Tag Archives: Chris Christie

Prepare to kneel before our benevolent overlord

Soja hear the news?

Donald Trump is comin’ to town. Next Thursday, Flynn Center, free tix already gone. (According to one commenter on the Freeploid website, many a liberal signed up for tickets with no intention whatsoever of actually showing up — hoping for an embarrassingly low turnout. Which would be great, but I’m sure there will be plenty of the Great Unwashed on hand to welcome their reality-show wet dream of a candidate.)

Can’t say I’m outraged or particularly concerned. I found it amusing that the Vermont Republican Party immediately sought to distance itself from the proceedings. Executive Director Jeff Bartley doing his best Sergeant Schultz:

We learned late today through media reports that Donald Trump will be making a brief campaign stop in Vermont The Vermont Republican Party did not invite Mr. Trump and has no role in his event.

Although Bartley did everything short of dunking himself in Purell, he did end his brief statement with a note of praise for the GOP’s “very diverse group of candidates.”

And there’s the rub. Trump is the loudest and most effective carnival barker of the bunch, but the Republican field really doesn’t offer much to the serious voter. Certainly no real diversity in thought or policy.

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Failing LiberPublican Settles for Vermont

Wow, what a get.

The Vermont Republican Party today announced that U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Rand Paul will keynote a fundraiser on Monday, August 31, 2015.

Well, well. Acqua Buddha himself will grace our verdant land. Gosh, I hope he brings his chainsaw.

The VTGOP press release strangely promises “more details on the event… in the coming weeks.” Hey guys, you’ve got less than three weeks ’til go-time. Found a banquet hall yet?

Party Chair David Sunderland praised Senator Paul for coming to Vermont “even though we are not an early primary state.” Which, yeah, but that’s less about Paul’s graciousness and more about his desperation. After entering 2015 as a solid contender, the good Senator has faded badly. RealClearPolitics’ national polling average gives Paul less than six percent support. He’s not disappearing like Rick Perry, but he’s stuck in limbo behind Tea Party-oriented candidates like Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, and of course Donald Trump.

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Nobody’s figured out how to make this economy work

Vermont Republicans are fond of slamming the Shumlin Economy, cherrypicking statistics that make the Governor’s record look bad. They criticize his policies as crippling to economic growth and middle-class prosperity. (And now that Bernie Sanders is running for President, they try to blame all the ills of the last three decades on him, even though he hasn’t been running the place and would clearly have adopted very different policies if he had been. Protip to Republicans: correlation is not causation.)

And yes, in spite of very low unemployment, it’s inarguable that the recovery has been slow and spotty for most Vermonters. Their purchasing power has remained stagnant. But this isn’t just a Vermont phenomenon, and if you look at other states with conservative governments, they’re failing at least as badly as we are.

Last Friday, Talking Points Memo posted a piece about how four Republican governors are seeing their presidential aspirations undercut by severe budget problems back home — problems attributable to the failure of their policies to hotwire their economies.

The basic concept is as cartoonish as when it was first sketched on a napkin by Arthur Laffer: cut taxes and the economy will flourish. Revenues will rise, as government takes a smaller slice of a growing pie. Business, freed of its public-sector shackles, will lead us into a prosperous future.

Trouble is, it doesn’t work. In Louisiana, WIsconsin, Ohio and New Jersey, Republican tax-cutting policies have failed: all four states have sluggish economies and huge budget shortfalls. It’s worse on both sides than anything Peter Shumlin has inflicted on the state of Vermont.

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Action needed on vaccines, and we’re not going to get it

As the Great Disneyland Measles Outbreak continues to reverberate, attention is rightly turning to Vermont’s permissive rules on opting out of childhood vaccinations. The state allows parents to claim religious, medical, or philosophical grounds for refusing vaccinations; the vast majority of exemptions, according to the state Health Department, are in the undefined “philosophical” category.

Vaxxer responseMost of these are not philosophical at all; they are the result of anti-vaccine propaganda fomented by the likes of Jenny McCarthy and a disgraced former doctor. Their numbers in Vermont are growing, and getting close to the point where “herd immunity” will no longer be effective, and long-banished disease can make a comeback.

This is exactly the problem that caused the Disneyland outbreak, and it’s only a matter of time before it happens here. One brave lawmaker has stepped up to the plate; Sen. Kevin Mullin has proposed a bill to eliminate the philosophical exemption. He also did so in 2012; the Senate passed the bill, but the House backed away like a frightened child when the anti-vaxxers stormed their gilded corridors.

There seems to be little appetite for a repeat of that debate, in spite of the growing risk. Governor Shumlin, who strongly endorses vaccination, wants no part of another exemption debate, according to spokesman Scott Coriell:

The Governor believes that every child in Vermont should be vaccinated against deadly diseases, not only to protect them but also to protect others. …When it comes to the question of forcing those parents who refuse to follow common sense to do so, the legislature had that debate in 2012 and a bipartisan majority in the legislature passed a bill that requires enhanced education for parents and reporting on vaccination rates.

…While the Governor believes there is no excuse to forgo vaccinations, he thinks we need to be extremely careful about passing laws that put the state in the position of making decisions for children without parental consent.

That sounds almost exactly like the statement that just got New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in hot water:

“All I can say is we vaccinated ours,” Christie said, while touring a biomedical research facility in Cambridge, England, which makes vaccines.

The New Jersey governor added that “parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well, so that’s the balance that the government has to decide.”

You tell me the difference between Shumlin and Christie. There isn’t any.

And hey, here’s a little tidbit that might make some of our leaders think twice about their timidity: they’re making a daily commute right into the heart of a potential measles vector. According to the latest Health Department figures, kindergartners at Montpelier’s Union Elementary School have a Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccination rate of only 88.7%. The standard for “herd immunity” is 90%.

The Governor and his fellow anti-vaxx coddlers might want to consider wearing facemasks to Montpelier, especially those with some kind of suppressed immunity.

Now, the anti-vaxxers are framing this the same way Shumlin is: as a matter of parental choice.

Problem: this is a matter of choice the same way smoking in enclosed spaces or wearing your seat belt is a matter of choice. On some issues, the public interest trumps individual rights. When parents opt out of vaccination, they are depending on the rest of us to supply their kids with herd immunity. They also pose a direct health threat to children who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, and to anyone with a suppressed immune system.

Vermont is trending in the wrong direction on vaccinations. We are needlessly endangering some of our more vulnerable residents and the general public health. But I guess it will take an actual outbreak before our lawmakers put on their grown-up pants and do the right thing.

It ain’t over till the Fat Man sings

All'alba vincerò! Vincerò, vincerò!

All’alba vincerò! Vincerò, vincerò!

Interesting. WCAX’s Kyle Midura, last seen as Twitter Guy during the gubernatorial debate, made his way eastward to beautiful Berlin, New Hampshire, where he caught up with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, stumping the North Country “on behalf of the state’s Republican candidate for Governor, Walt Havenstein.”

And, being a good Vermont reporter, Midura asked Christie if he’d be visiting Vermont to campaign for Mahatma Milne. (Well, I don’t think he said “Mahatma.”)

“We’ve got to focus with 25 days to go on those place where we think we’ve absolutely got the best chance,” Christie said. “That’s where I’m focusing my time.”

Okay, let’s look at that.

The latest polls have shown Scott Milne behind Governor Shumlin by 12 percentage points. And in New Hampshire?

The latest poll places Havenstein 10 points behind incumbent Democrat Maggie Hassan.

Hmm.

Two points.

He won’t cross the river for two points.

Either he knows something about the Vermont race that he’s not telling, or it has less to do with gubernatorial races than with first-in-the-nation presidential primaries.

Either way, congratulations, Governor, on kicking a Republican candidate for Governor when he’s down. I assume that’s one of your duties as head of the Republican Governors Association.

Did the Dems really need more good fundraising news? Well, they got some.

Side note from Saturday’s meeting of the Vermont Democratic Party State Committee: VDP Executive Director Julia Barnes told the gathering that this year’s Curtis Award dinner featuring Senator Elizabeth Warren was a huge success, grossing $146,000. As Barnes pointed out, that’s enough to cover half the party’s total budget for this year. Correction: one-third of the party’s administrative budget for the year.

And there was the collateral benefit of energizing donors and volunteers, Barnes noted, thanks to the enthusiasm generated by Warren’s strong message.

I can’t directly compare the Curtis Award take with the VTGOP’s vaunted Chris Christie event from last December because, as far as I can tell, the party has never publicly announced its total receipts. Beforehand, it was happy to throw around estimates of $200,000 to $300,000.

Funny thing about that. The VTGOP’s campaign finance report filed on March 15, which covered the period from July 2013 to March 15, 2014, listed total donations of $45,567.32. The vast majority of that was given between mid-November and mid-December.

Unless some of the Christie-related donations went directly into other accounts, the Christie fundraiser appears to have grossed a little under $40,000.

If any Republican apparatchiks want to correct my reckoning or, preferably, provide the actual take, please do so in the comments below or contact me directly. At least some of you know how. And I’d really like to know.

In the meantime, let’s stick with 40K. Compare the two high-profile fundraising events, and see which one was the bigger success.

Not to mention that during the March 2014 reporting period (July to March), the VTGOP spent just under $40,000. So the Christie take was pretty much gone by mid-March, leaving the Party once again starved for funds.

A new nominee for the Most Dangerous Republican award

Last December, around the time of the fabled Chris Christie fundraiser for the Vermont Republican Party (projected take, a quarter mill or so; actual take, less than 50K as far as I can tell from the party’s financial filings), I posited that there was one figure in the downtrodden VTGOP who could pose a threat to the Democrats as a statewide candidate. It wasn’t Phil Scott; it was the closest thing we have to a Chris Christie — a short-tempered, get-things-done, “willing to work with both sides” kind of guy named Thom Lauzon, Republican Mayor of Barre. 

I still think he’s a solid potential statewide candidate, should he ever choose to climb the ladder. But another name has been suggested to me, and it’s an excellent choice. In fact, offhand I’d have to say he’s an even better Most Dangerous Republican than Lauzon.

I’ll give you the name, but first it’s Story Time, kids!

Starting in 2002, Craig Benson spent two disastrous years as Republican Governor of New Hampshire. While he was Governor, he appointed a little-known lawyer named Kelly Ayotte to the post of Attorney General. (In NH, the AG is an appointed position with a five-year term.) By the time her first term had come to an end,  John Lynch was Governor. He was a Democrat but he liked to play the bipartisan game, so he nominated her for a second term.

Before she served out that term, she resigned to run for U.S. Senate. And she won. And she’s now the only Republican member of NH’s four-member Congressional delegation.

The key moment in her ascendancy was her renomination by John Lynch. If he’d appointed a Democrat and sent her packing as a one-term Benson functionary, she would’ve had a much harder time continuing her political career. I firmly believe that there would never have been a Senator Kelly Ayotte if not for John Lynch being too clever for his own good.

Thus endeth the lesson. Back to Vermont, and the new nominee for Most Dangerous Republican.

Neale Lunderville.

At one time, he was the chief hothead on Jim Douglas’ team. He and Jim Barnett, who’s gone on to a very unsuccessful career as a balls-to-the-wall campaign manager, were dubbed “the Nasty Boys” by the late great Peter Freyne for their skilled knifework in Douglas’ campaigns.

Since then, little Neale has grown up — and gotten two great big helping hands from Democratic officeholders. Governor Shumlin chose him to be recovery czar after Tropical Storm Irene, and now Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger has engineered his hiring as interim head of the Burlington Electric Department.

In the process, the Nasty Boy has acquired a solid nonpartisan reputation as the go-to guy when trouble strikes. He’s been chosen by not one, but two, top Democrats to take on big administrative challenges.

Okay, here’s a hypothetical for you. In the next biennium, the Shumlin administration will unveil its plan for single-payer health care. It’ll be big, expensive, controversial, and a tough sell, even in a lopsided Democratic legislature. Win or lose, Shumlin will expend a lot of his political capital in the fight.

He also faces the whole issue of school funding and organization. Whatever he and the legislature do, more enemies will be made and more people will be alienated.

At best, Shumlin would enter 2016 having fought two extremely tough battles. Even if he wins on single-payer, he’ll be in that very dangerous period between passage and implementation, where everybody will be aware of the cost and the controversy but won’t have experienced any benefit from the new system. And if the implementation process for single payer OR school reform is difficult, contentious, or includes any stumbles, the Governor’s managerial reputation will take more hits.

And now comes, on a shiny white horse, Neale Lunderville.

Well, Lunderville 2.0, New and Improved with a track record for working under Democratic executives and managing the biggest challenges. In short, he’s Vermont’s Mr. Fix-It. The Governor won’t be able to depict Lunderville as a partisan ideologue because, after all, he chose the guy to manage the aftermath of Irene. At the same time, Lunderville will have solid Republican credentials from his tenure in the Douglas Administration. He’ll be more appealing to the conservative base than a Phil Scott will ever be.

The VTGOP won’t be in any shape to challenge the Democrats’ overall  dominance in 2016. But Lunderville could do what Scott Milne can’t do and Randy Brock couldn’t: topple Governor Shumlin.

Farfetched or believable? Just remember, if it happens, you can thank Peter Shumlin and Miro Weinberger for making Governor Lunderville a possibility.