Tag Archives: David Zuckerman

Shall We Call This “The Zuckerman Rule”?

This item is almost too petty to report. But if it was that petty, then why did the Vermont Democratic Party do it?

I’m referring to a change made last year to the party bylaws that seems to be aimed squarely at Progressive/Democratic Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman.

Follow me into the weeds. The VDP allows its top officeholder at the state level to appoint a nonvoting member to the party’s executive committee. Under the former bylaw, that would be Zuckerman. But the appointment was, in fact, made by Treasurer Mike Pieciak.

That’s because the bylaw now specifies that it’s the top officeholder with “D” as their only or first party designation. Used to be, Zuckerman’s “P/D” would qualify. Indeed, during his first tenure as LG he named Ed Cafferty to the committee. (And Cafferty is, in fact, a loyal Democrat of long standing.)

This rule change didn’t matter when Democrat Molly Gray was LG. But it does now that Zuckerman is back in office.

Now, this is small potatoes to be sure. It’s a nonvoting member of a party committee. But again, if this is so trivial, why bother making the change? We’re talking about the sequence of two capital letters here. Is P/D really that different from D/P?

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The Best Part of It Was This Guy

After almost an hour of pomp and circumstance (as befits the Green Mountain Boys’ home turf, actually no), Gov. Phil Scott was sworn into office on Thursday and delivered his fourth inaugural address.

We’ll get to all that, but first let’s deal with the highlight of the day: François Clemmons, actor, singer, writer, teacher, the friendly cop in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, and Vermont treasure, singing the national anthem with joy, spirit, and power. Good stuff.

(Skip to the 28th minute and enjoy.)

As for the inaugural… on the Phil Scott “Meh” Scale, it was… slightly better than “meh.” He laid out a series of issues that went beyond the usual stuff about workforce and demographics. Oh, those things were in there too, but so were climate change, housing, the opioid epidemic, mental health, and “accountability” in law enforcement. (Trigger warning: His vision of that issue comes straight out of the law ‘n order playbook.)

There was a blessed lack of snide remarks about those who disagree with him, but his customary implication that “working together” means abandoning your ideas in favor of his.

The unifying message of the speech was that we must do more to help rural Vermont catch up with the bigger communities in quality of life and economic opportunity. As I listened to him, I started to realize something: This is a false dichotomy.

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We Have to Talk About Nathan

This is Nathan, the former employee of Full Moon Farm whose allegations that David Zuckerman is a horrible boss got turned into a Vermont Republican Party attack ad launched in the campaign’s closing days.

Well, guess what.

Nathan is a staunch conservative Republican. And I’ve got receipts.

That, in itself, doesn’t render his claims untrue, but it puts them in a completely different light. Nathan isn’t an objective voice who had a bad time working at Full Moon Farm; he’s a partisan with a clear interest in Zuckerman’s defeat.

The VTGOP identified him only as “Nathan,” which is, indeed, his real first name. I’ve heard that the party is refusing to release any more information about him. Problem is, this is a small state and a lot of people know Nathan. Some of them worked at Full Moon the same time he did. His identity is bound to come out, and when it does, this ad is going to blow up in the VTGOP’s collective face. .

But let’s get to the receipts.

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The Saddest October Surprise Ever

Hey, I hadn’t realized that former VTGOP chair Deb Billado had made a comeback. Congratulations!!

But seriously, the above image is from a nasty little political ad created by the Vermont Republican Party. They waited until now because it’s too late for anyone to make a cogent response. On the other hand, it’s also too late for such a message to sink in, especially since the party can’t afford the kind of advertising blitzkrieg that would punch this message through the noise and smoke of the home stretch.

The 30-second spot features a man identified as “Nathan,” said to be a former employee of David Zuckerman’s Full Moon Farm. “Nathan,” last name not given, is dressed just like a farm worker and stands in front of a suitably well-worn farm-type truck as he unrolls a litany of complaints about Zuckerman as a boss. Low pay, no time off, substandard accommodations, etc.

There is no way to verify Nathan’s identity or his story. The VTGOP, as far as I know, has made no attempt to back up his assertions. He might be a former employee with an ax to grind, justifiably or otherwise. (Any employer will eventually rub some people the wrong way.)

He might also be a Young Republican who’s never gotten dirt under his fingernails.

The cherry on top: The person behind the ad appears to be Republican National Committeeman (and lamprey on the underbelly of Vermont Republicanism) Jay Shepard. His business, Junction Consulting, has been paid $14,450 since October 28 for “Media – TV,” according to party filings with the secretary of state*. The party has reported no other expenditures on mass media.

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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 Dem Statewides Are Doing Just Fine, Thanks

In a post following the September 1 campaign finance deadline, I noted that “three of the big Democratic primary winners emptied their coffers in an effort to get across the finish line.” It put them in a potentially hazardous position for the general campaign.

Well, it would have if their Republican opponents weren’t all unknown, unfunded, and largely unloved.

I speak of Charity Clark (attorney general), David Zuckerman (lieutenant governor), and Sarah Copeland Hanzas (secretary of state). Zuckerman had $16,771 in the bank on the first of September; Clark actually entered September with a $1,200 shortfall, Copeland Hanzas had about $12,000 on hand, but only because she reported loaning her campaign $14,000. So, according to her own report, she had a $12,000 deficit outside of her own pocketbook.

Well, hold on a minute. According to her campaign manager Lizzy Carroll, that $14,000 number was a mistake. The actual self-loan was $3,500, which is not insignificant but it does make her bottom line look a lot better. The deficit falls from $12,000 to about $1,500. (She carried forward a $1,160 surplus from past campaigns, which would lower her real deficit to less than $400.)

So, where are the three of them now?

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No Money, No Problems

Turns out, three of the big Democratic primary winners emptied their coffers in an effort to get across the finish line. Now they’re strapped for cash entering the general campaign.

That’d be a real problem if their Republican opponents weren’t so utterly hapless.

Charity Clark went on a mass-media spending binge in early August. She spent a massive $81,000 in the month; $64,000 of that was for TV, radio, print, mail, and online advertising. She entered September with a cash deficit of about $1,200. Turned out she didn’t have to do all that spending, as she won her party’s nomination for attorney general over Rory Thibault by a better than two-to-one margin.

Sarah Copeland Hanzas’ war chest (obligatory war chest reference) was scraping bottom as the primary approached. She spent a relatively modest $15,602 in August, not much more than half what her rival Chris Winters spent. Copeland Hanzas had entered the race very late and never caught up in fundraising. She enters September nearly $12,000 in the black, but only because she loaned her own campaign $14,000.

Still, she won — by a scant two percentage points — and that’s what matters most.

David Zuckerman spent $57,149 in August as he sought to ensure victory over Kitty Toll, bringing his campaign spending total well over $200,000. He still has $16,771 in cash on hand, and an extremely large base of small donors who can be tapped for more.

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A Tale of Two Treasuries

Obligatory “War Chest” Reference

As if it needed any more emphasis, the September 1 campaign finance reports starkly illustrate the difference in fortune between the Vermont Democratic and Republican Parties. In case you need to be told, the Dems’ war chest is on the left; the VTGOP’s is on the right. The exception is Gov. Phil Scott, who seems to finally be taking the campaign seriously. Maybe he’s a little worried about Brenda Siegel?

Fundraising numbers to date for statewide races besides governor:

Lieutenant Governor: David Zuckerman $236,687, Joe Benning $38,546. That’s the good one for the Republicans.

Treasurer: Mike Pieciak $126,500, H. Brooke Paige 0.

Secretary of State: Sarah Copeland Hanzas $74,078, H. Brooke Paige 0.

Attorney General: Charity Clark $129, 835, Mike Tagliavia 0.

Auditor: Invincible incumbent Doug Hoffer $100 plus a $1,115 surplus from 2020, Rick Morton 0.

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Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Primary

Well, primary night turned out to be quite a bit less exciting than we thought. With a few exceptions, the races that seemed unpredictable weren’t, in the end, very close at all. What follows is a selection of post-midnight thoughts, none of which are about the gubernatorial race because the primaries were uncompetitive.

1. Those unbelievable polls were right about the Democratic primary for Congress. Becca Balint beat the metaphorical pants off Molly Gray. In the end, the margin was 23 percentage points. Remember back in January, when Gray had gotten off to a hot start and Balint was entering the race at the same time she had to manage the Senate Democratic Caucus? Seemed like Gray had the edge. Hell, it seemed like Balint might get squeezed between centrist Gray and progressive Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale.

I think Gray did have the edge at the time. So what happened? Balint caught fire with the Democratic electorate while Gray’s bio-heavy, policy-lite approach wore out its welcome. When it became clear that Balint was pulling ahead, Gray started flailing around, presenting herself as a pragmatist (be still, my heart) while depicting Balint as a Bernie Sanders clone. Yes, Bernie, Vermont’s most popular politician. Gray’s attack lines were implausible from the get-go. Did anyone really believe that Balint was an uncompromising ideologue or a captive of shady out-of-state money? No. For an attack to be effective, it has to be plausibly based in a candidate’s real or perceived weaknesses.

2. Everyone involved in Gray’s campaign has some soul-searching to do. Not only because they lost badly despite the very public blessing of St. Patrick Leahy, but also because they burned a lot of bridges in Democratic circles by going negative.

2a. Is this the end of Team Leahy’s dominance in Democratic politics? They bet big on Gray, and she rolled snake eyes. Leahy will remain a beloved figure but a sidelined one. His team, meanwhile, soiled themselves and dragged Leahy down with them. If there was any belief that they had the corner on political savvy in Vermont, well, that balloon has burst.

3. Oh Lord, the Republicans. They emerge from the primary with a statewide “ticket” of Gerald Malloy, Liam Madden, Phil Scott, Joe Benning, H. Brooke Paige, H. Brooke Paige, H. Brooke Paige, and H. Brooke Paige. The VTGOP now has a few days to cobble together a slate of candidates to supplant Paige, and none of them will have a prayer of a chance. Besides Scott, Benning is the only winner who’s not a walking, talking joke, and his campaign is operating on a shoestring. He’ll be a decent candidate, but he’s not going to win.

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The LG Race Is a Good Test of Endorsement Power

Of all the contested Democratic primaries up for grabs on Tuesday, one race has effectively split the Democratic base in two more or less equal parts. Well, equal in import if not in numbers.

All of the liberal and progressive interest groups — labor, environmental, political — have all lined up behind former lieutenant governor David Zuckerman. They include VPIRG Votes, Vermont Conservation Voters, Sierra Club Vermont chapter, Sunrise Montpelier, Vermont State Employees Association, Vermont State Labor Council, AFSCME Local 93, American Federation of Teachers, Sheet Metal Workers Local 93, Rights & Democracy, Renew U.S., and Our Revolution.

At least two unions have not endorsed: Vermont NEA and the Vermont Troopers Association.

As for former Rep. Kitty Toll, the “Endorsements’ page on her website includes no organizations of any kind. She has an impressive list of individuals on her side, but none of the groups that normally support Democrats.

This is not true of any other primary race I know of. The groups are split between candidates.

What are those organizational endorsements worth? That’s the question, isn’t it?

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