The long decline of the Vermont Republican Party hit another low point last week when the party failed to recruit a warm body to run for state treasurer. Instead, they’re offering a double dose of perennial candidate and Best Dressed Man In Vermont Politics H. Brooke Paige. He’ll run for treasurer and secretary of state, so expect a double dose of big hats in candidate forums this fall.
Also, expect him to lose. Just like all the other statewide Republicans save Phil Scott. The governor could lose, but you can’t expect it the way you can for Gerald Malloy or Liam Madden or Rick Morton or that guy who’s running for attorney general or Paige or Paige.
Joe Benning I put in a different category. I expect him to lose to David Zuckerman but at least he’s a credible candidate, unlike all those other folks.
Errrrr… all those other men.
Before I go on, yes, I did recently write about the Republican primary field, the “usual collection of unknowns, kooks and zealots.” But things have only gotten worse since then, and I wanted to put a bow on the whole verkakte mess.
The primary campaign was a rough one for the Vermont Republican Party. While the Democrats had enough good candidates to populate several robust primary contests, the Republicans offered the usual collection of unknowns, kooks and zealots in such low numbers that H. Brooke Paige reprised his ever-popular “run for a bunch of offices” ploy just to prevent Democrats from winning Republican nominations via handfuls of write-in votes.
Well, primary day has come and gone, and somehow things have gotten even worse for the VTGOP. First, we have the usual aftermath of the Paige maneuver: As he has done before, he withdrew from all but one race to allow the party to choose replacement candidates. Second, we have a Republican Congressional nominee who’s treating the nomination like it’s dogshit on the bottom of his shoe.
Back to the Paige situation. The VTGOP now has to scramble to find people willing to fill out the ticket even if they have no chance of winning and will barely even try. These are people who didn’t want to run in the first place. They’ll get a terribly late start on what will surely be underfunded, low-wattage efforts that might bear the slightest of resemblances to real, functional campaigns.
This has become SOP for the VTGOP, but it should be seen as the disgrace that it is. In a system with only two parties competing statewide, this Republican failure is not only bad for the party, it’s bad for democracy.
In addition to that, we have the embarrassment of a top-ticket nominee who wants nothing to do with the VTGOP.
The UNH Survey Center poll of Vermont’s two Congressional races was laughably bad for Lt. Gov. Molly Gray. It was downright embarrassing for Nolan. The poll has her six points behind Generic Angry White Guy Gerald Malloy and 18 points behind “Undecided.”
More on this in a moment, but I wanted to add three thoughts to my earlier post on the Gray/Becca Balint poll.
First, this is not about Super PAC spending. Sure, three progressive PACs have spent a combined $600,000 on independent activities in support of Balint. But the bulk of that money was spent this month, and a 42 percentage point spread just doesn’t happen that quickly. Even people who run these campaigns would acknowledge that they’re working the margins, trying to move the needle by a few percentage points. The Super PAC support certainly makes Gray’s task harder but if she blames her predicament on them, she’ll be wrong.
Second, if a 42-point deficit wasn’t enough bad news for Gray, there’s also a favorability gap. Balint was seen favorably by 72% of respondents, and unfavorably by a mere 6%. Twelve percent had no opinion. The same categories for Gray: 42% favorable, 19% unfavorable, 8% no opinion. The gist: there’s only a small pool of gettable voters for Gray. Only 13% are undecided. If this poll is anywhere in the ballpark, Gray has a huge deficit and little room to make progress.
Third, Natalie Silver is a freakin’ genius. She’s run a seemingly flawless campaign for Balint. Maybe we should have seen this coming; TJ Donovan never looked better than when Silver was his chief of staff. (She was also involved in Gray’s surprising run to the Bucket of Warm Piss in 2020.) I suspect that if Balint goes to Congress, Silver will be in her inner circle because why the hell wouldn’t you want Silver at your side? But if Silver doesn’t go to Washington, she’ll be the hottest commodity in Vermont politics. And rightfully so.
It’s gotten to the point where I feel sorry for Christina Nolan, the drug-enforcin’ former U.S. Attorney turned nudge nudge, wink wink moderate Republican candidate for Pat Leahy’s Senate seat. First, whatever she was promised in terms of financial and organizational support has failed to materialize. Second, she’s going to spend the next several months sharing the stage with a bunch of far-right zealots before like-minded audiences. The crowd and the stage will doubtless include people who don’t believe that Her Kind are entitled to equal rights or, for that matter, existence.
If these events get any coverage at all, they’ll torpedo her effort to campaign as a moderate. She’ll have two choices: play to the crowd and hope not to be quoted in the press, or stick to her campaign’s message and risk getting booed off the stage.
The first stop on this Trail of Tears is on Saturday at the palatial Double Tree Hotel, the flower of South Burlington, where the VTGOP will hold a luncheon (which is what they call “lunch” when they’re trying to sell expensive tickets*) and meeting to discuss and approve the party’s dog-whistly platform, in which the concept of moderation gains no purchase.
“Trying” is the operative word here. Last week, the party was offering a $15 discount off the $55 list price for those who bought tix before this week; then, on Monday and Tuesday it offered the same deal. In fact, on both days it sent an email saying the discount was still available but would end at “midnight tonight.”
And while we’re on the subject of Republican desperation, the party is STILL selling merch from the infamous “Let’s Go Brandon” rally held last November. Paul Dame’s garage must be full of that junk.
Nolan will be forced to have the opportunity to share the stage with the likes of her little-known and veeerrrrryy conservative primary opponent Gerald Malloy and the party’s two hopeless Congressional candidates, Anya Tynio and Ericka Redic. Also sharing in the rubber chicken: the party’s two candidates for lieutenant governor, the estimable Sen. Joe Benning and the execrable Gregory Thayer, 2020 election truther and Vermont’s most ardent opponent of whatever he imagines critical race theory is.
Nolan and Benning should expect the crowd to be ideologically in sync with the True Believers on stage and skeptical (at best) of their professions of inclusive Republicanism. At least the two can commiserate about waging an uphill battle with no resources and feeling compelled to cozy up to the VTGOP’s far-right base.
After the jump: Coming Soon to a Grange Hall Near You
Pictured above is Jason Herron, self-described “maple farmer,” candidate for Select Board in Guilford and believer in a bunch of ultra-conservative nonsense. Like other stealth candidates for local office around Vermont, he presents himself as a simple guy who merely wants “transparency” in town government.
Transparency, as we have seen before, is one of the code words used by far-right candidates in an effort to con mainstream voters. Because, you know, if these candidates came right out and said what they believe, they’d get a tiny sliver of the vote and they know it.
Some of his supporters have been writing letters to local media endorsing Herron in the most generic of terms: “tree farmer,” “open, sincere, honest,” “no hidden agenda.” I have seen three such letters, and they make the same arguments using the same phrases. Almost as if they’re working from the same set of bullet points.
Herron is known among a certain tranche of the community as the organizer and presenter of a series of “educational” events under the rubric of “Constitution Alive!” That sounds benign enough, but “Constitution Alive!” is headed by David Barton, disgraced amateur historian, and Rick Green, identified by a far-right website as “the man Chuck Norris calls a ‘Constitutional Expert.'”
Ericka Redic, ultraconservative wannabe YouTube star, is running for office again. In fact, she’s running for two offices at once! That might pose a problem if she stood the slightest chance of winning either one.
Redic is on the Burlington city ballot as a Fourth Ward candidate for school board. She’s challenging board member Martine Laroque Gulick and, unless something truly weird happens, she’ll be nothing more than a speedbump for the incumbent. But Fourth Ward voters should know exactly what kind of choice they’re being offered. To judge from her general worldview, it’s safe to expect she’ll oppose mask mandates, beat the critical race theory drum and call for inquisitions of teachers and school librarians. Just what the voters of Burlington are looking for.
Meanwhile, Redic has filed campaign papers with the Federal Elections Commission as “Ericka Redic for Congress.”
The campaign committee is a model of streamlining. The treasurer of the organization is “Redic, Ericka L., Mrs.” T designated agent is “Redic, Ericka L., Mrs.” And the Custodian of Records is “Redic, Ericka L., Mrs.” As far as can be told, Ericka Redic for Congress is a one-person operation. Cozy!
Things just keep getting better and better for the Vermont Republican Party.
The latest eruption is in the GOP heartland of Burlington, where three members of the city party committee are calling for the removal of city party chair Kolby LaMarche because he’s insufficiently reverential toward Donald Trump.
Because being a Trumpster is such a great way to win elections in Burlington, I guess?
LaMarche sinned against orthodoxy by writing opinionpieces saying that the VTGOP needed to move away from Trump and return to “the Vermont Republican roots that formed the basis of our state party,” in the words of a written statement he released Friday. He had also called for a change in state party leadership; most of the VTGOP’s top officials are dyed-in-the-wool Trumpsters.
The three who want LaMarche removed are Ericka Redic, spectacularly unsuccessful candidate for state Senate in 2020; Gus Klein, a weapons tester at General Dynamics who’s best known as the guy whose Trump flag was vandalized by two teenagers back in 2018; and his wife AnnMarie Klein.