Tag Archives: Bobby Starr

Is Somebody Getting Nervous in the LG Race?

There’s only one month to go until the August primary, and who knows how many absentee ballots already coming in, so maybe it’s no surprise that some collars are showing signs of tightening.

The above is a mailer sent by Senate President Pro Tem and candidate for lieutenant governor Tim Ashe, which seems expressly designed to draw a contrast between him and Assistant Attorney General Molly Gray.

Gray, for those just joining us, appeared seemingly out of nowhere and immediately started racking up big donations and big-name endorsements. Before her emergence, the safe money was on Ashe to ride his name recognition to a primary victory — and then a comfortable ride to election in November. But now? Not so much.

Ashe’s mailer screams about the need for EXPERIENCE in these troubled times. The kind of EXPERIENCE that makes a person fit to, uhhh, bang a gavel. It highlights three things about Ashe that can’t be said about Gray: experience as Pro Tem, experience passing legislation, and “my real-world economic development career.”

That notorious slacker Gray, by contrast, has frittered away her time working for U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and Attorney General T.J. Donovan, among others. She probably does scrapbooking or needlepoint in her spare time. Maybe jigsaw puzzles.

Ashe’s mailer doesn’t draw as neat a contrast with the other two Democrats in the race. His fellow Senator Debbie Ingram has plenty of experience on legislation. Activist and arts administrator Brenda Siegel has spent lots of time in the Statehouse working on legislation as an advocate.

A more direct attack on Gray came last week courtesy of VTDigger, which posted a story questioning her residency status — and pretty much settling the issue in her favor.

Here’s some rank speculation on my part: Somebody gave Digger a tip to pursue this angle. If this had been entirely Digger’s initiative, the story would have been done when Gray launched her campaign — after all, she went out of her way to highlight her international experience including her time away from Vermont.

I have not a shred of evidence pointing to Ashe or his minions as the source of the story. But the timing speaks for itself. And I really don’t see Ingram or Siegel resorting to trickery of any sort.

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Our Sclerotic Senate [UPDATED]

Not Exactly As Illustrated.

Note: In the original version of this post, I failed to include Ron Horton in the Essex-Orleans district. This post is now updated to include him.

The Vermont state Senate, our most self-absorbed deliberative body, is a study in stasis. Turnover is rare. Incumbents are virtually assured of re-election, usually without much effort. (The last sitting senators to lose were Bill Doyle and Norm McAllister in 2016 — but Doyle was 90 years old, quite frail and had a reputation for nodding off during meetings, and McAllister faced a daunting array of criminal charges at the time. That’s about what it takes for an incumbent to lose.

Anyway.)

This year promises to be same song, new verse. A rough and semi-educated review of the field of candidates shows that 27 of the 30 senators are strong or prohibitive favorites to win re-election — and that includes one incumbent who didn’t bother filing his candidacy papers, and will have to run a write-in campaign. The forgetful fellow is NEK Democrat and snippy little bitch John Rodgers, who represents the two-seat Essex-Orleans district along with perpetual incumbent Bobby Starr, who did manage to file — along with “Democrat” Ron Horton, who ran this race under the banner of the American Party in 2018.

The American Party, FYI, is a fringe conservative organization that traces its roots back to the American Independent Party founded by hardcore segregationist George Wallace. Horton finished a distant third in 2018 behind Starr and Rodgers. He stands a puncher’s chance in this year’s primary because his name is on the ballot and Rodgers’ is not. But Rodgers’ cavailer attitude toward the simple act of filing papers (and this year he didn’t even need to gather signatures) precisely illustrates the problem: Senate incumbents are virtually bulletproof.

I said 27 of the 30 are favorites. The other three — Tim Ashe and Debbie Ingram of Chittenden County and James McNeil of Rutland — are voluntarily giving up their seats. Indeed, voluntary retirement is just about the only way there’s ever any turnover in the Vermont Senate.

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More obstructionism from anti-renewable lawmakers

The Northeast Kingdom has become a hotbed of anti-renewable sentiment. They think they’re overburdened by the renewable buildout in their neck of the woods — although they seem to be just fine with Bill Stenger’s ambitious development plans, which would include a dramatic expansion of the Jay Peak resort with the concomitant loss of open space and wildlife habitat.

The Kingdom’s nominally Democratic Senators, Bobby Starr and John Rodgers, have proposed a bill that would effectively hamstring development of solar energy projects. They have a cover story, as they always do; this isn’t about energy, it’s about farming!

… the bill would apply Act 250 standards to renewable energy developments proposed for high-quality farmland.

Starr told finance committee members that he wants to balance the need for renewable energy with the need to conserve farmland, and he said the proposal could encourage solar development on more appropriate locations, such as rooftops.

Right. Rooftops. Vermont has so many of those.

There are a few problems with this bill. In no particular order:

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I think Dick Mazza’s just trolling us now

Well, the State Senate’s #1 Untouchable, Dick Mazza, is at it again.

This time, the alleged Democrat has co-written an opinion piece (published a few days ago in the Bennington Banner) with Republican Peg Flory and alleged Democrat Bobby Starr, slamming the Shumlin administration for, uhh, seeking the shutdown of Vermont Yankee.

To be more precise, the three solons accuse Shumlin of rank hypocrisy for wanting to close Vermont Yankee and now seeking divestment from coal stocks. Because Vermont Yankee was renewable energy, see?

Yeah.

The essay includes plenty of harsh rhetoric you might expect from the outer precincts of the VTGOP. (Tougher than Phil Scott, certainly.) Here’s a sample:

Recent issuances from Vermont’s government have overridden fiduciary responsibility and due process in favor of special interest campaigns and political gestures.

Right out of the Republican playbook, no? And then, this:

The eventual, unfortunate decision to close Vermont Yankee has now increased the state’s carbon footprint, as Vermont uses more fossil fuels for energy generation. State government officials at the time called the loss of high paying jobs and expanded tax base “hard news,” as if nothing could have been done to prevent the closure and its consequences.

Again, chapter and verse from the VTGOP: pinning the blame on Shumlin and ignoring the fact that it was Vermont Yankee’s owner that pulled the plug. For all of the Governor’s posturing, Entergy was winning the court battle over VY’s future when it decided, purely on financial grounds, to close down the plant on schedule.

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Shumlin doubles down on bashing fellow Democrats

If you thought there was a chance that Governor Shumlin would tone down his insistence on last-minute spending cuts, well, think again. Earlier, he’d called two key Senate committee chairs on the ceremonial carpet to argue for tax reductions and spending cuts — in a spending bill that had already passed the Senate Appropriations Committee. This didn’t go over well with Democxratic lawmakers, per Paul Heintz:

Gov. Peter Shumlin’s erstwhile allies in the Democratic legislature lashed out at him Thursday for pushing new cuts after the Senate Appropriations Committee signed off on the budget.

“It’s insulting to the process,” complained one top Dem.

… “It’s been pretty lonely in there all winter,” Sen. Bobby Starr (D-Essex/Orleans) said, referring to the Appropriations Committee, on which he serves. “I woulda thought they would’ve been in at least a month ago, if not five, six weeks ago, offering some suggestions.”

House Majority Leader Sarah Copeland Hanzas noted that the House-passed tax and spending bills actually called for less spending than the Governor’s original budget plan. She called the gubernatorial disconnect “perplexing.”

Welp, the Governor is unbowed by all the pushback.

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Yes, it got worse for Vermont Republicans. Except Phil.

Notes and musings from the August 18 campaign finance report filings…

Governor Shumlin is in cruise control. His campaign raised another $67,000 this time, and spent only $11,000. He has almost $1.13 million in the bank.

Scott Milne continues to falter. He raised $22,370 this time, compared to $20,000 last time. That pace won’t get him anywhere near his stated goal of $200,000. And his total was again buoyed considerably by the Boies family: $2K from a Christopher Boies, $2K from daddy Boies’ law firm, and $2K from an LLC whose address is the same as the daddy Boies law firm. For those keeping track, the collective Boieses have donated $16,000 of Milne’s total of $42K. He also raised $2K from Altour International, a high-end travel agency based in New York. His biggest in-state donor was the Wayside Restaurant, which donated $2K. That’s a lot of ham and eggs.

Milne spent $28,000 in the past month, of which more than $18K went to campaign manager Brent Burns’ consulting firm.

— The alleged Republican upstart, Libertarian Dan Feliciano, reported raising $13,000. Sounds decent, but $10K of that came from Dan himself. He had only a handful of other donors — notably getting $200 from Republican Treasurer Mark “Little Snell” Snelling. There’s no sign of a Feliciano bandwagon to be found in his finance report.

— The Vermont Republican Party is still in the doldrums, raising $2,420 in the past month.

— The only Republican doing really well is Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott who, challenged by Progressive Dean Corren’s public financing, put his fundraising operation into high gear and pulled in $52,000 in the past month. He didn’t spend a whole lot, and has $120,000 in cash on hand. He got plenty of cash from construction firms (his line of work) and from some of his turncoat friends in the Senate Democratic majority — a total of $2500 from Dick and Dorothy Mazza, and $200 from “Bobby Star,” who I believe is actually State Sen. Bobby Starr.

Scott’s doing well for himself, but to judge from the latest reports, he ain’t lifting a finger for his beloved VTGOP.

Vermonters First, which spent a million Broughton Bucks in 2012, is still in hibernation. Raised zero, spent $25 for a bank account.

— Lenore Broughton did open her checkbook for a few Republican candidates and gave $2K to the Common Sense Leadership PAC. Said PAC didn’t raise any other money but managed to spend $3500 on consultants. Namely $2K to Shayne Spence, a staffer at the Ethan Allen Institute, and $1500 to Elizabeth Metraux who is apparently the PR person for Vermont PBS.

— Republicrat Senate hopeful Roger Allbee pulled in a decent $4760 this time around for a grand total of $6K. His total take included a nice $1,000 donation from soon-to-be-ex-Senator Peter Galbraith. The Slummin’ Solon, who has publicly endorsed Allbee, was nonetheless chosen to moderate one of the four Windham County Democratic Senatorial candidate forums, a curious move to be sure. (During that debate, he reportedly got into an argument with fellow Senator Jeanette White. Not very statesmanlike or diplomatic, Petey.)

— Celebrity tidbit: The aforementioned Senator White can brag of a $100 donation from Mr. Tom Bodett. Leavin’ the light on for ya!