Tag Archives: Conor Casey

The Paige Exclusion

Congratulations to the Vermont Democratic Party for giving perennial fringe candidate H. Brooke Paige more publicity in a few days than he could possibly earn on his own this entire year.

The VDP did so by ordering his banishment from all party events, reportedly due to impertinent and offensive comments posted by Paige on Facebook.

Mixed feelings about this. I don’t have much use for perennial fringe candidates; as far as I’m concerned, it’s too easy for people to get on the ballot and even grace the occasional debate stage without proving they hold the least bit of appeal or interest for the electorate. Waste of time and space. Detracts from direct confrontations among candidates who actually matter. That goes for Paige and for Emily Peyton and Cris Ericson and the entire Diamondstone clan.

Paige is an irritant* in all senses of the word. He runs for at least one office every cycle, sometimes as a Republican, sometimes as a Democrat, and I think as independent on occasion. He has also fomented birther claims against not only President Obama, but also Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. I can see why the Democrats would want to be rid of him. And, after all, it’s their party and they can make their own rules. Or even cry if they want to.

*Irritants produce distress, annoyance, and the occasional pearl. 

That said, their reaction seems unduly stiff.

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A bit of an own goal by the Minter campaign

“So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

— Revelation 3:16

One of the minor sidelights of our state campaign season is the issue of endorsements, especially on the Democratic side. Do you support the hometown favorite, or the party stalwart? The one who wants to be the 44th male president, or the one who wants to be the first female?

You can sense the pressure in the way things filter out. Established officeholders who don’t have to face the electorate? Peter Shumlin and Pat Leahy go for Hillary Clinton. Officeholder who will be on the ballot this year? Peter Welch is studiously neutral.

Non-officeholders contending for top Democratic nominations? Matt Dunne, Dave Zuckerman, and Kesha Ram have all endorsed Bernie.*

*As a correspondent informed me, I made a quick-draw mistake there. Zuckerman and Ram are officeholders, of course. I wrote in haste, and I apologize to Zuckerman and Ram for the attempted impeachments.

And then there’s Sue Minter, who hadn’t said anything publicly about the race until this week, when she half-heartedly indicated a preference in an interview with WCAX’s Kyle Midura. It wasn’t pretty.

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A high-profile gig for Julia Barnes

The departing Executive Director of the Vermont Democratic Party, Julia Barnes, has landed a new job. She’ll be the New Hampshire state director for the Bernie Sanders campaign.

It’s arguably one of the most important positions in the Sanders effort; the polls show him a strong second behind Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire*, and a strong showing in New Hampshire will be crucial for Bernie’s campaign going forward into the meat of the primary season.

*Three recent NH polls show Clinton with roughly a 10-point lead. The fourth gives her a 31-point edge; that’d seem to be an outlier.

The problem is, Bernie has already attracted his base; he’ll be hard pressed to build on it. Or to avoid the early-achiever trap that’s derailed so many candidates. Barnes has a heck of a job to do; if Bernie runs strong in New Hampshire, she will have accomplished something quite significant.

She e-mailed me some thoughts on taking the job:

Sen. Sanders is talking about the things that I think are most important to the presidential discussion, namely having an honest conversation about the dissolution of the middle class and the income inequality that makes it hard for many Americans to get ahead. Not even get ahead, but stay afloat. There is an organic desire to see that happen and that is why Sen. Sanders is resonating with so many voters. I am excited to help see that message reach voters in New Hampshire and build the organization needed to help him win the primary there. Given the circus that is happening on the Republican side, it is going to be really rewarding to engage in a substantial conversation with voters through good grassroots organizing techniques.

I also asked her about the fact that most of the top Vermont Democrats — the people she’s worked with and for at the VDP — have gone with Hillary Clinton.

At the end of the day, elected officials are also individual voters and they, like the voters across the country, are entitled to make their decision. Sen. Sanders has been a longtime friend of Vermont Democrats and I know many of them will be supporting his bid.

Good luck, Julia. I think Bernie made a good hire.

Vermont Dems bring back a familiar face

Didn’t take long for the Vermont Democratic Party to line up a replacement for departing Executive Director Julia Barnes. The VDP is announcing today that Conor Casey will be her successor.

“I’ve been a Democrat my whole life,” he says. “It’s an honor to be in this position.”

If the name sounds familiar, well, Casey spent eight years working for the Vermont State Employees Association, most recently as “widely respected legislative coordinator,” as he was dubbed by Seven Days’ Paul Heintz.

Casey’s tenure ended in 2012 when then-new VSEA Director Mark Mitchell was pulling a Samson act, causing six staffers to leave due to his “untrustworthy and reckless manner,” as one of the ex-staffers put it. Mitchell also burned more than a few bridges in the Statehouse. His year-and-a-half on the job included one firing and one reinstatement before he left in May 2014.

Meanwhile, Casey’s been working for the National Educational Association in Connecticut, from whence he now returns. His decade-plus in the labor movement is, I think, worthy of note:

“My background is as a labor organizer. I’ve spent my career representing working people. We want to put forward a message of economic justice; I think that resonates with all Vermonters.”

Could be, could be. On the other hand, the party’s top politicos (*cough*PeterShumlin*cough*) have often slammed public-sector unions when trying to prove their managerial toughness. Maybe there’s a realization that the Party and the labor movement work best when they work together?

Casey cites the late Teddy Kennedy as a key influence; he was a press aide to the Senator in 2003-04. “His passion really made me want to pursue politics as a career.”

Casey grew up in Ireland, and there’s a touch of the Ould Sod in his voice. But he’s spent much of his life in Vermont, and is happy to be moving back. Politics in Vermont is quite a bit less rough-and-tumble than in Connecticut.