Gerald Malloy made the customary Election Eve rounds of all 14 Vermont counties today. The antepenultimate stop was in Rutland, where his visit sparked a touching memory of an early encounter that fortified him for the long road ahead.
“Dolores Luebke,” hmmm….
Would that be the Dolores Luebke who’s served as chair of the Pawlet Republican Committee? The Dolores Luebke who’s a Second Amendment absolutist? The Dolores Luebke who has repeatedly made baseless accusations of election fraud against former state representative Robin Chesnut-Tangerman, who’s now running to retake his old seat?
Yeah, if that’s the kind of “substance” Malloy possesses, allow me to fervently hope he loses by a truly embarrassing margin.
Ah, what a happy group of Republicans! There’s Gov. Phil Scott, Lite-Gov candidate Sen. Joe Benning, and U.S. Senate candidate Gerald Malloy. I can’t identify all of the other people, but I know quite a few.
Next to the governor is state Sen. Russ Ingalls, almost certainly the most conservative person in the Senate. The people in the back row behind Benning are House candidates Lloyd and Lynn Dike, state Rep. (and VTGOP vice chair) Samantha Lefebvre, and House candidate Joe Gervais. Front row, yellow shirt, state Senate candidate and far-right rabble-rouser John Klar, who posted the picture on his Facebook page. The three on the right are three House candidates: Rob North, James McClay, and Jon Christiano. (North is the subject of an upcoming “steath conservative” post.)
That’s a whole bunch of extremists in the company of Smilin’ Phil.
I previously wrote that the extremists have taken over the Vermont Republican Party. They’re in party leadership, they’re on the state and county committees, and they constitute a goodly share of the Republican ticket.
Until now, Scott has kept his distance. Not any more. He has made common cause with the nutbars. Phil Scott owns this Republican Party and should be made to answer for every one of the people in this photograph.
It’s Gerald Malloy, our very own Republican candidate for Senate, yukkin’ it up with insurrectionist fraudster Steve Bannon!
This is an image from Malloy’s October 17 appearance on Bannon’s “War Room” show, during which Bannon called on his legions of followers to volunteer for, or donate to, Malloy’s campaign.
Hmm… October 17… that date rings a bell… right, right. That was the day federal prosecutors called for Bannon to be locked up for six months for defying a Congressional subpoena.
Well, as old Aesop once said, “A man is known by the company he keeps.”
Speaking of which, do you remember the Mark Coester hullaballoo? The archconservative Senate candidate ‘s logging truck was in Colchester’s Fourth of July Parade, festooned with fascist and alt-right banners.
And Malloy for Senate campaign materials.
“…the company he keeps.”
Malloy has been the Republican nominee for more than two months. For the most part, the media coverage of him has been awfully polite and incurious. (One exception: Kevin McCallum’s deep dive in Seven Days.) This is probably because no one thinks he’s going to win, so why bother going beneath the surface? But still, he is a major party candidate for high office. He ought to get as much scrutiny as any other candidate.
We’re in for a lot of this, aren’t we? The higher reaches of our ballot feature grossly one-sided contests between able, experienced Democrats and unknown, untested Republicans whose long residencies in the Fox News bubble are plain for all to see.
Last night’s Welch/Malloy debate was… a bit of a letdown. Gerald Malloy was the boring kind of ultraconservative, not the entertaining kind. He was Mike Lee, not Paul Gosar. Instead of a guy verbally stepping on rakes á la Sideshow Bob, we got a flavorless plate of boiled meat with a side of willful ignorance.
It wasn’t as much fun as I hoped. I think we’ll get better results next week, when Libertarian-of-convenience Ericka Redic brings her unique brand of acerbic egotism to a debate with Becca Balint and mock Republican Liam Madden. If Malloy was stepping on rakes, Redic will march blissfully through a minefield.
Peter Welch was, well, Peter Welch. Always on top of his rhetorical game and incredibly energetic for a mid-septuagenerian*. Impressive, in short. Well, not to the 35% of the electorate that will see Malloy as a military hero answering the call of duty to clean up Washington, D.C. But they don’t matter. He did nothing last night that could push his share of the vote past the mid-30s.
*Seriously. I’ve written that he might be one-and-done in the Senate but the way he looks and speaks, he might keep going for three or four terms.
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.
A rift may be developing in our state’s tiny anti-abortion movement, which already is vastly outnumbered and vastly outresourced in its campaign against the reproductive rights amendment known as Article 22. The last thing they need is an internal dispute.
On Saturday the Vermont Daily Chronicle posted a written exchange between far-right activist Jim Sexton and Mary Beerworth, longtime leader of the Vermont Right to Life Committee. In his letter, Sexton upbraided Beerworth for endorsing Christina Nolan for U.S. Senate over the thoroughly anti-abortion Gerald Malloy, and for making a donation to the Nolan campaign. He called on Beerworth to either “come out Publicly and disassociate from Ms. Nolan and her campaign, or to resign from VT Right to Life.”
Beerworth replied that she made the endorsement because Nolan is (1) staunchly opposed to Article 22 and (2) the only Republican with a chance of beating “100% pro-abortion and 100% pro-Article 22, Peter Welch (D)” in November.
It’s a rare moment of pragmatism from an activist known for her doggedness in fronting lost causes. And it comes at a time when pragmatism is a dirty word for many on the right.
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