Tag Archives: Brandon Riker

Senate Tweaks Doomed Program

Well, huzzah. The State Senate has approved a change in the public financing law. Currently, a candidate who wants public financing has to wait until February 15 to say or do anything campaign-related. Given the current fashion in extra-early campaign launches, that’s a significant handicap.

Tne new bill would start the clock “as soon as a privately financed candidate raised or spent up to $2,000 on a gubernatorial or lieutenant gubernatorial campaign — up to one year before Election Day,” reports Seven Days’ Paul Heintz.

This solves the too-late problem without ensuring ever-earlier campaign launches. Good idea.

However, it’s quickly becoming apparent that the deadline is far from the biggest problem with the public financing system. The biggest problem is the skyrocketing cost of statewide campaigns and the paltry sums on offer through the public funding system.

Currently, a gubernatorial hopeful who earns enough small donations gets to (a) keep that money and (b) get enough public dollars to bring their campaign total to $450,000. For lieutenant governor, the figure is $200,000.

And those are absolute limits. Not a penny more, from any source. Not even a mention in a party’s email blast.

These days, that’s simply not enough to support a competitive campaign.

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High stakes for a low-heeled job

It may be Vermont’s “bucket of warm piss,” in the unexpurgated words of John Nance Garner, but the campaign for Lieutenant Governor is going to absolutely shatter all previous records. In fact, the record will almost certainly fall before the party primaries in August.

Two years ago, Phil Scott and Dean Corren combined to spend about $433,000 on their respective campaigns. That set a new high water mark for the post. So far this year, about $400,000 has been contributed to Lite-Guv hopefuls. And for goodness’ sake, it’s only March!

Democrat Brandon Riker managed to raise $188,000 before dropping out, which tells you something right there. A newbie candidate raises almost as much by March 15 as Phil Scott did for all of 2014 — and feels compelled to withdraw in spite of his bankroll.

The remaining Democratic candidates, Kesha Ram and David Zuckerman, are closing in on the $200,000 mark combined, with no end in sight.

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One to beam up

Well, that was brief and uneventful.

Marlboro Democrat Brandon Riker, the first announced candidate for lieutenant governor in the 2016 election, bowed out of the race Wednesday after acknowledging his campaign had failed to fire up Vermonters.

Call it The Curse of The VPO. Riker was the only Democratic candidate for Lite-Guv I’d actually met. So keep your distance, David Zuckerman and Kesha Ram.

Riker acknowledged that he “made a lot of mistakes as a first-time candidate,” mentioning prominently his decision to “jump-start” his campaign with a massive infusion of his own (and his family’s) money. He says “it created a picture that I was trying to buy the seat.”

Well, yeah, you come from a family of wealthy hedge-fund operators and on Day One you throw more than 65,000 RikerBucks into the kitty, and you can see how people might get the wrong impression.

I’d start the “mistakes” even earlier — specifically, the decision by a little-known first-time candidate to launch his political career with a bid for statewide office. That was the fatal mistake.

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A child’s treasury of thoughts about David Zuckerman

Hey Dave, I went to the Burlington Winter Market on Saturday. Bought some of your fine veggies, but you weren’t there. Presumably spending a happy Saturday at the Senate Dems’ Convocation of Cowards. Maybe next time.

Anyway, organic farmer and state senator Dave Zuckerman is now a candidate for Lieutenant Governor, running in the Democratic primary and seeking the Progressive nomination as well. I didn’t attend his kickoff event last Thursday; but here are a few thoughts on Zuckerman and the Lite-Gov race.

The most interesting participant in Thursday’s festivities, per media reports, was Senate Minority Leader Phil Baruth, who gave a hearty endorsement — “come hell or high water” — of the Prog/Dem Zuckerman. This was a big surprise to me; given the level of Dem>Prog antipathy up Burlington way, I assumed that area Democrats would stand behind Kesha Ram. Without regard to quality; just on the basis of not wanting to help a Progressive win.

Baruth’s stated reasoning boiled down to “I trust him,” a phrase he repeated at least three times. So, he doesn’t trust Kesha Ram?

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Your next lieutenant governor might just be an anti-vaxxer

Note for those freshly landing on this page: Please also see subsequent post with response from Rep. Kesha Ram.

Interesting factoid about the Democratic candidates to succeed Phil Scott. One, Garrett Graff, is in day three of radio silence following reports that he may not qualify to run. One, Brandon Riker, must prove he can be competitive despite a lack of experience and little name recognition. As for the other two?

They each voted “No” on the bill that removes the philosophical exemption to childhood vaccinations.

State Sen. David Zuckerman’s opposition was widely noted, as he made a last-ditch maneuver to derail the bill in the Senate, asserting that the science on vaccine safety is “disputed.”

Well, I guess he’s right that it’s “disputed.” But not by the broad scientific consensus and decades of real-world experience.

Less noted at the time was the “No” vote cast by State Rep. Kesha Ram. As far as I can tell, she kind of went under the radar with her opposition.

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The increasingly random race for lieutenant governor

It gives me a tingle to see that the Democrats now have three declared candidates for lieutenant governor, and their ages add up to less than 100 (34 + 29 + 28 = 93). Maybe this puts the last nail in the coffin of Sen. Dustin Degree’s claim that the VTGOP is the party of youth. (Heck, if you add any two of the Dems together, they’re younger than the lone Republican candidate, 72-year-old Randy Brock.)

Otherwise, though, the latest entry into the field leaves me wondering: Who asked for this?

Garrett Graff is an accomplished young man. I look forward to hearing what he has to offer, and God knows he’s got plenty of time to reveal it. But look: he hasn’t lived in Vermont since he graduated from high school in 1999. He’s been part of the D.C. media scene since 2004. He is only now relocating to Vermont, just in time to make noises about a candidacy.

Of the five declared candidates for Official Senate Gavel-Warmer, two are perfectly understandable: former State Senator and Auditor Randy Brock, and State Rep. Kesha Ram. After that, the field has an appearance of randomness.

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First Look: Brandon Who?, candidate for Lieutenant Governor

The Candidate, against the obligatory Vermont landscape.

The Candidate, in the obligatory Vermont landscape setting.

Last Saturday, after the Democratic State Committee meeting, I got the chance to sit down with Brandon Riker, who is (I think) the only declared candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Vermont. (See campaign website here.)

The 28-year-old Marlboro resident made waves on July 15, when he reported a campaign warchest of over $100,000. Granted, 90% of that came from himself and his family, but it made a statement of serious intent.

Quick impression: he’s energetic, full of ideas, and wants to make a difference. Whether that and a self-financed campaign will get him anywhere is another question. For him, unlike most candidates, raising the money was the simple part. Now he has to make a name for himself in Democratic circles, build an organization, attract support across the state, and almost certainly fend off some better-known Democrats in what promises to be a lively Lite-Gov primary.

Riker may be young, and may never have run for office before, but he cites more than a decade of political experience:

I’ve campaigned for progressive causes since I was 16 years old. John Kerry, Barack Obama, Jon Tester [in Montana], Mark Begich [in Alaska]. I’ve wanted to work on the hard races — the ones critical for Democratic control. It’s been 14 years since a Democrat was Lieutenant Governor, and we haven’t mounted a serious challenge in years.

Which is true, but probably won’t be true in 2016. With incumbent Phil Scott persistently hinting at a run for governor, top Democrats are sniffing opportunity. We’ve heard names like Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell and Senate Majority Leader Philip Baruth, among others, as possible candidates (as well as Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning on the Republican side). That would seem to put Riker at a huge disadvantage in terms of name recognition and established credibility among Democratic voters and donors.

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Correction: Vermont’s doing better than the FCC thinks

A couple of days ago, I wrote a post about Vermont’s awful performance on broadband Internet access. It was based on the Federal Communications Commission’s most recent figures on broadband availability, which showed 80% of Vermonters don’t have FCC-standard high-speed Internet. (25 MB for downloads, 3 MB for uploads.)

Well, turns out the FCC has it wrong. The actual figure is 29%, not 80%. Which is a whole lot different.

It’s not the FCC’s fault; it was given faulty information by an unnamed state functionary.

“The mapping initiative involved several parties,” explained Jim Porter, Director of the Telecommunications and Connectivity Division of the Vermont Public Service Department. “For the FCC, VCGI [Vermont Center for Geographic Information] was the entity that reported to the FCC. The guy who submitted the data failed to include Comcast.”

That guy.

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Internet access: We’re shooting behind a moving target

Note: This post cited incorrect FCC information. Please read the following post for an update.

Ever since he became Governor, Peter Shumlin has put a high priority on providing high-speed Internet access to everyone in Vermont:

In early January 2011, Shumlin created Connect VT, “an ambitious plan to deliver broadband and cell service to every corner of Vermont,” he said soon after in his State of the State address.

His initial promises were overly optimistic; reaching every nook and cranny of a sparsely-populated, rugged state is a tough task. But in late 2013, Shumlin was able to announce that over 99% of Vermont residences had high-speed Internet.

Hooray, right?

Perhaps not. The Federal Communications Commission tells a completely different story. When you look at the FCC’s state-by-state data for broadband Internet access, Vermont ranks 49th in the nation with 80% of our people lacking broadband. Only Montana is worse, at 87%.

No other state has more than 60% unconnected, and only three others are in the 50s — Arkansas, West Virginia, and Idaho.

So how can the Governor claim 99% high-speed Internet access, while the federal government puts us at a measly 20%?

The secret is how you define “high-speed Internet access.”

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Seven Shades of Nothing

After a couple of big surprises Wednesday morning, the rest of Campaign Finance Filing Day was rather a damp squib. Nothing much was revealed. Unless, that is, the “nothing” is in itself significant.

And I wouldn’t be a political blogger if I couldn’t make something from nothing.

And so, theVPO presents the top seven nothings and what they might mean.

In the race for Governor, four of the five top prospective candidates did nothing. A marginal hopeful did the same. As for the potential Democratic faceoff for Attorney General, neither incumbent Bill Sorrell not declared challenger TJ Donovan reported any new activity.

None of this is terribly surprising. Among those potential gubernatorial candidates, only Matt Dunne had an existing campaign structure (dormant since 2010) to accept donations. And by Vermont standards, it’s still extremely early for anyone to be beating the bushes.

The two likeliest Democratic candidates for governor not named Dunne, Shap Smith and Sue Minter, didn’t seek funds for a corner-office run. Smith reported a bit of fundraising for his State House campaign kitty, easily transferable should the need arise. This leaves Dunne with a sizeable lead — but there’s a lot of time to catch up. In this regard, Dunne’s dollar total is less significant than his ability to quickly sign up a brace of top-tier liberal donors in Vermont and in Silicon Valley.

On the Republican side, the losing 2012 nominee, Randy Brock, didn’t report anything. The putative front-runner, Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, didn’t do any new fundraising — but he has nearly $100,000 left over from his 2014 campaign, so he’s definitely in no hurry.

And then there’s Dan Feliciano, former Libertarian turned kinda Republican, who’s been pondering a second run for governor.

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