Category Archives: Vermont Republican Party

Christina Nolan Must Be Questioning Her Life Choices Right About Now

It’s gotten to the point where I feel sorry for Christina Nolan, the drug-enforcin’ former U.S. Attorney turned nudge nudge, wink wink moderate Republican candidate for Pat Leahy’s Senate seat. First, whatever she was promised in terms of financial and organizational support has failed to materialize. Second, she’s going to spend the next several months sharing the stage with a bunch of far-right zealots before like-minded audiences. The crowd and the stage will doubtless include people who don’t believe that Her Kind are entitled to equal rights or, for that matter, existence.

If these events get any coverage at all, they’ll torpedo her effort to campaign as a moderate. She’ll have two choices: play to the crowd and hope not to be quoted in the press, or stick to her campaign’s message and risk getting booed off the stage.

The first stop on this Trail of Tears is on Saturday at the palatial Double Tree Hotel, the flower of South Burlington, where the VTGOP will hold a luncheon (which is what they call “lunch” when they’re trying to sell expensive tickets*) and meeting to discuss and approve the party’s dog-whistly platform, in which the concept of moderation gains no purchase.

“Trying” is the operative word here. Last week, the party was offering a $15 discount off the $55 list price for those who bought tix before this week; then, on Monday and Tuesday it offered the same deal. In fact, on both days it sent an email saying the discount was still available but would end at “midnight tonight.”

And while we’re on the subject of Republican desperation, the party is STILL selling merch from the infamous “Let’s Go Brandon” rally held last November. Paul Dame’s garage must be full of that junk.

Nolan will be forced to have the opportunity to share the stage with the likes of her little-known and veeerrrrryy conservative primary opponent Gerald Malloy and the party’s two hopeless Congressional candidates, Anya Tynio and Ericka Redic. Also sharing in the rubber chicken: the party’s two candidates for lieutenant governor, the estimable Sen. Joe Benning and the execrable Gregory Thayer, 2020 election truther and Vermont’s most ardent opponent of whatever he imagines critical race theory is.

Nolan and Benning should expect the crowd to be ideologically in sync with the True Believers on stage and skeptical (at best) of their professions of inclusive Republicanism. At least the two can commiserate about waging an uphill battle with no resources and feeling compelled to cozy up to the VTGOP’s far-right base.

After the jump: Coming Soon to a Grange Hall Near You

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VTGOP Platform is All the Dog Whistles

The good people — and the rest — of the Vermont Republican Party will gather this Saturday to hear from distinguished candidates like [checks notes] Gregory Thayer, Ericka Redic, and Gerald Malloy*, whoever he is. They’ll also consider the party’s draft platform which, as you might expect, is one long exercise in dog-whistling — using coded language to appeal to the far right while refraining from overt statements that couldn’t be countenanced by serious Republicans like Phil Scott, Joe Benning, and Christina Nolan.

*Malloy is challenging Nolan for the booby prize, I mean Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. He’s against mask and vaccine mandates, wants to Build the Wall, and opposes not only Roe v. Wade but also Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court decision that established a right to contraception.

The platform ties the modern Republican Party to the Civil War and the ending of slavery, but fails to mention that the Republican Party ended its support for equal rights during the Ulysses S. Grant presidency and, since the days of Richard Nixon, has been the home party of American racism. It makes pleasant noises about environmentalism but slams the Global Warming Solutions Act and any other policy that might increase fossil fuel prices. It posits that the solution to health care affordability is — wait for it — giving people the ability to buy insurance across state lines and, yup, tort reform. It supports vouchers for K-12 education and parental access to all teaching materials, the favored code phrase for opposing critical race theory.

It also cites a “right to private property,” which is kind of not a thing? The Fifth Amendment establishes a limited right that bars the abrogation of property rights without due process or just compensation. (One wonders what the party’s position would be on Daniel Banyai.)

It also quotes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I’ll give you one guess which quote.

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This Is Your Vermont Republican Party

Christopher-Aaron Felker, spectacularly unsuccessful Burlington City Council candidate and chair of the burning wreck of the city Republican committee, caused quite the stir Monday on the Twitter machine. He tagged the “groomer” label on Democratic and Progressive lawmakers who’ve sponsored a bill to allow minors to seek gender-affirming treatment without parental consent.

There’s hardly a more despicable word you could use to tar a political opponent. You’re basically calling them pedophiles.

It’s beyond the pale. It ought to make Felker persona non grata in polite circles. And in the Republican Party as well.

But it won’t.

It won’t because, Phil Scott notwithstanding, This Is Your Vermont Republican Party. The governor isn’t merely an outlier in his own party; he’s the lone inhabitant on an island that’s slowly sinking under the waves.

Felker took it beyond the pale, but the illustration and the talking point came straight from the VTGOP. Its chair, Paul Dame, might be a bit more restrained than Felker, but he’s operating out of the same defamatory playbook, fearmongering a bill that’s already dead for the session.

So why should we expect the party to punish Felker over one simple additional word?

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The VTGOP’s Little Oligarchs

I’ve written before of the delicate high-wire act between moderates and far-righters that VTGOP chair Paul Dame is perfectly unsuited to carry out. He’s got to try to encompass the Phil Scott camp and all the ultraconservatives who litter the party apparatus.

Turns out, he also has to play nice with a coterie of big donors ($1,000 or more apiece) who are keeping the party above water, and most of them tilt strongly rightward.

The VTGOP has had fundraising trouble since I started tracking #vtpoli back in 2011. They still do. A check of the party’s FEC filings shows that, from January 2021 through February 2022, total party fundraising added up to $94,081. They got another $14,350 from the Republican National Committee, bringing total takings to $108,431.

That’s less than $10,000 a month, even with the RNC’s pity money.

Compare that to the Vermont Democratic Party, which raised almost $300,000 from individual donors in the same period — at a time when the party was seriously disorganized and suffering frequent turnover among leadership and staff. But that’s just the beginning; the VDP took in another 300K from other organizations. Almost two-thirds of that came from the Democratic National Committee. Most of the rest came from Democratic politicians’ campaign funds and members of Vermont’s Congressional delegation as well as a couple of big labor unions and, for some reason, $500 apiece from sports-gambling giants FanDuel and DraftKings.

Add it all up, and it’s more than $600,000 in the same period when the VTGOP barely cleared $100,000.

So the VTGOP is scrambling for any dollar it can find. And of its fundraising total, $42,670 — more than 45% — came from big-dollar donors. Well, big-dollar by Vermont standards anyway. But clearly, they make up enough of the VTGOP’s donor base that they have to be catered to. Now, let’s look at who they are.

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VTGOP Chair Blows the Gender Panic Dog Whistle As Loudly As He Can

Paul Dame has struck again. The VTGOP chair knows that he can’t follow the national Republican playbook verbatim because it’d be a losing proposition in Vermont, so he tries to roll out shaded, nuanced, softened versions of the hard-right talking points.

This time, in his weekly email blast, he turned his attention to the big conservative bugaboo of the news cycle: GENDER PANIC!!!!!!!

The missive is entitled “Progressive Democrats Try To Strip Parental Consent.” In it, Dame waves the bloody shirt over H.659, a bill that would allow nonsurgical, gender-affirming care for minors without parental consent. The bill’s lead sponsors are Reps. Taylor Small and Tanya Vyhovsky, which Dame spells “Vyyhovsky.” Oops.

See, in the Vermont political environment, Dame can’t come right out and advocate a ban on gender-affirming treatment or discussion of gender in the schools because he’d risk alienating too many voters. So he has to aim lower. He sees “parental consent” as a hittable target. It’s also the VTGOP version of fighting abortion rights; they can’t possibly win on banning abortions, so they circle the wagons around parental consent.

But even though Dame has smoothed off the extreme edges of the argument, his piece is built on a lie and gets worse from there.

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The VTGOP’s Problems in a Nutshell

Not that they handle it well, but leaders of the VTGOP are in a tough spot. On one hand they’ve got backers of plausible moderate Gov. Phil Scott, the only Republican who’s shown he can win a statewide election; on the other, the die-hard Trumpists and QAnon believers who, sadly, make up much of the party’s base. The latter’s irrepressible dogmatism makes it very tough for old-fashioned Republican types to stay involved.

Because they have to put up with stuff like a recent email exchange among Lamoille County Republicans, shared with me by a very annoyed Lamoille County Republican. It begins with an email sent to a Republican group list from one Shannara Johnson, a dyed-in-the-wool Q type and, ahem, Republican candidate for the House in 2020.

Johnson shared a link to an essay alleging that the United States was operating multiple bioweapons labs in Ukraine, a claim that’s been thoroughly debunked.

Other Republicans on the thread reacted strongly to the post. One called it “Russian propaganda.” Another termed it “a typical and obvious conspiracy theory.” Five people asked for their names to be removed from the email list because of Johnson’s post.

And that’s the dilemma faced by traditional Republicans. In order to stay in the party, they have to put up with the Shannara Johnsons of the world. All the time. I have seen similar conspiracy theories expressed at Vermont Republican state committee meetings, for Pete’s sake.

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Senate Reapportionment, a.k.a. The Incumbency Protection Act of 2022

Random Unrelated Illustration

If there was ever any doubt that the state Senate is a club unto itself, well, a close look at the chamber’s likely reapportionment map will make things perfectly clear.

First, the circumstances: After weeks and weeks of vaguely-defined “discussion,” the committee burped out its map in a 26-minute-long hearing on Thursday. Seriously, before Thursday, the agenda for each of its previous 13 meetings merely said “Committee Discussion.” At least they were open hearings, I guess.

According to VTDigger, the hearing was not warned in advance as required by law, and the map wasn’t made public until after the hearing. A procedural fail to be sure, and a worrying one by a committee chaired by Sen. Jeanette White, who chairs the Senate Government Operations Committee. You know — the one that deals with open meetings and public records laws?

Aside from process flaws, the map itself is problematic in many ways. At virtually every turn, it bows the knee to incumbency — even when doing so is a setback for the Democratic Party. You know, the party that allegedly controls the process?

If this map is enacted, it will be harder for the Democrats to keep their Senate supermajority. It will help Republicans pick up some ground, but maybe not right away; and the new Chittenden County map is the best thing to happen to the Progressive Party since David Zuckerman became lieutenant governor. (It also gives the Republicans a real shot at a Chittenden seat for the first time since Diane Snelling left the chamber.)

The newly created, three-seat Chittenden Central district includes Winooski and part of Burlington. It seems custom-made to give the Progs a real shot at winning all three seats.

Looking at the committee lineup, this may have been a case of Prog/Dem Sen. Chris Pearson pulling one over on sleepy Democrats’ eyes. He was the only member from Chittenden County, which is weird in itself. There were four Dems on the committee: the barely-there Jeanette White, the almost-a-Republican Bobby Starr, everybody’s friend Alison Clarkson, and quiet second-termer Andrew Perchlik. The two Republicans were part-time Vermonter Brian Collamore and the politically savvy Randy Brock. In sheer political terms, Pearson and Brock could run rings around the other five.

And it sure looks like they did just that.

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VTGOP Chair Dog-Whistling With All His Breath

At times I feel sorry for Paul Dame, chair of the Vermont Republican Party, seen here on one of his seldom-watched YouTube thingies (posted 2/18, racked up 40 views since). But then he goes and opens his mouth, and the sympathy evaporates.

Dame has a staff of no one, and he’s got the thankless task of cosseting the Trumpites and the QAnon types without alienating the center and center-right voters necessary for electoral success. He carries out that delicate endeavor with all the grace of a rhinoceros on a high wire.

Take his reaction to Tuesday’s Town Meeting results, in which almost every right-wing fanatic lost their bid for local office. In an email to Seven Days, he claimed that the results had nothing to do with ideology; they were simply a matter of incumbent’s advantage.

Yeah, well, that might be true for races with actual incumbents, but it leaves out all the other contests that saw non-incumbent, non-extremist candidates absolutely mollywhop their far-right opponents. But I guess Dame has to find an explanation besides “Vermont voters are sickened by extremism.” That wouldn’t play well with the base.

He then went on to blame Emerge Vermont (!!!!!) for politicizing local elections.

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VTGOP Suffers Catastrophic “F” Shortage (UPDATED)

The Vermont Republican Party is trolling for candidates, as always. The second option on its homepage is optimistically entitled “Run for Office!” as if a place on the ballot with the dread “Republican” identifier isn’t an electoral albatross. But hey, the woefully under-resourced party can’t afford a staff to actually, you know, beat the bushes and find candidates, and its “bench” is an unoccupied ottoman.

That’s all sad enough, but take a gander at this. It’s a screenshot of the drop-down menu on the “Run for Office!” page. They’re seeking candidates to run for the imaginary offices of “Sherrif” and “High Bailif.” Oops. And oops.

Let the countdown begin to Correction Time!

Update: Correction Time has come! It now says “sheriff” and “bailiff.” Dang, I was hoping to run uncontested for “sherrif.” Also, my apologies for failing to headline this piece “VTGOP Doesn’t Have Enough F’s to Give.”

This Will Be a Good Test of the State of the VTGOP

In this corner: six-term state Sen. Joe Benning, former Senate Minority Leader and the only Republican to chair a Senate committee.

In that corner: Gregory Thayer, 2020 election truther, organizer of the CovidCruiser, anti-critical race theory agitator and head of Vermonters for Vermont, an all-purpose far-right Society for the Airing of Grievances.

These are the two Republicans running for lieutenant governor. It ought to be an easy choice. Prominent lawmaker, articulate, thoughtful conservative versus fringey zealot. And maybe it will be; I make Benning the clear favorite.

But it might not be, and therein lies the problem with today’s VTGOP. There are a lot of Gregory Thayers in the party ranks. Party chair Paul Dame is likely to take a cautiously neutral position because he can’t afford to inflame the far right, even though Benning is clearly the better choice. He’s the only one who’d bring credibility to the ticket, and he’s earned his party’s support through his years of service.

But we’re talking about a VTGOP that’s turned its back on Gov. Phil Scott, the only Republican who’s won a statewide election since 2008. And a VTGOP whose base probably sees Benning as a turncoat.

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