Tag Archives: Brenda Siegel

VTDigger Coughs Up a Hairball, Calls it Caviar

The headline is dramatic. “Former campaign staffer sues Democratic gubernatorial candidate Brenda Siegel for unpaid wages, expenses.” Wow, sounds serious.

Well, it’s not. In fact, the story is so bereft of substance that it makes you wonder how it got published at all.

For starters, the “former campaign staffer,” Bryan Parks, worked for the Siegel campaign for less than a month. The amount of money in question is less than $600.

Six hundred dollars.

Reporter Sarah Mearhoff, who will not be submitting this shitball for any journalism prizes, gives over the first six paragraphs to Parks’ account, his disillusionment with the candidate, his insistence that it’s not about the money, and how he waited until after the election to file his suit “so as not to appear politically motivated.”

And only then, after Parks is given all that space, do we get Siegel’s response: “No, I don’t owe him any money. He is completely paid up.”

Well, there you go, right? Game, set, match, right?

Er, no.

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The Great Emergency Housing Post-Election Newsdump

A curious thing happened one week after Election Day. The Scott administration, after much delay, released its rules for this winter’s emergency housing program. This is the thing that puts shelterless people in available motel rooms at state expense. .

The rules appear designed to minimize cost by putting strict limits on the program and giving the state plenty of reasons to reject applicants.

Hmm. The governor was running against Brenda Siegel, best known for her 2021 Statehouse protest over emergency housing… and his officials didn’t issue these rules until she was safely out of the way. The timing is too convenient to believe it was pure coincidence.

The delay does have consequences. These rules came out just as the program was opening for business. Recipients and administrators have had no time to digest them. It’s especially bad since we’ve slammed headlong into the first winter storm of the season.

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Vermont’s Reagan

With Tuesday’s historic win, Phil Scott runs his electoral record to 12 wins, 0 losses. That’s combining his runs for state Senate, lieutenant governor, and governor.

That’s… um… rarefied air.

He has often faced weak opposition and benefited greatly from the incumbent’s edge. He’s also enjoyed good timing; his first run was in 2000, an historically good Republican year because of the backlash to civil unions. He ran for governor at the end of Peter Shumlin’s curdled administration, when voters were primed to make a change.

But still. Twelve and 0.

Leaving aside the quality of competition, what makes Phil Scott so popular? Well, you might not associate the plausibly moderate Phil Scott with the transformative conservative Ronald Reagan, but they are more similar than you might think. And that’s the secret sauce. Scott is Vermont’s Reagan.

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A Tip of the Hat

Brenda Siegel the candidate will be remembered, to the extent she’s remembered at all, as a failure. She lost in anoverwhelming fashion to Gov. Phil Scott. She didn’t have much money, she couldn’t afford mass media until the campaign’s closing weeks (and even then, not enough to move the needle). And she lost in what was otherwise a wave election for her Democratic Party.

Consider a post-election VTDigger story about how Phil Scott won the election. The story mentioned Siegel a grand total of once. Maybe that’s for the best because when they did mention Siegel, it was usually in belittling tones. A Digger election night story described her as “a former dance instructor,” which is just ridiculous. In the world of dance alone, it’s ridiculous. She used to run a dance festival, which is a bit more than helping kids pull off their first arabesque.

More to the point, it ignores her years of advocacy in the Statehouse and elsewhere and her effort to build a political career with little support or encouragement, but sure, “former dance instructor.”

In her concession speech, Siegel said “We all need to become brave enough to lose.” And that’s the stone truth. She was the only one brave enough to challenge Scott in 2022. Which alone makes her worthy of respect.

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Planning on a very short or nice long evening, sitting in front of my desktop hitting REFRESH on the Vermont vote count. Here are the things I’ll be watching for, in roughly descending order:

The #1 thing is whether the Democrats and Progressives can add to their supermajorities. They’ve already got a comfortable margin in the Senate, but they barely clear the bar in the House and could use a few more seats. More on that below; for now let’s go to the top of the ballot.

Scott/Siegel. Everybody expects Gov. Phil Scott will win a fourth term. Democrat Brenda Siegel has run a strong campaign, but it’s been underfunded and she’s had to climb a very tall mountain. The polls say Scott will win a majority of the Democratic voters which, need I repeat, means that those voters are not serious about advancing their party’s agenda.

I still give Siegel a puncher’s chance. If she does pull up short, I’ll be very interested in the margin of victory for Scott. How close can Siegel make it? How much of a dent has she put in Scott’s Teflon? Has she created a template for a future candidate with deeper pockets?

Otherwise, the statewide races are not going to be close. It’s hard to see anything but a Democratic sweep of U.S. Senate, Congress, lieutenant governor, attorney general, auditor, secretary of state and treasurer. Bragging rights go to the Democratic candidate with the biggest win. I suspect that will be Mike Pieciak.

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How About That, Team Scott is Actually Trying

Well, well. Somebody in the Phil Scott campaign has turned the spigot.

After sleepwalking its way through 2022, Team Scott got serious about fundraising in the first half of October. Before that, Scott’s fundraising had totaled $151,514, which is peanuts for a gubernatorial campaign. Then, in only two weeks, Scott raised $47,544 according to his latest finance filing (due on October 15).

That’s nearly one-quarter of his campaign total in only two weeks.

Is somebody hearing footsteps?

The flurry of activity meant that for the first time in three campaign finance cycles, Scott actually outraised his challenger, Brenda Siegel. She took in $16,613 in the first half of October for a campaign total of $163,342. That’s a solid pace for only 15 days. As usual, Siegel donors far outnumbered Scott’s. She’s received donations from 875 individuals and groups compared to Scott’s 545.

Neither candidate spent much money in the period. Siegel has more than $84,000 in the bank, which should allow her to finance a significant TV ad buy. Scott has $91,519 on hand, plus a nice $272,000 kitty left over from previous campaigns, so he’s got plenty to spend if he wants to.

Now, let’s take a closer look at who suddenly opened their wallets for the governor.

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Just 60 Minutes of Darren Perron Clutching His Wallet

WCAX-TV rolled out the carpet for a gubernatorial debate last Thursday, and peppered the two major party candidates with questions that were I think prepared by a Republican consultant somewhere. The theme of the night was “How are you going to pay for ________?”

Housing? Brenda Siegel’s plans “cost money, how does that make Vermont a more affordable place to live?”

Emergency housing? Brenda Siegel, “how will you pay for [your emergency housing plans]?”

Universal primary care? Brenda Siegel, how would you pay for it?

Child care assistance? Brenda Siegel, how would you pay for it?

Do you sense a theme here? Well, I’ve got a couple more.

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Does Anybody Else Find It Interesting That Phil Scott is Under 50%?

So, the poll.

The headlines blare “Scott and Zuckerman have double-digit leads.” True enough. But I find my eye drawn to Gov. Phil Scott’s 48% support in the WCAX-commissioned survey. That seems low for a guy who got 69% of the vote two years ago. Has he really lost that many people?

(The same poll has 63% of respondents approving of his job performance. Why do 15% like his performance but don’t plan to vote for him? Bad breath?)

This is not to avoid the core fact, which is that Scott has a 17-point lead on Democrat Brenda Siegel. He remains the heavy favorite, and the poll contains a fair bit of bad news for Siegel. She has fought and clawed her way up to 31% from basically nothing and nearly doubled her name recognition despite a TV-free campaign. The electoral arc is bending in her direction, but Election Day is coming fast. And many voters will cast their ballots long before November 8. She’ll have to sweep the undecideds plus convince more than a few Scott voters to change sides, and do it in a real hurry.

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The Little Engine That Could, and The Big Engine That Isn’t Trying

Not that anyone in the media noticed, but Saturday was a campaign finance filing deadline in Vermont. With the passing of primary season there’s a relative dearth of interesting stuff in them, but c’mon.

So, into the breach. The only statewide race that’s a contest in any sense is the gubernatorial. The latest finance reports show Gov. Phil Scott sleepwalking his way through the campaign, while Democrat Brenda Siegel continues to outperform expectations. In the month of September, Scott raised $35,311, giving him a campaign total of $155,724, which is a minuscule amount of money for a gubernatorial race.

For the second month in a row, Siegel outraised the incumbent with $45,998, for a campaign total of $149,193. Her fundraising shows some momentum; she’s peaked in the last two months. The big question: Is it enough with Election Day a little over a month away?

But the money race isn’t as close as it might seem. Scott entered the race with $272,000 in surplus from previous campaigns. I’m sure he feels he’s got all the money he needs. Siegel has enough for a well-staffed campaign, but not enough to buy swaths of airtime on WCAX and WPTZ. (In fact, she spent no money on TV, radio or print advertising in September.)

Meanwhile, the Republican Governors Association PAC, A Stronger Vermont, continues to lie in the weeds. It raised and spent no money in September, meaning its leadership is fully confident of a Scott victory. ASV could outspend Siegel and Scott combined without batting an eye.

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Phil Scott Repeated Himself Ad Nauseam, Offered Nothing New, and Blamed Everyone But Himself, Otherwise It Was Fine

Wow. If the first gubernatorial debate saw Brenda Siegel winning on the issues and Phil Scott winning on, well, being Phil Scott, the second debate [Brought To You By Your Friends At VTDigger] was better for Siegel and worse for Scott.

He put on quite the show, recycling his talking points from previous campaigns, freely asserting that he would offer no new proposals during the campaign, was frequently passive aggressive toward Democratic lawmakers and Siegel herself, and blamed everything that’s gone sideways during his tenure on the Legislature, the federal government, and the Covid pandemic. In his own eyes he is blameless, beyond repute, perfect in every way.

Again, I don’t get why everybody thinks he’s a Nice Guy. He’s not. He’s just not. If anything, five-plus years in the corner office, surrounded by yes people, has made him more isolated and self-satisfied.

And in terms of ideas, he’s tapped out. He offered more of the same. Claimed it was working, or would work sometime soon, or would have worked by now if it wasn’t for that darn pandemic.

Siegel, on the other hand, was in command of the facts and her [Brenda] agendaTM. Her answers were clear, concise, and thorough. She was calm and, dare I say it, gubernatorial. She’d been a little too caffeinated in the first debate, as she often is in real life because she’s so passionate about her issues. Tonight there was none of that.

Will it matter? After the first debate I didn’t think so. Scott is so well established in the minds of Vermonters as the sensible shepherd who may not be exciting, but he won’t let the wolves into the flock. Now, I see some light at the end of the Minter/Hallquist/Zuckerman Memorial Tunnel. Siegel is on a positive trajectory.

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