Tag Archives: Lieutenant Governor

Bedazzling the bucket

The three contenders for lieutenant governor in the Democratic primary got together Tuesday night to talk about the job and how they might make it a little more useful. Or a little less useless, perhaps.

The relatively powerless second-in-command is, as far as I know, an oddity of American politics. (Do other countries’ governments sport institutionalized appendices?) A heartbeat away from executive power, but trapped in an unglamorous treadmill of boredom famously dubbed “a bucket of warm piss” by one of its occupants.

You could say the lieutenant governorship is what you make it, but it’d be more accurate to say that it’s what other people let you make it. Peter Shumlin gave Phil Scott a seat in his Cabinet, a generous gesture that Scott has repaid by strenuously denouncing anyone who calls attention to it.

Still, at the very least, the office can be used as a bully pulpit. You can advocate for your causes. You can engage in backroom politics in the Senate, where you do wield a bit of authority. Or you can set off on a gimmicky, photo-op-friendly Jobs Tour.

Oh wait, that one’s been taken.

The three candidates’ images of the job, to a large extent, mirror their separate capabilities and interests.

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So, Shap.

The all-but-certain became reality yesterday. Outgoing House Speaker Shap Smith announced he will run for lieutenant governor. Thus making him a political rarity: a person who launches a campaign for one office, abandons it, and resets a candidacy for a different office. (He had killed his bid for governor last fall due to his wife’s illness.)

I’m not surprised. In fact, I’ve been promoting the idea since I first reported it way back on February 8.

At this point, it would be awfully difficult to re-enter the gubernatorial race. …But lieutenant governor? That wouldn’t be so hard.

… Also — and this is crucial for Smith’s personal situation — the job isn’t all that tough. He bangs the gavel in the Senate, he does some soft appearances around the state. He can pretty much set his own schedule.

He’d have a high-profile role at the center of state government. And it’s a great way to build name recognition for a future run at the top job — something Smith would still like to do.

Hey, I was right! You know what they say about blind squirrels and acorns.

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“Who Asked For This?” Part Umpty-Billion-And-One

Ever since it became clear that Lt. Gov. Phil Scott would seek the governorship, jut about every member of the State Senate has floated the notion of a run for the Lite-Govship. Now, a solid four weeks too early for April Fools, comes the tattered chapeau of John Rodgers, successor to Peter Galbraith as the Senate’s top renewables scold.

The news comes to us courtesy of the Vermont Press Bureau’s Josh O’Gorman Neal Goswami, and his story is laced with nuggets of unintentional comedy.

First, although Rodgers wants it known that he is available, he leaves open multiple lines of retreat: “considering it”, “still on the fence”, “sort of been interested for some time.”

There’s a bumpersticker if ever I saw one. “JOHN RODGERS for Lieutenant Governor: ‘Sort Of Interested'”

His caution is in line with the established pattern of senatorial Lite-Gov dalliances. One after another, they’ve put their names out there to resounding silence from The People, and then thought better of taking on a campaign that might involve, y’know, actual work and stuff.

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Further thoughts on the Lite-Gov race

My recent post on Sen. David Zuckerman’s candidacy for lieutenant governor drew a couple of intelligent comments, which prompted this return to the subject. But I’ll begin with another reminder from the archives, which creates some doubt about Rep. Kesha Ram’s appeal to Dem officeholders and party regulars.

Almost exactly one year ago, when the House Democratic caucus met to elect officers. Willem Jewett was stepping down as Majority Leader, and two women — Sarah Copeland-Hanzas and Kesha Ram — competed to replace him.

Those familiar with the House org chart know that Copeland-Hanzas came out on top. In fact, Ram withdrew before the vote. Which is what people do when they know they’re going to lose. She claimed it was “a very close race,” and cited concerns about the Chittenden-centric nature of House leadership. (Copeland-Hanzas is from Bradford.)

Okay, whatevs. But political bloggers and other tinfoil-hat wearers can’t help but wonder why her colleagues turned elsewhere for leadership. There is some sentiment that Ram is a bit of a climber, aching for the spotlight before being truly ready. That’s one way to read things. Maybe it was a simple matter of geography. But maybe there are doubts among key Democrats about Ram.

And now: letters, we get letters…

Veteran blogger nanuqFC posed a couple of good points.

— First, on whether Zuckerman’s push for public financing could even the playing field. I didn’t mention this because I don’t see it as a factor. Under current law, Zuckerman is disqualified from public financing due to his early entry into the race. He and Dean Corren are challenging the law in court, and he’s also pushing for the Legislature to reform the process. But even if he prevails on either track, it’s unlikely to come soon enough to help him in 2016. So he’s on his own, as far as I’m concerned.

— Also, nanuq noted that Dem/Prog fractiousness is not only a Chittenden County phenomenon. Which is true; it’s at its height in Chittenden, but it exists elsewhere. That’s a negative for Zuckerman’s chances. On the other hand, it’s an open primary, so nothing would stop non-Dems from supporting Zuckerman. Overall, a slight negative. (See also: the impact of the gubernatorial primary, below.)

And now meet our second correspondent, David Grant.

— He gives Zuckerman a slight edge in Chittenden County due to name recognition; so what about the rest of the state? Well, Zuckerman’s name recognition advantage is bigger elsewhere. It’s up to Ram to raise her profile. She should have the resources and the contacts to do so; whether she truly connects, remains to be seen.

Her presence in the House Dem Caucus ought to be a big help; state representatives can be the backbone of a statewide campaign. She had a strong turnout of officeholders at her campaign launch, which is a positive sign. There is, however, that failed run for Majority Leader, which makes you wonder if her colleagues will back her with enthusiasm. We shall see.

— Grant also points out the importance of building a quality campaign staff, and wonders who has the advantage there. I don’t know who’s signed on with whom. But I can say this: the Democrats have an undeniable edge in experienced, effective campaign operatives. Ram’s ability to draw on that talent pool is a significant advantage for her.

— He also asks how the gubernatorial primary will impact the Lite-Gov race. I gave a bit of an answer last time — Sue Minter might give Ram some coattails among voters who feel that men have been far too dominant in Vermont politics, which they have. But I ignored the elephant in the room: The gubernatorial primary will drive turnout higher, and will put the Lite-Gov race on the back burner.

The Democratic primary is certain to draw the largest turnout since 2010 at least. Many of those voters will have followed the Minter/Dunne contest and given little thought to Ram/Zuckerman. They’ll be making quick, uninformed decisions. Do they remember Zuckerman’s name from past Senate debates? Do they opt for the female candidate for both offices?

And there’s the surprise twist ending. I’ve sifted through this factor and that, and finally realized that they all pale in comparison to a primary that will be heavily focused on the race for governor. For every voter who carefully weighs the pros and cons of Kesha Ram and David Zuckerman, there’ll be another (or two or three) who’s flipping a coin in the booth.

So yeah, all my sound and fury signifies not much.

A child’s treasury of thoughts about David Zuckerman

Hey Dave, I went to the Burlington Winter Market on Saturday. Bought some of your fine veggies, but you weren’t there. Presumably spending a happy Saturday at the Senate Dems’ Convocation of Cowards. Maybe next time.

Anyway, organic farmer and state senator Dave Zuckerman is now a candidate for Lieutenant Governor, running in the Democratic primary and seeking the Progressive nomination as well. I didn’t attend his kickoff event last Thursday; but here are a few thoughts on Zuckerman and the Lite-Gov race.

The most interesting participant in Thursday’s festivities, per media reports, was Senate Minority Leader Phil Baruth, who gave a hearty endorsement — “come hell or high water” — of the Prog/Dem Zuckerman. This was a big surprise to me; given the level of Dem>Prog antipathy up Burlington way, I assumed that area Democrats would stand behind Kesha Ram. Without regard to quality; just on the basis of not wanting to help a Progressive win.

Baruth’s stated reasoning boiled down to “I trust him,” a phrase he repeated at least three times. So, he doesn’t trust Kesha Ram?

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Your next lieutenant governor might just be an anti-vaxxer

Note for those freshly landing on this page: Please also see subsequent post with response from Rep. Kesha Ram.

Interesting factoid about the Democratic candidates to succeed Phil Scott. One, Garrett Graff, is in day three of radio silence following reports that he may not qualify to run. One, Brandon Riker, must prove he can be competitive despite a lack of experience and little name recognition. As for the other two?

They each voted “No” on the bill that removes the philosophical exemption to childhood vaccinations.

State Sen. David Zuckerman’s opposition was widely noted, as he made a last-ditch maneuver to derail the bill in the Senate, asserting that the science on vaccine safety is “disputed.”

Well, I guess he’s right that it’s “disputed.” But not by the broad scientific consensus and decades of real-world experience.

Less noted at the time was the “No” vote cast by State Rep. Kesha Ram. As far as I can tell, she kind of went under the radar with her opposition.

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The increasingly random race for lieutenant governor

It gives me a tingle to see that the Democrats now have three declared candidates for lieutenant governor, and their ages add up to less than 100 (34 + 29 + 28 = 93). Maybe this puts the last nail in the coffin of Sen. Dustin Degree’s claim that the VTGOP is the party of youth. (Heck, if you add any two of the Dems together, they’re younger than the lone Republican candidate, 72-year-old Randy Brock.)

Otherwise, though, the latest entry into the field leaves me wondering: Who asked for this?

Garrett Graff is an accomplished young man. I look forward to hearing what he has to offer, and God knows he’s got plenty of time to reveal it. But look: he hasn’t lived in Vermont since he graduated from high school in 1999. He’s been part of the D.C. media scene since 2004. He is only now relocating to Vermont, just in time to make noises about a candidacy.

Of the five declared candidates for Official Senate Gavel-Warmer, two are perfectly understandable: former State Senator and Auditor Randy Brock, and State Rep. Kesha Ram. After that, the field has an appearance of randomness.

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