Tag Archives: Jack Lindley

The political significance of the state [bleep] chair

First it was Seven Days, and now it’s VTDigger, reporting on State Rep. Bob Helm’s hidden-camera appearance in a TV report about the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is the organization that spreads conservative policy ideas and provides sample legislation to Republican lawmakers nationwide.

Helm was attending an ALEC conference when he was buttonholed by someone he didn’t know was a TV reporter. He told her he was “the state [bleep], the state chair of ALEC,” and acknowledged that lobbyists had helped pay the freight for him and numerous other lawmakers.

The reporting raises questions of ethics and influence-peddling; but to this Political Observer, the most interesting aspect is the growing influence of ALEC in Vermont Republican circles.

Helm boasted to VTDigger that “he has ‘revved up’ the ALEC chapter in Vermont and has boosted the number of members to 20, up from four just a few years ago.”

I’d love to see that membership list. I’ve heard, for instance, that Burlington Rep. Kurt Wright, who tries very hard to position himself as a moderate, is an ALEC member. That may or may not be true, but Wright did push very hard in this year’s session for a bill banning teacher strikes — an idea that’s been promoted by ALEC in other states.

But the bigger point is, 20 may not seem like a lot, but it’s a substantial fraction of the Republican legislative caucus.

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It can’t get any worse, can it? …Yes, it can.

Just a note from the Ship Of Doom, a.k.a. the Vermont Republican Party. Honestly, being a Vermont Political Observer these days is like watching a budget remake of Das Boot — bad shit keeps happening and you know they’re not gonna make it back home, you just never know when the deathblow will actually come.

So anyway, the latest dispatch comes to us from the Twitter feed of Brady Toensing, the Vice Chair of the VTGOP. He Tweeted the news that he’d cast an absentee ballot in the gubernatorial primary.

For Dan Feliciano, the Libertarian.

Welp, that makes two of the Republican Party’s four top officers who’ve abandoned Scott Milne, the Party’s chosen candidate. The other, of course, was Mark “Little Snell” Snelling. Their endorsements came in spite of Party Chair “Super Dave” Sunderland’s strongly-worded letter warning fellow Republicans not to go Libertarian.  

This is not just bad news for the Milne campaign, but for the all-new Vermont Republican Party. Last fall, Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott promoted a slate of party officers in an effort to broaden the party’s appeal. Snelling and Toensing were holdovers from the Jack Lindley VTGOP.

And now they’ve turned their backs on Milne and Sunderland… and, implicitly, on Scott’s efforts to broaden the party. 

Best of luck to Victory Campaign Director Jeff Bartley. He’s got a hell of a job in front of 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.