Tag Archives: Brenda Siegel

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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I Think Phil Scott Grades His People On a Curve

Another day, another managerial faux pas from The Scott admini — sorry, there’s two of ’em this time.

We’ve got the sort-of discovery of money to partially restore the sudden and severe cut in the Vermont Emergency Rental Assistance Program (VERAP), plus a very belated mandate that recipients of pandemic-related unemployment insurance must produce proof of their eligibility. Yeah, from two and a half years ago. Hope you kept your pay stubs!

The latest on the VERAP bungle is the news that they’ve found $20 million they can use to patch up the program a little bit.

Oh wait, they haven’t found it — they “anticipate” finding it.

And assuming they do find it, it will only postpone (slightly) what the administration says is inevitable: assistance cutoffs for thousands of households by the end of November. Even if that “anticipated” money comes good, roughly 3,000 households will see their assistance end [checks notes] nine days from now.

Also, future cutoffs are likely to arrive with less than 30 days notice.

Because the administration can’t predict any farther than that?

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The First Debate: The Winner Depends On How You Judge It

The terribleness of the moderator was almost irrelevant. The first post-primary gubernatorial debate saw both candidates performing as expected. Challenger Brenda Siegel was feisty, edgy, full of ideas, and unafraid to confront a three-term incumbent. Gov. Phil Scott served up a reheated platter of customary talking points (hey, there was even a “6-3-1” callback) and getting lost in word salad whenever he strayed too far from the script.

Oh, and showing his fangs more often than you’d expect from a Nice GuyTM. He does that a lot.

So who won?

It depends.

If you judged it as a debate contest, awarding points for consistency, logic, and clarity of argument, it was Siegel. Easily.

But…

Many voters evaluate debates on personality, not policy. It’s the old “who would you want to have a beer with?” test, and Scott is our very own George W. Bush. (Without the pointless wars.) He makes people feel comfortable, especially if they just let the words flow gently by. And we do like to feel comfortable. You sit down with Siegel, she may make you a bit uneasy with her energy and passion and inconvenient litany of crises. She’s Rage Against the Machine; the governor is Ray Conniff. (Ask an old person.)

Or, she’s a straight-backed chair and Scott’s a recliner. Where you going to sit?

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Before We Discuss the Debate, We Must Have a Word About the Moderator

The trying-too-hard-to-smile fellow pictured above is Lee Kittell, program director at WDEV Radio. Quiet, very hardworking, seemingly pleasant enough fellow.

But my God, he put in a disgraceful performance as moderator of the gubernatorial debate held at the Tunbridge World’s Fair. He did a good job managing the flow, but his questions. They were long-winded, bombastic, and straight outta the QAnon/Trumpiverse.

The two candidates handled the situation as you might expect. Gov. Phil Scott slid past the questions and stuck to his canned talking points. Democrat Brenda Siegel responded strongly, even directly upbraiding Kittell on at least one occasion.

Let’s start with the nadir of this piece of performance art. The issue, you will be shocked to learn, was abortion. Kittell brought up Article 22 and asked if the candidates “approve the right to have an abortion right up to the delivery room?” Which is straight out of the anti-abortion playbook.

His follow-up was even worse. He referred to our current workforce issues and asked if “the 60 million abortions performed in the last 50 years” is a cause of worker shortages.

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“Uncharted Territory of Destruction” Seems a Bit… I Don’t Know… Suboptimal?

Cheery little piece in The Guardian carries an informed warning that we are rapidly running out of time to avoid truly disruptive impacts of climate change:

The consequences are already being seen in increasingly extreme weather around the world, and we are in danger of provoking “tipping points” in the climate system that will mean more rapid and in some cases irreversible shifts.

This latest canary to gasp for air in the mine shaft is a report from “United in Science,” a multi-agency international effort that issues a new climate change report each year. The new entry warns that the Earth is heading into an “uncharted territory of destruction.”

The signs are already clear. We seem to get a new catastrophe every day. Wildfires from Chile to Mongolia, the destruction of Antarctica’s Doomsday Glacier, water shortages in the American Southwest, one-third of Pakistan underwater, and widespread heat waves that pose an immediate threat to human health and the web of life itself.

Meanwhile, here in Vermont, the Scott administration’s top environmental official says it doesn’t really matter if we miss our 2030 emissions reduction target as long as we get where we need to go by 2050.

Thirty-eight years from now.

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Looks Like Maybe We Got Ourselves a Race

There were no competitive primaries for governor last month, but there were definite signs that business is picking up. Gov. Phil Scott and challenger Brenda Siegel increased their fundraising from their previous very modest levels. In fact, it seems as though Scott actually began putting some effort into it last month, which is something he famously doesn’t like to do. Conventional wisdom has it that Scott will win in a walk. Do the August numbers suggest he’s getting a bit concerned about Siegel?

As of July 31, Scott had raised a total of $49,989. In August alone he upped that to $54,580, bringing his campaign total north of $100,000. He also has a $272,000 surplus from previous campaigns, so he’s not cash-poor by any means.

Siegel, meanwhile, took in $44,259 in August, which made it her best month to date. She’s raised a total of $103,195, a few thousand less than Scott. And of course, she doesn’t have a handy-dandy surplus to fall back on.

There are a couple of notes that make Siegel’s performance better than the sheer total. First, she had a burst of fundraising in the last few days of the month. If that momentum carries forward, she’ll do fine. She won’t match Scott dollar for dollar, but her campaign won’t live or die on money alone.

It’d also help if Scott kicked a few more balls into his own net, as he did this week with the announcement that an emergency rental assistance program was virtually out of money — something his officials failed to notice or predict. As a result, thousands will lose rental support at the end of this month, and thousands more at the end of November. You know, just when it’s getting seriously cold?

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Sorry About That, Struggling Vermonters

I’ve got a post sitting on the backburner called “We Have No Idea How Well State Government Performs.” The thesis is that Vermont’s government is woefully deficient in checks and balances. The Legislature is too slammed to do any green eyeshade stuff. The executive branch provides the bulk of the available information. The Joint Fiscal Office does some useful things and so does the auditor, but their reach is limited.

So we’ll probably never know who’s responsible for the monumental screwup with the Vermont Emergency Rental Assistance Program (VERAP). It’s out of money, folks. Rental assistance will diminish in a month and disappear entirely for thousands of households before the onset of winter. Oh, and utility assistance will end before the calendar turns to 2023.

According to the administration’s own numbers, 3,015 recipients will see their rental benefits end on September 30. Another 5,400 will get reduced benefits through the end of November, and then nothing.

The explanations on offer are threadbare, sheepish and inadequate. There are broad hints of administrative malfeasance.

This ought to be a scandal. Will it be? Based on past performance, probably not.

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Phil Scott Promises the Blandest Campaign In Living Memory

Hey, in case you were waiting for Gov. Phil Scot to let us all know how he would lead the state through perilous times, I’ve got some bad news for you.

That’s right, friends and neighbors, Phil Scott will have no truck with your pesky “issues.” He’ll be busy… [checks thread]… highlighting a foodbank fundraiser, celebrating a pair of blueberry farmers, remembering an early Black ballplayer, retweeting WPTZ’s list of fun things to do in Georgia, and spotlighting Seven Days‘ cover stories about Route 100. He closes that Cavalcade of Oatmeal with this:

While we have so much work to do in Montpelier to help make Vermont an even better place to live, work, and raise a family, we can’t lose sight of all the good that happens every day because of you, the Vermonters, who show up to take care of one another.

Please don’t ask for details about how he’s going to “make Vermont an even better place,” because that would be indulging in “the negativity of election season.”

Christ on a bicycle, how condescending can one man get? Phil Scott aims to find out, apparently.

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