Christopher-Aaron Felker, seen here sporting a new fashion-casual look, went before the Burlington City Council Monday night and made an ass of himself.
Nothing new for him. In fact, his entire purpose in life seems to be trolling the libs. I’m going to pay as little attention as I can to his remarks because, frankly, attention is the air he breathes. But his little performance, for that’s what it was, can’t go without notice because it once again raises the question: What is acceptable behavior for a Republican Party official in Vermont?
He is, after all, STILL the chair of the Burlington Republican Committee. If his attacks on the LGBTQ+ community don’t make him persona non grata, then his admission of public vandalism might just do the trick. I don’t know, we’d have to ask Gov. Phil Scott, who shares the Republican brand with Felker — as well as notables like this guy.
The “Paul Bean” who took to Twitter repeating a thoroughly debunked anti-trans rumor is the same “Paul Bean” who was endorsed by Phil Scott in his bid for state Senate last year, and was just appointed by Scott to the State Workforce Development Board. Perhaps Bean will use his position to advocate for the public placement of litterboxes in order to attract members of the “otherkin” community to move to Vermont.
Bean’s appointment was part of the same tranche as ya boy Rob North, ultraconservative Christian who believes that forests, wetlands and waterways are as responsible for Lake Champlain’s pollution as agriculture or any other human activity.
Fresh off a loss in his bid for lieutenant governor, outgoing Sen. Joe Benning wrote an essay on how the Vermont Republican Party can pull itself out of its far-right briar patch and be competitive again. You’d think that some Republicans’ ears would be open after an election where everything but Phil Scott went horribly awry for them.
But the VTGOP is not open to a change of course, judging by the swift, aggressive, and downright accusatory response to his essay. Not to mention the ugly, racist blast of id posted by “Farmer” John Klar at about the same time. You look at the leadership of the VTGOP and the ticket it put before voters, and you have to realize that there are a lot more Klars in this party than there are Bennings.
Benning decried his party’s “loudest voices” and their belief that January 6 was a harmless rally, their “vitriol and hatred,” and their adherence to “every Q-anon conspiracy imaginable.” He wrote that in order to be competitive, “the VTGOP course must remain center/right” to attract support from independents and centrists.
Benning’s essay was a thoughtful reflection on political reality in Vermont from a conservative Republican. It was posted on, well, two of those “loudest voices,” the Vermont Daily Chronicle and True North Reports. (Note: A somewhat different version of his piece has been posted on VTDigger, for those who’d rather not give those right-wing “news” operations even a single precious click.)
And oh boy, the comments. They came in bunches, and they were angry.
Congratulations to Jarrod Sammis, newly elected member of the Vermont House in the Rutland-3 district…
… and the only one on my long list of far-right Republican candidates who didn’t lose.
For those keeping score, and you bet I am, that’s one win and 23 losses. Which kinda explains my previous post about how the Vermont Republican Party has led itself, with supreme confidence, deep into the political wilderness with no idea what to do next except Keep Striding Forward!
That 1-23 record wasn’t the only bad news for Team Extreme. They also lost a bunch of races featuring far-right candidates I never got around to covering. Remember that 16 of the 21 Republican Senate candidates were extremists? Well, 12 of them lost. They may have picked up one seat at best. In the House, where the Republican ticket had 42 in irregular earth orbit, 35 of them lost. And that included three incumbent representatives who won’t be coming back: Vicky Strong, Sally Achey, and VTGOP Vice Chair Samantha Lefebvre.
Instead of bulking up their ranks and possibly upending caucus leadership, the extremists actually lost ground. It was a thorough rebuke for ultraconservatism in Vermont.
But let’s start with their only bright spot, the guy with a YouTube channel full of inflammatory videos that revealed an unhealthy fascination with guns and a probably-controlled desire to train them on socialists and communists. The channel he quickly deleted when it became public knowledge, claiming he did so to [checks notes] protect his family’s privacy. Sammis eked out a two-point win in reliably conservative territory. Bully for him.
This is Nathan, the former employee of Full Moon Farm whose allegations that David Zuckerman is a horrible boss got turned into a Vermont Republican Party attack ad launched in the campaign’s closing days.
Well, guess what.
Nathan is a staunch conservative Republican. And I’ve got receipts.
That, in itself, doesn’t render his claims untrue, but it puts them in a completely different light. Nathan isn’t an objective voice who had a bad time working at Full Moon Farm; he’s a partisan with a clear interest in Zuckerman’s defeat.
The VTGOP identified him only as “Nathan,” which is, indeed, his real first name. I’ve heard that the party is refusing to release any more information about him. Problem is, this is a small state and a lot of people know Nathan. Some of them worked at Full Moon the same time he did. His identity is bound to come out, and when it does, this ad is going to blow up in the VTGOP’s collective face. .
Scott, so respected as a man of principle, has thrown his principles out the window as he desperately seeks to block the Democrats from winning veto-proof majorities.
Klar is on a lower perch with less at stake, but this is a stunning self-abasement for him as well, He claims to operate on nothing but his own curious set of principles. But after years of railing against the Quisling of moderation, even seeking to challenge Scott in the 2020 primary, Klar is happy to get into bed with the governor to win a seat in the state Senate.
This picture does, after all, constitute a mutual endorsement.
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.
Taking a pause from my ongoing series about stealth conservatives and other extremists who litter the Vermont Republican Party’s ticket this year, to note that these people can’t be classed as the exception. They are the norm. It’s Phil Scott who’s the exception. The party he once knew and loved is no longer with us and it ain’t coming back.
For example, take the above photograph and focus on the four centermost figures. The fellow with the bright red bowtie is Samuel Douglass, stealth conservative candidate previously uncovered in this space as a guy who thinks Fox News isn’t conservative enough. The gent to his right is the Patron Saint of Plausibly Moderate Republicanism, Jim Douglas. Behind Douglas is VTGOP chair Paul Dame. To Douglas’ right is state Rep. Samantha Lefebvre, one of 2020’s successful crop of stealth candidates.
Oh, and she’s now the vice chair of the Vermont Republican Party.
Yeah, I missed the memo. The VTGOP website includes no information about party officials, presumably to avoid embarrassing any of them. But the original caption to this photo identified her as vice chair.
It’s another sad step toward the outer boundaries of political sensibility for the once-dominant party. Its top positions are held by extremists of various kinds, and its slate of candidates is lousy with election truthers, QAnon adherents, Covid deniers and hard-core Trumpers. And maybe the odd militia type. Not to mention the virulently anti-trans chair of the biggest city party in the state.
Ladies, gentlemen and others, this is your VTGOP. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.
The painfully earnest, or possibly constipated, gent above is Jon Christiano, Republican candidate for state House in the Addison-5 district. Unlike some of his fellow Republicans, he can’t be called a stealth conservative because he makes no secret of it.
This is Christiano’s second bid for elective office. In 2020, he finished fourth in a race for two seats. He got less than 14% of the vote, while the two winners, Ruth Hardy and Chris Bray, got 33% and 31% respectively. Addison-5 is currently represented by conservative Republican Harvey Smith, so Christiano may well earn a place in the next Legislature. (The district got a bit more liberal in redistricting; it lost part of New Haven and gained territory in Middlebury. There’s hope for Democrat Jubilee McGill.)
Christiano has a campaign Facebook page from his 2020 run (with a robust 25 followers) that makes his extremism abundantly clear. Christiano refers to abortion as the killing of “innocent, defenseless babies,” so I think we can count him as a “No” on Article 22. He called the Legislature’s approval of noncitizen voting in Montpelier and Winooski part of the “Progressive, Socialist and Communist” plot to “destroy the Constitution and every aspect of American life.” He shared an article that made some downright bizarre accusations about Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine. To wit:
That’s some heady stuff, even by Covid denialist standards.
While we wait for the final September 1 campaign finance reports to trickle in, here’s a little thing I noticed. Bruce Lisman, failed (and self-funded) candidate for governor, founder of Campaign for Vermont, and former Bear Stearns executive who may have been portrayed as a real dummy in the movie version of “The Big Short,” has made a total of three donations* to Vermont candidates so far this year.
*Update! Phil Scott just reported a $1,000 contribution from Lisman. So, four.
Together, they could serve as the dictionary definition of “mixed bag.” Let’s see if you can discern a pattern here.
He gave $500 to Sen. Joe Benning’s campaign for lieutenant governor. Not surprising at all.
He gave $500 to Patricia Preston’s hopeless bid for LG as a sort of centrist.
So far we’ve got what used to be called a mainline Republican and a moderate Democrat. *Plus a putatively moderate Republican.
The third fourth gift? $1,000 to “Farmer” John Klar’s campaign for state senate.
That just about sums up the brief, undistinguished legislative career of ultraconservative state Rep. Sally Achey. Which means it’s extremely heartening to see former representative (and Prog caucus chief) Robin Chesnut-Tangerman stepping back into the fray,
The news was first reported by Guy Page at the Vermont Daily Chronicle, which ought to be a little bit embarrassing for what’s left of the Vermont political press. I mean, Guy Page, Progressive insider?
Chesnut-Tangerman was chosen by the district Democratic Party committee after Democratic primary winner Chris Hoyt withdrew for family reasons. Smart choice.
In 2020, Chesnut-Tangerman lost to Achey by a mere 32 votes out of 2,809 cast. Achey was a Klar Klan ReKruit, a member of “Farmer” John Klar’s merry Agripublican band of extremists. Her victory was a calamity for the Progressive Party and for the district, since Achey has achieved nothing in her two years in office except sitting on the House Energy & Technology Committee, which seems like somebody’s idea of a bad joke, and complaining about climate change legislation.