If you want to encapsulate the Vermont Republican Party’s statewide ballot woes, the latest campaign finance reports spell it out right clear.
The four Democratic candidates took in a combined $110,000 in the period ending July 1.
The two Republicans? $8,000.
It’s even worse when you look at campaign-to-date totals. Democrats: $308,000.
Republicans: $16,000. (Sen. Joe Benning $14K, Grgory Thayer $2K.)
Now, the usual caveat applies: Money is only one way to measure the strength of a campaign. There are other factors — name recognition, a strong network of grassroots support, an ideology that appeals to a significant piece of the electorate. But c’mon. You’ve got to have some money to be competitive. The Republican hopefuls just don’t.
Gregory Thayer and John Klar are both running for office this year. Thayer, for lieutenant governor; Klar, for state senator. And as is the current strategery for far-right candidates, they are trying to present themselves as mainstream conservatives.
Let’s do Thayer first. I thought I’d check in on the trainwreck race for the Republican LG nomination, which features serious human being Sen. Joe Benning versus Thayer, who attended the January 6 insurrection (heck, he helped organize a bus tour to the thing) and put together a nice little anti-critical race theory road show. Both VPR — err, Vermont Public — and VTDigger have hosted LG debates recently. Digger’s suffers from horrible audio quality, so I watched the Vermont Public Ra — cough, sorry — event.
Benning, of course, ran rings around Thayer logically. But Thayer’s demeanor was curiously subdued because he was trying to be someone he’s not.
Oh looky, the anti-critical race theory fanatics gathered last night at Montpelier’s Capitol Plaza Hotel! CRT, a purely academic construct understood by few — and by no one who’s taken it up as the latest cudgel in the culture wars — is apparently a front for Marxist indoctrination! Who knew???
This ignorance extravaganza was promoted by Vermont Grassroots, whose tag line is “Empowering Parents and Teachers.” Well, that’s the friendly mask on this angry face; the full motto is “Empowering Parents and Teachers By Exposing Marxism.” The rest of the two-day event was held at the Ignite Church in WIlliston, a notable outpost of far-right Christianity. Or, more accurately, a radical worldview masquerading as Christianity. It’s the kind of thing that’d have Jesus rolling in his grave if he was still there.
(Funny that they put a Montpelier event in the middle of a Williston soiree. I seem to recall that Ignite had a spot of trouble with a Burlington hotel canceling in the face of controversy. Did they have to go all the way to Montpelier to find a willing caterer?)
Vermont Grassroots was the organization behind the series of low-budget, local-talent-only meetings organized around the state last summer by Gregory Thayer, Rutland ideologue and Republican candidate for lieutenant governor. Apparently the group’s budget has increased because now they’re bringing in outside speakers.
Sadly, it’s too late to organize a protest in Montpelier. It’s not too late to let the Capitol Plaza know how you feel about profiting off hatred. However, there will be other opportunities for protest throughout the summer. Vermont Grassroots has planned a series of events designed to fan the flames of manufactured outrage.
And before anyone goes all First Amendment on me, just stop. These jackasses have every right to express their views. And the rest of us have every right to express our views about their views.
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
This, ladies and germs, is Katie Parent, candidate for school board in Springfield, bragging about having “picked a fight against the district.”
Well, as long as you’ve got an open mind.
Parent has a conspiratorial view of critical race theory. She has posted messages on social media in support of the truckers’ convoy to Washington, D.C., which means she’s cool with closing down cities, being loud and obnoxious, harassing locals, and interfering with daily life. As you see above, she’s also identified herself as part of a closed Facebook group called “Vermont Against Excessive Quarantine.” So she covers the waterfront of far-right activism.
Funny thing, she doesn’t seem nearly so brave outside of her little right-wing bubbles. This week, Seven Days did a long and worthwhile story on far-right candidates for school and select boards, and Parent was one of several who did not answer requests for interviews. Braveheart!
These are the two Republicans running for lieutenant governor. It ought to be an easy choice. Prominent lawmaker, articulate, thoughtful conservative versus fringey zealot. And maybe it will be; I make Benning the clear favorite.
But it might not be, and therein lies the problem with today’s VTGOP. There are a lot of Gregory Thayers in the party ranks. Party chair Paul Dame is likely to take a cautiously neutral position because he can’t afford to inflame the far right, even though Benning is clearly the better choice. He’s the only one who’d bring credibility to the ticket, and he’s earned his party’s support through his years of service.
But we’re talking about a VTGOP that’s turned its back on Gov. Phil Scott, the only Republican who’s won a statewide election since 2008. And a VTGOP whose base probably sees Benning as a turncoat.
The wonderful folks who brought you the CovidCruiser bus to the January 6 insurrection are back in business, baby! Now it’s the KKK Traveling Road Show, featuring a select group of speakers who are convinced that Critical Race Theory is the worst thing since, I dunno, Sputnik?
No, Burisma. Let’s go with Burisma.
The Klar Klan Kruiser is the brainchild of Gregory Thayer, a Rutland accountant and QAnon-adjacent conspiratorialist. It’s making stops tonight (Wednesday 7/14) in Barre and Friday in St. Albans. In each venue, a series of speakers will rant and rave about CRT for what’s likely to be a small audience of like-minded folks.
So who’s on the guest list for tonight? Well, Thayer himself, former gubernatorial candidate John Klar, Our Lady of the CovidCruiser Ellie Martin, “Former Educators” Martha Hafner and Alice Flanders, and first-term Rep. Samantha Lefebvre (R-Orange).
I’m glad to know that everything’s absolutely fine down Rutland way. No issues, no challenges, just unicorns and rainbows all day long.
That must be the case, because otherwise how to explain a majority of the Board of Aldermen* voting in favor of amending the city charter (Rutland Herald story, you may encounter a paywall) to enshrine the “Raider” nickname for Rutland High’s sports teams? That’s right: Change the freakin’ charter because they’re butthurt over the loss of a racist nickname. As Rep. William Notte wrote in an essay submitted to the Herald, “Nothing positive will come of this discussion.” Because there’s no way the Legislature would ever approve this.
*Speaking of which, “AlderMEN”? Really? Is this 2021 or 1921, guys?
More on this in a moment, but first we have breaking news about an upcoming outbreak of racism town hall meeting scheduled for next Wednesday in Rutland. It will be a gathering of Vermont’s anti-“critical race theory” dead-enders. Yup, the handful of folks who believe that fighting racism in the public schools is a threat to our American way of life.
The details: It’s organized by a Rutland-based group called Vermonters for Vermont, last seen helping to bring a busload of Vermonters to the January 6 Capitol insurrection. They’ll be gathering at the Vermont State Fairgrounds at 6:30 on Wednesday, June 16 for an evening of rabble-rousing by the likes of Rep. Art Peterson, former gubernatorial candidate John Klar, Mill River Union School District troublemaker Todd Fillmore, and newly-elected Essex school board member (and proud anti-anti-racist) Liz Cady. Klan robes optional.
Friday’s Scott-free* Covid briefing featured multiple questions about the CovidCruiser, which took a busload of Vermonters down to Washington for Wednesday’s pro-Trump rally turned riot. And the answers revealed a surprisingly laissez-faire attitude toward the dozens of participants who were clearly shown violating public health guidelines. During a 10-hour one-way trip in an enclosed space, which seemed ideal for superspreading.
*The governor was not present. His absence had been planned for days; it was not an attempt to duck questions about the Trump-encouraged D.C. riots.
Essentially, the state wagged its finger at the travelers.
Health commissioner Dr. Mark Levine labeled the trip as “a high risk enterprise,” and said the state issued very clear guidance on testing, mask wearing, social distancing and quarantining requirements upon returning to Vermont. But, he added, “we don’t really have the regulatory power to enforce somebody being quarantined when they are not yet a [Covid-19] case… But we’ve been very strong with the information about quarantining and testing.”
He didn’t specifically say he was concerned or disappointed, but he was obviously following the Susan Collins approach to non-ideal developments.
Public Safety Commissioner Michael Schirling was asked if the state had obtained a list of travelers, for purposes of communication and possible contact tracing. “We do not have a comprehensive list of the folks that were on the bus,” he replied. He said the state had no intention to get such a list. He added that the state did contact the bus company, which “graciously agreed to make an announcement to all of the folks that were on the bus to reinforce the quarantine guidelines.”
In all, a remarkably passive response to a clear superspreader threat. I mean, you’ve got a busload of people who were clearly shown on video riding in close proximity with nary a mask in sight. I’d think that would warrant a more robust response. Not mandatory quarantining, but getting that list and closely following the occupants for signs of illness. And something more than a mere suggestion to get tested.
Congratulations to Vermont’s conservative nutcases, who managed to fill the better part of a bus to Washington, D.C. for Wednesday’s hopeless Trump rally. The above is a screenshot taken from a Facebook video, which shows a bunch of proud right-wingers stuffed into a bus with nary a trace of masks or social distancing.
It’s a 10-hour ride to Washington, a full day of rallying with other anti-maskers, and then a 10-hour ride back to Vermont, trapped in this mobile superspreader. If there’s a single speck of coronavirus on board, they’re all getting the Covid.
I’d just be satisfied with calling them anti-social idiots, but you know, I’m old and have existing conditions that put me at high risk for Covid, so I take this personally. These people are dangerous. I hope to Hell that none of them live anywhere near my neck of the woods. Or near anybody you might care about.
These people will almost certainly come back to Vermont with loads of coronavirus coursing through their veins. It’s probably too much to ask for the bus to be stopped at the state line. But maybe the State Police facial recognition experts could do a close analysis of this video so they can get a headstart on contact tracing. We’re gonna need it.
I wrote previously about this trip, which bore the imprimatur of the Chittenden County Republicans. That’s a great way to make political inroads in Vermont’s most liberal county.
The video was posted by a group I’d never heard of: Vermonters for Vermont, which is a nomenclatural ouroboros if I’ve ever seen one.