Tag Archives: Doug Racine

Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way

When last I left you, I signed off with

Vermont already has an oversupply of cautious Democrats.

Let’s pick it up from there. Now, I could be talking about legislative leadership, which has developed a habit of scoring own goals in its “battles” with Gov. Phil Scott. But in this case, I’m talking about campaigns for governor, in which the Democrats have not exactly covered themselves in glory.

Over the past 20 years, the Vermont Democratic Party has nominated a top-shelf candidate for governor a mere five times — incumbent Howard Dean in 2000, Doug Racine in 2002 and Peter Shumlin in 2010, ’12 and ’14.

(I’m calling the 2014 Shumlin “top shelf” only because he was the incumbent. Otherwise he was a deeply flawed candidate who came within an eyelash of losing to Scott Milne, objectively the worst major-party gubernatorial candidate in living memory.)

Otherwise it’s been a parade of worthies with good intentions but few resources and no real hope. Whenever a popular Republican occupies the corner office, the Democrats’ A-Team scurries away like cockroaches when the light goes on.

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Lost in the shuffle

In my last post, I mentioned that the campaigns of Matt Dunne and Sue Minter continued on autopilot for a few days after the Stenger/Quiros scandal had broken. On Thursday, Minter unveiled a substantial, wide-ranging water quality initiative, which got absolutely buried in the EB-5 avalanche. On Friday, Dunne released his personal financial information.

It was the worst possible timing if they actually wanted to make the news. Especially unfortunate in Minter’s case, since it was a major policy statement and she had some notable advocates on hand for her announcement — including James Ehlers of Lake Champlain International and Denise Smith of Friends of Northern Lake Champlain.

Well, David Zuckerman also got caught in the avalanche. On Thursday, he announced a significant endorsement: former Lieutenant Governor and State Senator Doug Racine is backing Zuckerman for Lite-Gov.

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Cruisin’ for a bruisin’, part 2

When I whip off a reference to the prospective Democratic field for governor, I mention three names: Shap Smith, Sue Minter, and Matt Dunne. There are a couple other oft-mentioned names that I leave off my list.

One of them is Doug Racine. I’ve got nothing against him; if he runs I’d give him serious consideration. But I haven’t seen much evidence that he’s serious about running. If I had to guess, I’d say he’s looking for reasons not to run rather than pushing a candidacy forward. (If anyone in the audience has seen such evidence, let me know in the Comments.)

The other is the formerly Slummin’ Solon, Peter Galbraith. I dubbed him the Slummin’ Solon because he seemed to believe that occupying a seat in the State Senate was a task unworthy of his stature. When he left the Senate last year, he was allegedly clearing his decks for another peace mission in the Middle East.

Well, it seems he never left, and his Green Mountain ambitions remain unquelled, because here he is on everybody’s list as exploring a run for governor.

In many ways, Galbraith is the Democratic equivalent of Bruce Lisman. Both men are very wealthy, enough to self-fund a substantial campaign. Both have very high opinions of themselves and their qualifications for Vermont’s highest office. Both have very high opinions of their political appeal, with no particular evidence to back it up.

And as with Lisman, my response to a potential Galbraith candidacy is “Oh please. Oh please please PLEEEEEEEASE run for Governor. I’m beggin’ ya.”

Because if Galbraith runs for governor, he’s in line for a rude surprise. He’ll go down in flames.

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Welch declines the honor

Okay, so I’m on the air live this morning on The Mark Johnson Show. House Speaker Shap Smith, openly considering a run for governor but waiting to see what Congressman Peter Welch would do, has just left after a 45-minute interview. I’ve got Randy Brock, once and (possibly) future Republican candidate, sitting with me in the studio waiting for his interview to start.

And then, in rapid-fire succession, the Supreme Court decision on marriage equality is released… and I find out that Welch has just announced he will not run for governor, but will instead seek re-election to Congress.

Trust me, I didn’t need any coffee to get through that hour. I missed the chance to break the news to Speaker Smith, which would have just been the most fun thing ever. (As of this writing, I’m seeking reaction from him.) I did get to break the news to Brock, which was pretty fun itself.

Live radio, I love thee.

Brock, by the way, said that Welch’s status was one factor in his consideration, but only one of “300 or 400” things he’s weighing. But he sure seemed like he’s rarin’ to go.

Back to the main issue here. How does the Welch decision affect the race?

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theVPO Media Crossover Event!

Hey, WDEV’s Mark Johnson is on his annual summer vacation, and I’ll be sitting in for Mark during some of those days. This week, Tuesday the 16th and Wednesday the 17th. I’ll also be in the big chair the 25th, 26th, and 29th. (Please note: When I’m hosting the show, I set my politics aside as much as possible, and give my guests the chance to share their views and ideas. Don’t expect any polemics. That’s not my role on WDEV.)

Guests for the next two days:

9:00 am Tuesday: State Rep. Tom Stevens, D-Waterbury. He recently became president of Downstreet Housing ahd Community Development. We’ll talk about his new gig, the housing issues facing Vermont, and probably touch on some other issues as well.

10:00 am Tuesday: Erica Heilman, creator/host of Rumble Strip Vermont, a podcast that tells Vermonters’ real life stories and explores aspects of Vermont life.

9:00 am Wednesday: Doug Racine, former Lieutenant Governor, State Senator, and Human Services Secretary. He’ll talk about his service in the Shumlin administration, his views on the political scene, and his own thoughts about running for Governor.

10:00 am Wednesday: Ben T. Matchstick and Pete Talbot of the Cardboard Teck Instantute (sic). They’ve invented a working pinball machine made out of cardboard; they hope to develop a gaming platform from their simple base. They just got back from Washington, D.C., where they showcased their invention at a national Maker Faire.

WDEV broadcasts out of Waterbury and can be heard in most of northern and central Vermont on 96.1 FM and 550 AM. The show can be livestreamed online at wdevradio.com. Hope you can join me!

Story Time, 2010 Primary Edition: in honor of Deb Markowitz

Well, the briefest of gubernatorial trial balloons has settled to the floor, like the birthday balloon that got a half-shot of helium. Deb Markowitz, Agency of Natural Resources Secretary throughout the Shumlin administration, has taken her name out of the running. In an email to Seven Days’ Paul Heintz, she wrote:

“I will not be running for Governor this time around. I want to be able to continue to fully focus on the important work of the agency to address the important environmental, energy and economic issues facing Vermont.”

Fair enough. It kinda seemed like she was a token woman on everybody’s list rather than a real top tier contender. Which is a shame, because she could very easily have been Governor instead of Peter Shumlin. And the way his administration has turned out, we might have been better off with Markowitz.

We’ll never know, of course. But let’s take a stroll down Memory Lane, just to show how close we came to that particular alternate reality. And how a possible bit of trickeration (the Nixon folks called it ratf*cking) might have kept her out of the corner office.

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Is this the time for business as usual?

It’s an annual rite at this time of year: a changeover in the upper levels of the administration. It usually involves some key departures, a shuffling of the deck, and the elevation of those who have served in a lesser capacity.

The latter began on Wednesday for the Shumlin Administration, with promotions for press liaison Sue Allen, campaign manager Scott Coriell, and education adviser Aly Richards. Loyal servants, rewarded for their work.

But should they be?

I have nothing against these folks. As far as I know, they deserve their promotions. But a broader question is on my mind:

Praise and promotions were freely distributed when Shumlin was riding high. Should the same be true after a poor administrative year and a disastrous campaign?

Further: Are these promotions a sign that Shumlin, at some fundamental level, doesn’t get it? That it’s business as usual on the fifth floor?

The Governor has made the right noises. But the current situation calls for a lot more than that. You can say “The buck stops here” all you want, but if the buck stops and gets tossed in a drawer, it’s a meaningless statement.

After the election, I saw a gleam of hope: Shumlin does his best work in crisis, as we saw after Tropical Storm Irene. This election was the closest thing to a personal Irene for Shumlin. My hope was that he would seize the opportunity, thoroughly evaluate everything he and his people do, and boldly set a new course.

So far, given his frequent deferrals to legislative leadership and his dispensation of Jobs For The Boys (And Girls), I’m having my doubts.

In addition to a personal reckoning by Shumiln, there ought to be a personnel reckoning. During the campaign, I wrote that the continued problems of Vermont Health Connect called for some clear direction and, probably, the rolling of some heads.

In addition to Doug Racine’s, that is. Racine may have had his failings at Human Services, but it wasn’t like he got a lot of help from Shumlin. Plus, he had little to do with Vermont Health Connect. He was expendable, not because he was the biggest problem, but because he wasn’t really part of the team. Mark Larson, who was far more responsible for VHC but was clearly one of the boys, was shunted to the side but kept his title and is still drawing a salary for duties and responsibilities unknown.

Is Governor Shumlin capable of evaluating his staffers and functionaries with the cold eye of reason, and demoting or defenestrating those who’ve contributed to his administration’s malaise?

We’ll see. He promises more personnel changes to come. But I have to say I’m not optimistic. If the changes have more to do with the desires and ambitions of his staff than with a sorely-needed overhaul of the Shumlin Machine, then his third term is off to an inauspicious start.