPDATED) (UPDATED AGAIN)

Things just keep getting better and better for the Vermont Republican Party.

The latest eruption is in the GOP heartland of Burlington, where three members of the city party committee are calling for the removal of city party chair Kolby LaMarche because he’s insufficiently reverential toward Donald Trump.

Because being a Trumpster is such a great way to win elections in Burlington, I guess?

LaMarche sinned against orthodoxy by writing opinion pieces saying that the VTGOP needed to move away from Trump and return to “the Vermont Republican roots that formed the basis of our state party,” in the words of a written statement he released Friday. He had also called for a change in state party leadership; most of the VTGOP’s top officials are dyed-in-the-wool Trumpsters.

The three who want LaMarche removed are Ericka Redic, spectacularly unsuccessful candidate for state Senate in 2020; Gus Klein, a weapons tester at General Dynamics who’s best known as the guy whose Trump flag was vandalized by two teenagers back in 2018; and his wife AnnMarie Klein.

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Another Step Toward Irrelevance for the VTGOP

Yet another can of lighter fluid has been tossed on the roaring fire that is the Vermont Republican Party. This time the perp is Ron Lawrence, chair of the Essex Republicans and co-organizer of the CovidCruiser excursion to the January 6 Capitol riot.

Lawrence, whose town is rapidly transitioning from purple to deep blue, has taken to Change.org to post a petition calling on Gov. Phil Scott to leave the Republican Party.

That’s right, Lawrence believes that the VTGOP would be better off without the only member who’s managed to win a statewide office since 2010.

For those keeping score, that’s Phil Scott, undefeated with a 6-0 record running for LG and governor. The rest of the party from 2010 onward? A sterling one win, 29 losses. (Turncoat Tom Salmon is the one. He won another term as state auditor on the Republican ticket in 2010 after originally winning the office as a Democrat.)

That’s a winning percentage of .033. )The 1962 New York Mets, the measuring stick for futility, had a winning percentage of .250.) Any statistician will tell you that’s… not good.

Obviously, there are two separate VTGOPs. There’s the party hierarchy, which is full of Donald Trump loyalists such as Lawrence, and its elected officials. With the exception of a few dead-enders, Republican officeholders realize that to win elections in Vermont, they have to tack to the center. Like Phil Scott.

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VTGOP Chair Fires a Shot Across the Bow of Moderate Republicans

I don’t think Deb Billado is planning to resign anytime soon.

The Vermont Republican Party chair made that clear when she devoted her most recent weekly newsletter to a very fringey speech made by the very fringey South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem. It was a shot across the bow of Republican lawmakers who recently called for her resignation — and a slap in the face to Gov. Phil Scott.

You see, Scott and Noem are polar opposites on Covid-19 policy. Scott has proceeded with great caution, erring (mainly) on the side of public safety. Noem has kept her state wide open — including the granddaddy of all superspreaders, the Sturgis motorcycle rally.

The result: Vermont has a death rate of 27 per 100,000 residents, the second lowest among the states. South Dakota has lost 189 out of every 100,000, the seventh worst death rate in the nation. In total Covid-19 cases, Vermont is the best in the nation at 1,654 per 100K, while South Dakota is second-worst at 11,958 per 100K. How about testing? Vermont has conducted 133,174 tests per 100K — more than one test per resident. South Dakota? Way near the bottom, at 44,827 tests per 100K.

So, Vermont is doing far better at tracking the virus, keeping people healthy, and keeping them alive. I can’t say that Billado endorses South Dakota’s Covid “strategy,” but she went out of her way to highlight Noem’s views in a message to all Vermont Republicans. Now, maybe Billado didn’t intend it as direct criticism of Vermont’s govenror, but I bet you dollars to donuts that Team Scott sees it that way.

Beyond that, there’s the issue of Billado calling a collection of QAnon-adjacent nutbaggery a “thoughtful speech.” We’ll run it down after the jump.

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Act Like Nothing’s Wrong

@VTGOP, Exactly As Illustrated

You have to feel a little bit sorry for Deb Billado, chair of the Vermont Republican Party. She’s been working hard for three years now, trying to build a functioning machine out of spare parts and duct tape. But her Trumpian worldview makes her an ineffective advocate for the kind of fiscally conservative, socially moderate organization the VTGOP needs to be.

Now it’s all coming apart, thanks to the January 6 insurrection triggered by President Trump. While Republican Gov. Phil Scott came right out with a call for Trump’s removal from office, Billado issued a statement condemning the violence without mentioning the President at all.

On Tuesday, Billado issued another statement, this one urging people not to take part in a January 17 Statehouse rally in support of Trump. She began, oddly, with this:

It has come to my attention through various vague media reports that there is a rumor of some kind of protest planned at the capitol building in Montpelier this weekend.

Exsqueeze me?

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Is the VTGOP About to Break Apart?

He’s definitely up to something.

The Vermont Republican Party is a dysfunctional mess. For pretty much as long as I’ve been writing about #vtpoli — 10th anniversary coming up this year — the party has struggled in fundraising, organizing, candidate recruitment, and choosing an ideological lane. There’s been tension between its elected officials, who recognize that they have to appeal to the center in order to win, and the party faithful, who are profoundly conservative.

During the Trump years, that split has gotten wider. Gov. Phil Scott has essentially divorced himself from the party since November 2017, when he backed Mike “Not The Reporter” Donohue for party chair, only to see incumbent Deb Billado narrowly re-elected by the state committee. (Donohue is pretty conservative but he’s a realist, not a fanatic.) The party hierarchy is now full of Trump true believers, including Billado, vice chair Deb Bucknam (last seen filing a nutty lawsuit over Gov. Scott’s Covid-19 policies), and the two national committee members, Jay Shepard and Suzanne Butterfield.

Well, now the VTGOP’s split is going public. Rep. Scott Beck of St. Johnsbury is calling for the resignation of party officials who refuse to advocate for Trump’s removal from office, and he’s gathering support among Republican electeds.

“I have had some pointed comments at VTGOP leadership, and I have said to them, ‘If you cannot cross these bridges, I think it’s time for you to move on,’” Beck told Seven Days on Tuesday.

Sen. Corey Parent and Rep. Anne Donahue have joined the call for Billado to resign, after she issued a mealy-mouthed condemnation of the January 6 Capitol riot that didn’t mention Trump at all.

Beck et al. are clearly right about this; the current VTGOP is doomed to permanent minority status. But if they’re serious, it’s going to be a long, hard struggle. Things would get a lot worse before they start getting better, and “getting better” is not a sure bet. Because if they succeed in dislodging the hard-core Trumpers, there will hardly be anything left.

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Today, Every Republican Has a Choice to Make

Treason on the hoof.

Finally, after five years, we have identified the point where Republicans (well, some of them at least) start feeling a sense of shame.

It took an invasion of the U.S. Capitol by a mob of agitated conspiracy theorists, egged on by our president, to make some Republicans realize that maybe things have gone too far. Notable among their number is a healthy serving of GOP elected officials, from Gov. Phil Scott to House Minority Leader Pattie McCoy to Sen. Corey Parent to former VTGOP executive director Jeffrey Bartley, and I apologize for anyone else I left out. You did the right thing.

It wasn’t anything new for Scott or many other Vermont Republicans, who have never approved of what the president was doing to the party they loved. But for most Republicans, the remorse was extremely belated. They didn’t draw the line at “rapists and murderers,” or “grab them by the pussy,” or his habit of hurling base insults at his political opponents, or the consistent groveling at the feet of Vladimir Putin, or a foreign policy that favored dictators and punished our longstanding allies, or hush money payments to a porn star, or Trump’s refusal to release his financials, or tearing refugee families apart at the border, or otherwise punitive immigration policies, or “good people on both sides,” or the Trump Foundation self-dealing, or the rank nepotism of his administration, or the shameless profiteering at taxpayer expense, or the disastrous response to Hurricane Maria, or his persistent efforts to bend the justice system to his will, or the efforts to get dirt on Joe Biden, or the commission of clearly impeachable offenses, or the revolving door of imcompetent sycophants and ideologues who populated his administration, or the catastophically bad response to Covid-19.

Nope, it took a direct invasion of the Capitol at the instigation of Donald Trump. So it turns out that Republicans aren’t quite completely shame-free after all. Good to know.

The image above says everything that needs to be said about the events of January 6. As former state representative and chief American History fanboy Dylan Giambatista pointed out on Twitter, the guy is carrying a Confederate battle flag past a portrait of Vermont’s own Justin Morrill, stalwart Republican member of Congress from Civil War days. It was an inadvertent middle finger aimed at anyone who has fought to preserve the union.

After the jump: The CovidCruiser returns.

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I Think We’re All Traitors On This Bus

Well, this should be fun.

I mean, who could pass up a trip to D.C. on a bus full of Trump fanatics, who will presumably not be complying with Covid-19 recommendations on mask wearing and social distancing? Just think: You could have the chance to get Jay Shepard’s spittle on your shirt!

(That’s probably not true. If Shepard is going to D.C., he won’t ride a bus with the plebes. He’ll fly.)

Nice to know that the Chittenden County Republicans are supporting the #TreasonForTrump excursion. They’re right in step with the politics of their county, yes?

The grim details of this Road Trip To Hell And Back: The bus departs Tuesday evening from South Burlington, makes a stop in Rutland, and then heads south on a 10-hour, all-night-long bus trip to Washington, D.C. Travelers are urged to “bring a blanket and pillow” so they can get a good night’s sleep on a freaking bus. They’ll arrive in Washington early Wednesday morning, participate in futile pro-Trump rallies outside the Capitol, and then it’s back on the bus for another 10-hour all-nighter.

Ugh.

But wait, there’s more!

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The Strange Tale of Kid Swastika and the Scummy Consultant

There’s a curious whiff of white nationalism around the Scott Milne campaign. The fresh-faced youngster above, Kolby Lamarche, is Milne’s director of field and digital operations. Lamarche became notorious back in 2017 when he used a Hindu swastika as his profile picture on his school email account. The Hindu version is slightly different from the Nazi swastika, but more than close enough to trigger the reaction he got — and seemed to welcome at the time.

Next we have Texas-based Harris Media, which has collected $16,000 from the Milne campaign for graphic design and online advertising. In recent years, Harris has created campaign advertising for some of Europe’s finest ultra-nationalists, including France’s Front Nationale and Germany’s Alternative fur Deutschland.

Is Milne is secretly assembling an All-Star team of neo-Nazis? Of course not. But the hiring decisions seem… shall we say… curious at best, and stupendously ignorant at worst. I mean, why go out of your way to hire a teenager and an out-of-state consultancy that might create bad publicity? Especially when you’re trying to wrap yourself in the Phil Scott cloak of plausible moderation?

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