Tag Archives: Julia Barnes

A high-profile gig for Julia Barnes

The departing Executive Director of the Vermont Democratic Party, Julia Barnes, has landed a new job. She’ll be the New Hampshire state director for the Bernie Sanders campaign.

It’s arguably one of the most important positions in the Sanders effort; the polls show him a strong second behind Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire*, and a strong showing in New Hampshire will be crucial for Bernie’s campaign going forward into the meat of the primary season.

*Three recent NH polls show Clinton with roughly a 10-point lead. The fourth gives her a 31-point edge; that’d seem to be an outlier.

The problem is, Bernie has already attracted his base; he’ll be hard pressed to build on it. Or to avoid the early-achiever trap that’s derailed so many candidates. Barnes has a heck of a job to do; if Bernie runs strong in New Hampshire, she will have accomplished something quite significant.

She e-mailed me some thoughts on taking the job:

Sen. Sanders is talking about the things that I think are most important to the presidential discussion, namely having an honest conversation about the dissolution of the middle class and the income inequality that makes it hard for many Americans to get ahead. Not even get ahead, but stay afloat. There is an organic desire to see that happen and that is why Sen. Sanders is resonating with so many voters. I am excited to help see that message reach voters in New Hampshire and build the organization needed to help him win the primary there. Given the circus that is happening on the Republican side, it is going to be really rewarding to engage in a substantial conversation with voters through good grassroots organizing techniques.

I also asked her about the fact that most of the top Vermont Democrats — the people she’s worked with and for at the VDP — have gone with Hillary Clinton.

At the end of the day, elected officials are also individual voters and they, like the voters across the country, are entitled to make their decision. Sen. Sanders has been a longtime friend of Vermont Democrats and I know many of them will be supporting his bid.

Good luck, Julia. I think Bernie made a good hire.

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Vermont Dems bring back a familiar face

Didn’t take long for the Vermont Democratic Party to line up a replacement for departing Executive Director Julia Barnes. The VDP is announcing today that Conor Casey will be her successor.

“I’ve been a Democrat my whole life,” he says. “It’s an honor to be in this position.”

If the name sounds familiar, well, Casey spent eight years working for the Vermont State Employees Association, most recently as “widely respected legislative coordinator,” as he was dubbed by Seven Days’ Paul Heintz.

Casey’s tenure ended in 2012 when then-new VSEA Director Mark Mitchell was pulling a Samson act, causing six staffers to leave due to his “untrustworthy and reckless manner,” as one of the ex-staffers put it. Mitchell also burned more than a few bridges in the Statehouse. His year-and-a-half on the job included one firing and one reinstatement before he left in May 2014.

Meanwhile, Casey’s been working for the National Educational Association in Connecticut, from whence he now returns. His decade-plus in the labor movement is, I think, worthy of note:

“My background is as a labor organizer. I’ve spent my career representing working people. We want to put forward a message of economic justice; I think that resonates with all Vermonters.”

Could be, could be. On the other hand, the party’s top politicos (*cough*PeterShumlin*cough*) have often slammed public-sector unions when trying to prove their managerial toughness. Maybe there’s a realization that the Party and the labor movement work best when they work together?

Casey cites the late Teddy Kennedy as a key influence; he was a press aide to the Senator in 2003-04. “His passion really made me want to pursue politics as a career.”

Casey grew up in Ireland, and there’s a touch of the Ould Sod in his voice. But he’s spent much of his life in Vermont, and is happy to be moving back. Politics in Vermont is quite a bit less rough-and-tumble than in Connecticut.

Julia Barnes steps aside

Political job seekers take note: the Vermont Democratic Party is in the market for a new executive director. Julia Barnes is leaving after 3 1/2 years in a very demanding post.

How demanding? “At 3 1/2 years, I’m the second longest-serving executive director in Vermont Democratic Party history,” she says. (Number 1 is Jon Copans, BTW.)

This is an entirely voluntary decision on her part. “It’s exhausting work,” she says. “We’ve made a ton of progress with the Party, and I’m ready for something new. I’ve loved my time at the Vermont Democratic Party, working with the staff, activists, and elected officials. If I had to go back in time, I’d do it again.”

“Something new” might be pursuit of an advanced degree or something else in politics.

I must observe that this is a good time for an accomplished, successful operative to be on the market. Presidential campaigns are ramping up, and state-level campaigns will be doing so in coming months. With Barnes’ track record, I suspect she’ll have more than one offer. If, that is, she decides to stay in the sausage factory.

And while a superficial reading of the 2014 election might raise questions about her leadership, I think it’s abundantly clear that the Democrats’ fundamental problems were (1) a very unpopular Governor, and (2) a non-Presidential and non-Senatorial year that depressed turnout. A closer reading of the returns would show that the VDP was rowing against some very powerful tides. During Barnes’ time as ED, the party has built and maintained a strong organization.

So yeah, if she wants a job in politics she’ll get one. And her successor will have big shoes to fill.

Donovan vs. The Invisible Man

Well, the news broke late Sunday on Seven Days’ website: Chittenden County State’s Attorney TJ Donovan will run for Attorney General, setting up a potential Grudge Match return engagement of his 2012 primary battle with incumbent Eternal General Bill Sorrell. And from day one, Donovan will be in the unusual position of being favored over an incumbent from the same party.

Donovan came very close to winning last time. This time, he appears to have a very united Democratic Party behind him. Top Dems continue to hope and pray that their AG will, ahem, “retire” and spend the next year and a half doing a victory lap.

Hints abounded at Friday night’s Curtis Awards dinner, one of the VDP’s big shindigs of the year. Donovan was given a Curtis Award, while Sorrell was nowhere to be seen. Even his name was a no-show:

There was, quite literally, no sign of him. Banners for all the other Democratic statewide elected officeholders, except Sorrell, covered the wall behind the stage. Julia Barnes, executive director of the Vermont Democratic Party, said the party didn’t have a Sorrell banner to hang.

Aww darnit, she must have left it in her other suit.

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Dems endorse Corren, but their assistance will be limited

The Democratic Party State Committee, meeting today in Montpelier, formally endorsed Dean Corren, the Progressive Candidate for Lieutenant Governor, who had won the Democratic nomination in the August primary as a write-in candidate.

The vote was 31 for Corren and 4 against. I’d presume that most or all of the “no” votes concerned Corren’s strong support of ridgeline wind power. At his debate with incumbent Phil Scott, Corren referred dismissively to the “imagined horrors” of wind farms.

All those who spoke at the meeting were strongly supportive of Corren; Windham County chair John Wilmerding called him “a crucial addition to our slate” because of his advocacy of single-payer health care.

However, thanks to potential conflicts with campaign finance law, the Democrats will not share their database or voter lists with Corren, and he will not take part in the Dems’ Coordinated Campaign.

Some Dems had earlier voiced concern about sharing the party’s robust data with a longtime Progressive who might well pass it on to his fellow Progs. Democratic Party officials said there would be no sharing — but not because of concerns about sharing, but because of legal limits on tangible support to a candidate who has accepted public financing, which Corren has.

Under the law, a candidate who takes public financing cannot accept additional contributions. And because of “the proprietary nature” of the party’s data, said Executive Director Julia Barnes, sharing the information or adding him to the Coordinated Campaign would be considered a donation to the Corren campaign.

There was one hint of Dem/Prog friction. Former party staffer and candidate for Burlington City Council Ryan Emerson McLaren* noted Corren’s vocal support for Democratic candidates, and urged Corren to make the same plea to the Progressives in Burlington who, Emerson said, might nominate a candidate to oppose Burlington’s “fantastic mayor” Miro Weinberger. Emerson asked Corren to urge the city’s Progs to support Weinberger’s bid for a second term. At the meeting, Corren offered no immediate response; nor did he really have the opportunity to do so.

*Please note corrected error: it was not Ryan Emerson, but Ryan McLaren, who raised the Burlington issue. My mistake, and my apologies to Ryan Emerson. 

One other tidbit of news from the meeting: Three statewide Democratic officeholders who won their respective Republican nominations in the August primary because they finished first in write-in votes have all decided to decline the VTGOP nomination. Auditor Doug Hoffer had previously announced he would decline; Secretary of State Jim Condos and Treasurer Beth Pearce have now joined him.

Which means a bunch of big embarrassing vacancies on the Republican ballot this fall. Good times.

Did the Dems really need more good fundraising news? Well, they got some.

Side note from Saturday’s meeting of the Vermont Democratic Party State Committee: VDP Executive Director Julia Barnes told the gathering that this year’s Curtis Award dinner featuring Senator Elizabeth Warren was a huge success, grossing $146,000. As Barnes pointed out, that’s enough to cover half the party’s total budget for this year. Correction: one-third of the party’s administrative budget for the year.

And there was the collateral benefit of energizing donors and volunteers, Barnes noted, thanks to the enthusiasm generated by Warren’s strong message.

I can’t directly compare the Curtis Award take with the VTGOP’s vaunted Chris Christie event from last December because, as far as I can tell, the party has never publicly announced its total receipts. Beforehand, it was happy to throw around estimates of $200,000 to $300,000.

Funny thing about that. The VTGOP’s campaign finance report filed on March 15, which covered the period from July 2013 to March 15, 2014, listed total donations of $45,567.32. The vast majority of that was given between mid-November and mid-December.

Unless some of the Christie-related donations went directly into other accounts, the Christie fundraiser appears to have grossed a little under $40,000.

If any Republican apparatchiks want to correct my reckoning or, preferably, provide the actual take, please do so in the comments below or contact me directly. At least some of you know how. And I’d really like to know.

In the meantime, let’s stick with 40K. Compare the two high-profile fundraising events, and see which one was the bigger success.

Not to mention that during the March 2014 reporting period (July to March), the VTGOP spent just under $40,000. So the Christie take was pretty much gone by mid-March, leaving the Party once again starved for funds.