A couple of weeks ago, the Senate Government Operations Committee approved S.15, a bill that would mandate mail-in ballots for November elections. On Wednesday, the panel was presented with an opportunity to make the mandate universal, applying to general elections, primaries, and Town Meeting Day.
(The only exception: Communities that hold actual town meetings would be exempt. Towns that use the Australian ballot for TMD questions would have to provide mail service to all voters.)
And the committee couldn’t back away fast enough. Members used every delaying tactic in the book, from straw-man punching to red herrings to gross exaggeration. It was so sad that the panel even balked at the last refuge of legislative delay, appointing a study committee!
Now, there was a bit of political gamesmanship involved on the part of Republican Sen. Corey Parent, who offered the amendment to S.15. If he was completely serious about the idea, he could have proposed it sooner. The deadline for policy bills to pass the Senate is this Friday, and it’s a stretch to think his amendment could get due consideration in Gov Ops and on the Senate floor.
But he did have a serious point, and I have to say I agree with him.
Finally, after five years, we have identified the point where Republicans (well, some of them at least) start feeling a sense of shame.
It took an invasion of the U.S. Capitol by a mob of agitated conspiracy theorists, egged on by our president, to make some Republicans realize that maybe things have gone too far. Notable among their number is a healthy serving of GOP elected officials, from Gov. Phil Scott to House Minority Leader Pattie McCoy to Sen. Corey Parent to former VTGOP executive director Jeffrey Bartley, and I apologize for anyone else I left out. You did the right thing.
It wasn’t anything new for Scott or many other Vermont Republicans, who have never approved of what the president was doing to the party they loved. But for most Republicans, the remorse was extremely belated. They didn’t draw the line at “rapists and murderers,” or “grab them by the pussy,” or his habit of hurling base insults at his political opponents, or the consistent groveling at the feet of Vladimir Putin, or a foreign policy that favored dictators and punished our longstanding allies, or hush money payments to a porn star, or Trump’s refusal to release his financials, or tearing refugee families apart at the border, or otherwise punitive immigration policies, or “good people on both sides,” or the Trump Foundation self-dealing, or the rank nepotism of his administration, or the shameless profiteering at taxpayer expense, or the disastrous response to Hurricane Maria, or his persistent efforts to bend the justice system to his will, or the efforts to get dirt on Joe Biden, or the commission of clearly impeachable offenses, or the revolving door of imcompetent sycophants and ideologues who populated his administration, or the catastophically bad response to Covid-19.
Nope, it took a direct invasion of the Capitol at the instigation of Donald Trump. So it turns out that Republicans aren’t quite completely shame-free after all. Good to know.
The image above says everything that needs to be said about the events of January 6. As former state representative and chief American History fanboy Dylan Giambatista pointed out on Twitter, the guy is carrying a Confederate battle flag past a portrait of Vermont’s own Justin Morrill, stalwart Republican member of Congress from Civil War days. It was an inadvertent middle finger aimed at anyone who has fought to preserve the union.
The latest financial filings from Republican Scott Milne and Democrat Molly Gray reveal two vastly different campaigns in scale, source of funding, organization and tactics.
(I’ll be writing a separate post about the gubernatorial filings.)
Milne’s campaign has adopted what I call the Disembodied Head model, inspired by one of the great bits of political satire from my home state of Michigan. In 2006, Dick DeVos, scion of the Amway pyramid scheme multi-level marketing firm and husband of The Worst Education Secretary In History, decided to run for governor of Michigan. He dumped $36 million of his own wealth into the race… and (schadenfreude alert) got absolutely killed by Jennifer Granholm.
During the campaign, a delightfully snarky liberal created a website called “The Disembodied Head of Dick DeVos,” which is dormant but still extant. And more than a bit relevant, in our post-Citizens United era of fiscal oligarchy.
Extra bonus digression! DeVos’ father Richard was the co-founder of Amway. Dick ran the company after Dad’s retirement. Dick’s major accomplishment was to take Amway international. At that point Amway had pretty much tapped out the domestic market for Raising False Hopes Through Scammery, Dickie found rich fields of suckers in developing countries like Russia and China, where hardworking but financially naive people were desperate to climb the ladder of success. (The DeVos clan also owns the Orlando Magic, one of the worst franchises in the NBA.)
Scott MIlne is a multimillionaire, but a pauper by DeVos standards. Milne’s campaign is pocket fluff compared to DeVos’, but it’s the same basic structure: Largely self-funded, spending the bulk of its money on paid media with little to no grassroots organization.
Gray, on the other hand, has spent much less on TV and much more on staff, travel and events. She’s actually built an organization, how about that.
She also continues to fundraise far more impressively than Milne.
Early contender for Best Inadvertent Laugh Line, 2020 General Election Edition, comes to us from Sen. Corey Parent, who’s got such a tough re-election fight on his hands that he’s devoting his spare time to managing Scott Milne’s bid for Lite-Guv. Fortunately for him, VTDigger has no laugh track, so the line is presented as if it were… serious:
Parent also said Milne “has always run campaigns based strictly on the issues.”
Corey’s a seasoned pro at this point, so it’s not too surprising that he managed to get through that line without breaking character. But still, congrats on a job well done.
Truth is, Milne is about the most issue-free major party candidate in recent memory. His two previous runs for office have featured a lot of snark, plenty of criticism for the incumbent, and virtually no actual positions or proposals on the issues.
In support of his assertion, Parent references Milne’s 2014 gubernatorial campaign: “Scott famously nearly defeated Peter Shumlin on the issue of health care.”
Well, yeah, I suppose. But Milne didn’t actually take a position on health care. He simply tried to make hay out of the disastrous rollout of Vermont Health Connect and Shumlin’s failure to enact a single-payer system. Just as he tried to make hay out of Shumlin’s other failings.
During the 2014 campaign, Milne kept promising to release a platform for his candidacy — and then delaying any announcements.
Note: In the original version of this post, I failed to include Ron Horton in the Essex-Orleans district. This post is now updated to include him.
The Vermont state Senate, our most self-absorbed deliberative body, is a study in stasis. Turnover is rare. Incumbents are virtually assured of re-election, usually without much effort. (The last sitting senators to lose were Bill Doyle and Norm McAllister in 2016 — but Doyle was 90 years old, quite frail and had a reputation for nodding off during meetings, and McAllister faced a daunting array of criminal charges at the time. That’s about what it takes for an incumbent to lose.
This year promises to be same song, new verse. A rough and semi-educated review of the field of candidates shows that 27 of the 30 senators are strong or prohibitive favorites to win re-election — and that includes one incumbent who didn’t bother filing his candidacy papers, and will have to run a write-in campaign. The forgetful fellow is NEK Democrat and snippy little bitch John Rodgers, who represents the two-seat Essex-Orleans district along with perpetual incumbent Bobby Starr, who did manage to file — along with “Democrat” Ron Horton, who ran this race under the banner of the American Party in 2018.
The American Party, FYI, is a fringe conservative organization that traces its roots back to the American Independent Party founded by hardcore segregationist George Wallace. Horton finished a distant third in 2018 behind Starr and Rodgers. He stands a puncher’s chance in this year’s primary because his name is on the ballot and Rodgers’ is not. But Rodgers’ cavailer attitude toward the simple act of filing papers (and this year he didn’t even need to gather signatures) precisely illustrates the problem: Senate incumbents are virtually bulletproof.
I said 27 of the 30 are favorites. The other three — Tim Ashe and Debbie Ingram of Chittenden County and James McNeil of Rutland — are voluntarily giving up their seats. Indeed, voluntary retirement is just about the only way there’s ever any turnover in the Vermont Senate.
The various critters who live under the Golden Dome must have felt a great sense of relief when Sen. Norm McAllister’s trial was delayed by at least three months. The trial was to have begun this week, and would have featured a parade of elected officials taking the stand and doing their best Sergeant Schultz impersonations. “I saw nothing. I heard nothing. I know nothing.”
Unseemly, to say the least. And it might have interfered with the free flow of Democracy In Action that we usually see at the Statehouse this time of year.
(Hey, you in the back row: Stop laughing.)
So now it’s put off until May 10, when the Legislature will almost certainly be safely adjourned. Ohh, you can bet your sweet bippy they’ll be gone by then.
Well, it’s a relief for the Legislature. It’s the worst possible news for Franklin County Republicans. McAllister’s trial won’t even begin until a mere fortnight before the filing deadline for major party candidates.
I’m sure the party is lining up a candidate for McAllister’s seat (two current Representatives, Carolyn Branagan and Corey Parent, are being mentioned). But I’m convinced that McAllister is clueless enough to file for re-election.
When last we left the Norm McAllister saga, he was threatening legal action against the State Senate if it suspends him from his official duties. He claims that a number of his constituents have talked of filing suit. As I noted, this would just prolong the agony for Senators, for Republicans, and especially for Franklin County Republicans, who are stuck with this tar baby.
Well, VTDigger’s Jasper “Son of Jay” Craven spent a few happy hours getting in touch with the county’s other lawmakers. And all of them, shockingly, denied that a court battle was in the works.
“Nobody has expressed a plan or a desire to take legal action,” said Rep. Carolyn Branagan, a Republican who represents Franklin’s first district. “I think it’s exactly the opposite, the people with whom I know and have spoken to want this over.”
… Franklin Republican Reps. Albert Pearce and Larry Fiske, Independent Barbara Murphy and Democrat Kathleen Keenan also said they hadn’t heard anything about a lawsuit until McAllister’s remarks Wednesday. Nor had Claude Cheralier, the Highgate chair for the Franklin County Republicans.
Rep. Corey Parent joined the chorus, and expressed the increasingly forlorn hope that McAllister would come to his senses and resign.
Prepping for another hosting spot on WDEV’s Mark Johnson Show Monday morning. Also Thursday, Friday, and next Monday the 29th. Here’s the lineup for tomorrow and some notes on the rest of the week…
9:00 Monday: State Rep. Corey Parent, R-St. Albans. He was one of eight freshman state lawmakers chosen for the Canadian Embassy’s “Rising State Leaders” program, which included a tour of eastern Canada. We’ll talk about his trip and his reflections on his first year in the Legislature. And since he’s from Franklin County, I’m sure I’ll ask him about Sen. Norm McAllister.
10:00 Monday: Sarah McCall, executive director of Emerge Vermont, a group that trains aspiring women to enter the political arena. (Vermont has rarely elected women to statewide office, and has never sent a woman to Congress.) We’ll talk about the ongoing shakeup in Vermont politics and whether it creates chances for women to move up the ladder.
And later in the hour, we’ll catch up with State Sen. Becca Balint. She was a 2014 graduate of Emerge Vermont, who went on to win a Senate seat from Windham County. She’ll talk about what the program did for her, and her thoughts on Year One in the legislature.