Or, possibly, both at the same time?
VTDigger’s Laura Krantz dug up (yes, I did it) quite a few tasty tidbits about recent changes in the Vermont Republican Party in a story posted on Monday. Most of which concern the installation of Jeff Bartley as VTGOP Executive Director.
Before I go on, I’d like to note that just as Bartley was getting the job, his father was rushed to the hospital with lung cancer, and things aren’t looking too good. (I’m not disclosing a secret here, because Bartley himself has been Tweeting about it.) That really and truly sucks for Bartley; on a personal level of course, but it’s gotta be taking his attention away from his new and very challenging position. I can’t say I respect Bartley’s political skills, but as a fellow human being, I feel for his plight.
Still, back in the salt mines of politics, life goes on. And, per Krantz, Bartley’s nomination created some hard feelings within the party.
Bartley was chosen in a last-minute election announced slightly more than 24 hours before the Dec. 1 meeting. Insiders say the decision was rushed to leave no time for other candidates to come forward or for a search process to take place.
Would this be the same party that often hits on Gov. Shumlin over transparency? Yeah, thought so.
Bartley’s nomination was met with ambivalence at best, hostility at worst, and led to an unusually close executive committee vote on his hiring: six votes in favor, four against. Not exactly a stirring mandate.
The four “no” votes included three very prominent conservative Republicans who have been openly skeptical of Phil Scott’s party-broadening initiatives: outgoing treasurer Mark Snelling, Wendy WIlton, and Randy Brock. The fourth, Kevin Beal, was last seen in the blogosphere in November 2013 when he ran for the “Chair of chairs” post (basically, a liaison between county chairs and the state party) against… wait for it…
… Jeff Bartley.
I don’t think I’m overreaching to interpret the 6-4 vote as a defeat for the conservative wing of the party. Especially in light of this note from True North Reports’ Robert Maynard in my comments section:
Jeff Bartley is not a conservative and it should come as no surprise that conservatives would not het (sic) behind him as their candidate for party chair. He burnt a lot of bridges with consertavives (sic) and Tea Party types during the Len Britton campaign by telling the that his model for a Republican office holder was Maine’s Senator Olympia Snowe. (At least that is what I am told by the Tea Party members who worked on the campaign)
And if we know anything about “consertavives,” it’s that they have long memories for political slights.
According to Krantz’ article, Bartley was seen as party chair “Super Dave” Sunderland’s pick for the job. As for the rushed and secretive nature of Bartley’s hiring, it looks designed to forestall organized opposition and perhaps even prompt a walkout by top conservatives. Like Snelling, for instance.
And even Bartley backers were, uh, kinda lukewarm about it. Jackie Barnett and Stephen Webster, who both supported the hire, basically laid it at the feet of Sunderland.
Barnett: “My personal feeling is the chair (David Sunderland) should have whomever they want working for them.”
Webster: “This is David’s choice, and I’ve been supportive of David.”
Neither committee members had anything to say about Bartley’s political acumen.
It’s not exactly an ideal situation. Bartley is taking the helm of a party that, November gains notwithstanding, still has a hell of a long way to go. Quite a few influential party members, and perhaps an entire wing of the party, view him with suspicion if not hostility. Given his record, there are legitimate questions about his preparedness for the job. And he’s doing it all while his dad is in the hospital with a life-threatening illness.
I can’t say I have high expectations for Bartley, but I wish him luck.