Tag Archives: Heidi Scheuermann

Phil Scott unsubtly launches Campaign 2016

So, whatcha gonna do to celebrate The New Biennium on January 7?

Well, if you’re Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, you’re going to do what no Lite-Guv has ever done and what he specifically has never come close to doing: you’re promoting your own policy agenda.

On the legislature’s Opening Day, when all eyes are on Montpelier, Scott is hosting a pitch session for, in the words of VTDigger’s Anne Galloway,

…business people of all stripes to pitch ideas about how to rejuvenate Vermont’s economy. Each person gets 5 minutes to tell lawmakers what they could do to help businesses thrive in Vermont.

The pitch session, billed as “Priority #1 on Day One,” will be from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Montpelier and will be followed by a reception.

“A reception” at which, I’m sure, donations will be cheerfully accepted.

But beyond that, Scott is spotlighting his own prescription for what ails Vermont, and making an absolutely unapologetic pitch of his own — for the support of the state’s business community. He is positioning himself as the business community’s advocate in Montpelier.

Has he ever done anything like this before? Nope.

Is there any doubt that his decisive victory over Dean Corren and the scent of gubernatorial blood in the water has awakened Mr. Nice Guy’s inner predator? Nope.

And while “business people of all stripes” are invited (bring your checkbooks!), look at the list of business groups already lined up for five-minute pitches:

Vermont Chamber of Commerce

Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce

Vermont Technology Alliance

Vermont Retail and Grocers’ Association

Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility

Associated Industries of Vermont

Vermont Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives

FreshTracks Capital

Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund

Associated General Contractors

Vermont Ski Areas Association

Vermont Association of Realtors

That list includes a few good guys — VBSR, Sustainable Jobs Fund, Fresh Tracks — plus all the usual business-community power brokers. Gee, I wonder what they’ll say.

Also, there are strong signs that the “centrist” forces for growth and affordability are aligning themselves. First, although Phil Scott is the headliner, the event’s sponsor is Vision to Action Vermont, the pro-business advocacy group led by outgoing Rep. Paul Ralston (D-Middlebury) and continuing Rep. Heidi Scheuermann (R-Stowe).

(Whaddya think? Scott/Scheuermann 2016, anyone?)

The latter chimes in herself in the Comments section below Galloway’s story:

This is just the beginning, we hope, of a legislative session that will have, as its primary focus, the health of our state’s economy. …Frankly, we want all to become engaged and will provide many other opportunities to do so.

Ah. A series of dog-and-pony shows designed to highlight an alternative to the Democrats’ agenda. That’s smart politics. Much better than the formulaic naysaying of past years.

Aside from V2AVT’s sponsorship, there’s also the latest manifesto from ex-Wall Street panjandrum (and co-founder of Campaign for Vermont) Bruce Lisman, echoing the affordability call from Scott and V2AVT. In Lisman’s own self-congratulatory way.

Affordability is a renewed slogan that has recently found its way into the vocabulary of Gov. Shumlin and some members of the Legislature.

Finally, the Democrats are awakening to the wisdom of Bruce Lisman!

Uncle Brucie’s version of the affordability crisis focuses almost entirely on the perceived failings of state government. There’s some truth to that, but national factors play a much bigger role. Stuff like our putrid economic recovery, decades of stagnant purchasing power among the middle and working classes, the rapid accumulation of wealth in the top one percent.

But this post isn’t about the convenient blind spots of Bruce Lisman. It’s about the fact that the forces of “centrist” Republicanism are loudly singing the same tune: Affordability, defined primarily in terms of boosting business. Not defined in terms of using government to counteract the economic forces beating down average Vermonters and help them work their way through an economy that’s rigged against them.

One other thing: all this activity is taking place without mention of, or participation by, Scott Milne. He is, after all, still running for governor, and he technically has the support of Republican lawmakers. But as usual, when it comes to planning their agenda, Milne has no seat at the VTGOP table. He is nothing more than a convenient stick to beat the Democrats with, and he will be discarded as soon as he stops being a useful tool.

How long will our pickle party go on?

For a very liberal state, Vermont’s got a surprisingly lousy record on electing women to our highest offices. We’ve got the #1 state legislature for gender equity, but there’s a distinct glass ceiling above that. A recent survey ranked Vermont a dismal 39th in the nation on gender equity in political office, thanks to women’s under-representation from the state Senate and top mayoralties, their almost complete absence from statewide offices, and their complete absence from our Congressional delegation.

Dismaying, then, to read the recent words of Seven Days’ Paul Heintz in speculating on the “next generation” of Democrats who might seize the next opportunity to move up the ladder should, say, Sen Patrick Leahy retire from office:

The most obvious contenders would be Congressman Welch, 67, and Gov. Shumlin, 58, though both men feign disinterest, perhaps out of respect for Leahy. If either was to leave his current job to run for Senate, that would provide openings for the next generation of Vermont politicos — including, presumably, Speaker Smith, Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan, Sen. Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden) and Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger.

No offense to any of those worthies, but four names, four men.

Sigh.

I checked in with Heintz to see if his list was meant to be comprehensive in any way, and he responded thusly:

That list definitely wasn’t meant to be comprehensive. I included a few up-and-coming officeholders whose names are frequently mentioned as potential statewide candidates. But there are plenty of others who would be equally strong candidates, including a number of women.

There’s no question that Vermont has elected too few women to statewide office. It’s pretty shocking that we’re one of just four states to have never sent a woman to Congress. I would certainly hope that Vermont’s next crop of congressional candidates is more reflective of our population than the current crop of incumbents.

Unfortunately, when you get down to it, the longer list of ambitious Democratic politicos is almost entirely male as well. The most prominent woman on the list, and just about the only one, is former State Rep. and current Deputy Transportation Secretary Sue Minter, while the amount of testosterone on that longer list would be enough to gag a goat.

Not sure what that means, but I’ll carry on.

When that gender equity report came out, Sarah McCall of Emerge Vermont, a group trying to encourage and train female candidates, expressed concern that the next few years are a critical time. If the upcoming round of political retirees are replaced by more men, she noted, we might have to wait another generation for female leaders to take their rightful place. And we’ve already lost a generation since Madeleine Kunin was our one and only female Governor.

In response to Heintz’ list — and really, to the unbalanced reality behind it — McCall offered these comments:

…this is certainly a conversation that Vermont politicos will be having frequently between now and 2016. In Vermont, we are lucky to have such strong leaders in our federal delegation and statewide offices; and whoever follows in Senator Leahy’s footsteps has some very big shoes to fill.

… I have no doubt that there are qualified female leaders in this state who aspire to serve our state in Washington, DC and Emerge Vermont will continue to train female leaders so that women running for public office at all levels of government becomes more commonplace.

It’s a hard thing to ask a qualified male to limit his own ambitions for the sake of equity. But breaking Vermont’s glass ceiling is long overdue. And I’d ask this of Vermont Democrats: Do we have to depend on the Republican Party, which might very well feature Heidi Scheuermann on its 2016 ticket? Or are you going to actively seek to remove the glass ceiling instead of simply bemoaning its existence, while allowing Business As Usual to continue?

We have all failed Bruce Lisman

Our favorite Wall Street panjandrum turned everyman policy expert knows what the 2014 election was all about: it was about our collective failure to heed the wisdom of Bruce Lisman.

And he’s mad as hell about it.

We’ve just re-elected a government that has made bad ideas, bad management, and bad leadership seem ordinary.

… We want [our leaders] to take seriously the embedded philosophy of Vermont that would offer a helping hand or a comforting hand to those in need but balanced with those other great Vermont characteristics, frugality and commonsense.

The latter phrase taken, word for word, from previous Lisman bumpf. The rest of the column is of a piece: the lesson of this election is that Bruce Lisman is right and everybody else (especially the Democrats who, as a figleaf of nonpartisanship, are not identified as such) is wrong. Wrong! WRONG!

Hide your children. good people; he's searching for skin again.

Hide your children. good people; he’s searching for skin again.

What is it with you people, failing to heed the words of Bruce Almighty?

The rest of the column is more of the same, except there’s a new edge to Bruce’s tone. He’s getting angry. And he’s moving to the right. Sounding more and more like John McClaughry, in fact.

The (unnamed) Democrats’ policies? “bad ideas executed badly,” “a special hell for Vermonters.”

Democrats’ ideas for school spending and organization: “like someone breaking your leg and then offering you a crutch.”

“Our leaders… make decisions blindly.”

Vermont Health Connect? “a catastrophe of major proportion.” Too bad, Bruce: you wrote those words before the successful relaunch of Vermont Health Connect.

But you look at Lisman’s laundry list, and you wonder how in hell the Democrats got a single vote, let alone a sizeable majority.

Which maybe is why Bruce has a bug up his butt. The people of Vermont are eschewing his wise counsel.

Well, okay then. But riddle me this, Lisman: if you felt so strongly about all this, why did you almost entirely sit out the 2014 election? We barely heard from you. We never saw you alongside Scott Milne or Phil Scott or your Campaign for Vermont colleague Heidi Scheuermann.

Now that I think of it, last time we heard from Bruce, he was torpedoing Scheuermann’s nascent gubernatorial bid with some poorly-timed and pointless musings of his own. After that, a conspicuous absence of Lisman.

The man’s policy insights may be arguable, but his political acumen is not: he has none. I wrote about this on Green Mountain Daily in May, but his post-election rage makes it freshly relevant.

Bruce Lisman could have made a substantial difference in the election. All he had to do was drop the mask of nonpartisanship and openly declare himself an ally of Phil Scott and company. He could have helped bankroll the party and a real live gubernatorial candidate. Say, Heidi Scheuermann.

His active backing would have helped the VTGOP recruit candidates. Its failure to field anything like a full slate limited its ability to gain seats in the legislature.

Is his increasingly-tattered nonpartisan image that important to him? When his rhetoric is in the same ballpark as conservative Republicans’, who does he think he’s fooling? Just because he doesn’t say “Democrat” or “Shumlin” doesn’t make it any less obvious.

If Lisman felt this strongly about the direction of Vermont, he could have done something about it. He chose not to, by all visible evidence. So whose fault is it that Vermont failed to heed his (inaudible) warning?

The purely cosmetic bipartisanship of Vision To Action Vermont

State Reps. Heidi Scheuermann and Paul Ralston. Photo filched w/o permission from VTDigger. I hope they don't mind.

State Reps. Heidi Scheuermann and Paul Ralston. Photo filched w/o permission from VTDigger. I hope they don’t mind.

State Reps. Heidi Scheuermann (R) and Paul Ralston (D), the busy bees behind Vision To Action Vermont, have been busy indeed these days. They’re releasing endorsements almost every day. And, on the surface, it looks to be a fair mix of Republicans and Democrats.

This figures, since V2AVT portrays itself as a nonpartisan, centrist, practical, “rise above party labels and get stuff done” kind of political action committee. If you listen closely, however, you can hear the business-friendly dog whistles a-blowin’. From its launch announcement:

[V2AVT is] a non-partisan organization that will promote, support and elect strong candidates for political office in Vermont who advocate for fiscal responsibility in state spending, and are committed to forming balanced, common-sense public policies that encourage economic prosperity, greater opportunities for Vermont families and businesses, and individual liberties and responsibility.

That’s the entire Dog Whistle Philharmonic in a single sentence: fiscal responsibility, balanced, common-sense, economic prosperity, opportunities, individual liberties and responsibility.

And, despite a thin veneer of bipartisanship, the dog whistles continue to sound throughout V2AVT’s list of endorsements.

As of this writing, V2AVT has endorsed 22 candidates: 11 in the House, 10 in the Senate, plus Lt. Gov. Phil Scott. Overall, they’ve endorsed 13 Republicans, eight Dems, and one Independent.

Okay, leaning rightward, but a respectable number of Democrats, right?

Not so much. There’s a strong trend in V2AVT’s endorsements. The higher the stakes, the more Republicans you get. While the House endorsements are split evenly, 5-5-1, the Senate endorsements include seven Republicans and only three Democrats. And then there’s Phil Scott, the group’s only statewide endorsement.

But beyond the mere numbers, there’s this: most of V2AVT’s Republican candidates are in highly competitive races, while their Democratic candidates are either unopposed or in very safe Democratic territory. 

This is especially true in the Senate, where V2AVT has endorsed all the Republicans’ top challengers except Robert Frenier, who’s challenging incumbent Dem Mark MacDonald in Orange County.

Otherwise, it’s like V2AVT and the VTGOP are using the same playbook. Dustin Degree and Norm McAllister in Franklin County, all three Republicans in Rutland County, Pat McDonald in Washington County. Degree, McDonald, and Rutland’s Brian Collamore are the VTGOP’s top three hopes for Senate gains, but they face uphill battles against formidable candidates: ex-Senator Sara Kittell in Franklin, incumbent P/D Anthony Pollina and incumbent D Ann Cummings in Washington (nobody’s beating Bill Doyle), and Rutland’s WIlliam Tracy Carris, son of longtime Senator Bill Carris.

And who are the Democrats supported by V2AVT? The very safe Jane Kitchel and Dick Sears, plus Sears’ Bennington County running mate Brian Campion. There is only one token Republican candidate on the Benn ballot, and Campion is considered a shoo-in.

Oh, and V2AVT also endorsed safe Republican incumbent Joe Benning.

Now let’s look at the House endorsements.

In Chittenden County, V2AVT is backing incumbent Republican Kurt Wright and Repub newcomer Michael Ly in a two-seat district. Wright is safe; the Repubs have hopes for Ly. And in another two-seat district, Chittenden 9-1, V2AVT is supporting the very safe (and centrist) incumbent Democrat Jim Condon and Republican candidate Joey Purvis, who’s hoping to replace retiring Republican Bob Bouchard.

Chittenden 9-1 is a closely contested district. Condon was the top vote-getter by a mile in 2012; Bouchard barely beat Democrat Curt Taylor; Purvis finished a respectable fourth. This is a seat that the Democrats could take.

Up in the perennial battleground of Franklin County, V2AVT is endorsing 26-year incumbent Dem Kathie Keenan and Republican challenger Corey Parent in a two-seat district. Parent is hoping to snag the seat currently held by Dem Mike McCarthy, who won by a mere 20 votes in 2012.

V2AVT’s favorite Independent is Laura Sibilia, a business-friendly type who’s challenging established Democrat John Moran in Windham-Bennington 1. There’s no Republican on the ballot, but Sibilia’s platform is clearly Republican-leaning.

The group has also endorsed safe Republican incumbent Patti Komline.

As for its Democratic endorsements, Jim Condon and Kathie Keenan are well-established incumbents; Clem Bissonnette is running unopposed has no Republican opponent — his challenge is from the Progressive Party; Cynthia Browning is a famously independent-minded Democrat in a safe Democratic district; and Matt Trieber is unopposed in Windham-3.

Overall, of V2AVT’s eight Democratic endorsements, none are in races closely contested by Republicans. Of its 13 Republican endorsements, seven are in races where the VTGOP hopes to gain ground.

That’s not my idea of nonpartisanship. That’s my idea of advancing the Republican cause.

The Milne campaign does something smart. Stop laughing, I mean it.

Do Not Adjust Your Set. It’s True, It’s Damn True.

Scott Milne’s people, a.k.a. Brent Burns, put out a press release listing the names of prominent Republicans who have endorsed his candidacy.

And it’s an impressive list. 42 names of current and former officeholders. It puts to shame the tiny number of dead-enders and no-hopers who’ve opted for Libertarian Dan Feliciano.

It begins with former Governor Jim Douglas, the shining star of contemporary Republicanism. Unlike other people I could name (ahem, Phil Scott), Douglas has come out of his hidey hole and actually campaigned for Milne. His endorsement alone is worth approximately 1,000 Darcie “Hack” Johnstons.

After that, you get most of the VTGOP’s Senate delegation – Bill Doyle, Joe Benning, Norm McAllister, Peg Flory, and Kevin Mullin. From the House, add Kurt Wright, Heidi Scheuermann, Patti Komline, Chuck Pearce, Tom Koch, and Duncan Kilmartin and many more, plus former Rep and current Senate candidate Pat McDonald. A couple of interesting names: former Representative and current Senate candidate Dustin Degree and current Rep. Tony Terenzini, neither of whom are particularly moderate folks.

This primary-eve blast should put to rest any talk of a Feliciano groundswell. A couple of state party officials may have turned their backs on Milne, but the bulk of its officeholders – those with proven appeal to actual voters – are solidly behind him.

 

Is the ground buckling under Phil Scott’s feet?

Lately, there have been signs aplenty of passengers taking their leave of the Good Ship Moderate Republicanism, helmed since last November by Captain Phil Scott and first mate “Super Dave” Sunderland. Or maybe Scott’s the admiral and Sunderland is captain, whatever works.

Scott and friends came away from last November’s VTGOP meeting with a rather conditional mandate to broaden the party’s base. Make it more attractive to moderate and undecided voters, and the pragmatic business types who’ve made their peace with the Democrats under Governor Shumlin.

It seemed a promising direction. Indeed, the only possible direction, since the Vermont electorate wasn’t suddenly going to turn Texas red. The conservative VTGOP of “Angry Jack” Lindley et al. had hit a glass ceiling at about 35% of the vote.

But it was going to be a tough job for Scott, previously not known for his willingness to tackle tough jobs. He was, by dint of his elective office, the only person who could credibly take it on; but he also, by dint of his personality, seemed unsuited for the task. And even if he rose to the occasion, the odds seemed to be against him. Shumlin and company have done a really good job of co-opting the center, and it’d be a hell of a job for Scott to win back all those voters and supporters without moving so far to the center that he completely alienates the easily alienated conservative base.

It’s only been about nine months, and the Good Ship Moderate Republicanism looks to be taking on water. Recent signs include:

Bruce Lisman’ decision to forego any sort of alignment with the VTGOP, even after he stepped away from leadership of Campaign for Vermont, the self-described nonpartisan policy shop.

Lisman’s brief and pointless flirting with a run for Governor this spring, which lasted just long enough to force State Rep. Heidi Scheuermannf (a Lisman ally) out of the race.

The continued activity of Campaign for Vermont. Its members do include people from across the political spectrum, but the group still tilts substantially toward the right. And many of its key supporters are the kind of people who used to be mainline Republicans.

Roger Allbee’s decision to run for State Senate as a Democrat. The former Douglas Administration cabinet functionary and self-described liberal Republican could have been a powerful ally for Scott. Instead, he’s hoping for a place on the other ticket.

— Former State Rep. Oliver Olsen’s decision to run again for his old seat, but this time as an Independent. In the 2011-12 biennium, Olsen was one of the more vocal and effective members of the House Republican minority; this time, he seems to believe that he’s better off without the “R” next to his name.

— Last week’s VTGOP campaign finance report which, as I reported in this space, was truly horrific. A quarterly fundraising total — during a campaign season, mind you —  of only $7,500. The bulk of that came from a few party insiders. And over the past year, the VTGOP has drawn virtually no small donors, a sign that so far it’s failing to reach the grassroots. In spite of Sunderland’s repeated claims that the people of Vermont are waking up to the failures of the Shumlin Administration. Well, they haven’t awakened enough to write any checks, that’s for sure.

What that dismal report means is that the VTGOP has lost some of its hard-core, ideologically driven donors, but has yet to even begin to attract a new donor base. Nor has it even begun to convince former Republican stalwarts to come back home.

— And finally, this week’s formation of Vision to Action Vermont (V2AVT), a “bipartisan” PAC aimed at supporting candidates who are focused on improving Vermont’s economy. Its co-founder is Scheuermann herself, and her decision to create this independent group is an interesting one. You’d think that Scheuermann would be one of Phil Scott’s most trusted lieutenants, with a bright future in Republican politics. But as with Allbee and Olsen, she has apparently decided that the Republican brand is too toxic to advance her goal of electing lawmakers who are focused on economic issues.

Take all these events together, and it seems like the Republican center-right is fragmenting in all directions rather than coming together behind Scott and Sunderland. That, I think, is a very bad sign for Scott’s effort to broaden his party. The people who might have been part of a new, broader, more vibrant VTGOP are channeling their energy in other directions.

It may seem unfairly early to declare Scott’s project a failure. After all, it’s been less than a year, and it took quite a few years for the VTGOP to get so badly screwed up. But Scott’s party has no resources and few candidates; if he fails to make any headway in Legislative elections, a substantial portion of the party will be ready and eager to unseat Scott’s team and return the party to its former course: down an ideological dead end.

Just what we need: another centrist bipartisan group in Vermont

Well, looky what’s cluttering up the ol’ inbox: a press release announcing a new organization, “Vision to Action Vermont,” or, for short, the catchy V2AVT. It’s the brainchild of Republican State Rep. Heidi Scheuermann of Stowe and Democratic State Rep. Paul Ralston of Middlebury.

Two of the more property-rich communities in Vermont, of course. But that may be simple coincidence.

V2AVT’s stated goal is to “put partisanship aside and advocate for balanced, common-sense public policy in Montpelier.” When I hear those words, I immediately think “center-rightists trying to court the moderate vote.” Indeed, it’s not far removed from the surface rhetoric of the Vermont Republican Party, seeking always to “restore balance” and re-establish “common-sense public policy.”

It’s also interesting that Scheuermann has been one of the leading lights of Vermont’s other notable centrist reform organization, Campaign for Vermont. Might also be simple coincidence that Scheuermann founds a new group with a similar mission, not long after she (a) considered a run for Governor until (b) CFV founder Bruce Lisman undercut her potential candidacy with open musings about his own.

On the other hand, the two groups could cooperate rather than competing. V2AVT is a political action committee “that will promote, support and elect strong candidates,” as opposed to CFV’s policy and lobbying focus. But otherwise this looks an awful lot like CFV; their preferred candidates are the kind…

“… who advocate for fiscal responsibility in state spending, and are committed to forming balanced, common-sense public policies that encourage economic prosperity, greater opportunities for Vermont families and businesses, and individual liberties and responsibility.”

Yeah, that sounds exactly like CFV’s right-leaning definition of “nonpartisanship.” That one sentence is full of code words and dog whistles from the lexicon of Republicans seeking moderate support. “Common-sense” in particular is an awfully damn tired phrase in these parts.

Ralston, who’s not running for re-election and thus has no bridges to burn with the Democrats, has been described to me as an outsider in the Democratic ranks. Think Cynthia Browning with a lower profile. And in V2AVT’s press release, he echoed the pseudo-Republican talking points, emphasizing economic growth above all else:

“Heidi and I have worked together for four years to implement policies that foster greater economic activity in Vermont…  We must be sure that those in elected positions address those issues thoughtfully and independently, and with an eye toward the benefits and consequences to our economy.”

Smells like Republican spirit.

So far, the V2AVT website includes only two items — the press release and an introductory statement. Plus some really cheesy masthead graphics. And a biography of “Heidi” (but none for “Paul”) strongly emphasizing her connections to the late Jim Jeffords. The same can be said, of course, for Darcie Johnston, so Scheuermann gets few points for a Jeffords connection that’s ten years in the past.

We shall see what becomes of this attempt at growing a “nonpartisan” movement. It’ll be interesting how much money they put behind Republican candidates as opposed to Dems or Progs. That’ll be a telling sign of their true devotion to nonpartisanship and balance.