Tag Archives: marriage equality

Jim Douglas accuses Governor Shumlin of public corruption

The most dramatic moment of Saturday’s gubernatorial debate had nothing to do with the 2014 campaign or the positions of the four candidates. Instead, it came at about the 36-minute mark, when moderator Mark Johnson asked Governor Shumlin about a passage from former Governor Jim Douglas’ memoir, “The Vermont Way.”

Here is the direct quotation from Douglas’ book, as read by Johnson:

“The Senate leader, who succeeded me in the governorship, was a strong proponent of gay marriage. Since he was nominated by a scant 200 votes in the Democratic primary, their support may well have provided the margin of victory. He later reciprocated by appointing one of the leading lobbyists of the movement to the Vermont Supreme Court.”

Am I the only one who is shocked by that?

Jim Douglas is accusing Peter Shumlin of public corruption at the highest level — of giving away a seat on our state’s highest court as part of a political deal. By doing so, he implies that the recipient of Shumlin’s putative largesse, Beth Robinson, is unqualified to be on the Court.

Jim Douglas has said repeatedly that he isn’t in the business of criticizing his successor. He sure has a funny way of showing it.

Not only did Douglas think this, not only did he say it — he committed it to writing in his own official account of his years in office. (His editor/publisher, Democratic State Senator Chris Bray, allowed it to stand. What was he thinking?)

This is despicable, and Douglas deserves full criticism for it. And it is certainly not, in the words of his self-aggrandizing title, “The Vermont Way.”

Funny thing, though: Every media outlet in the state produced stories about the Douglas memoir. As far as I know, not a single one mentioned this passage, in which Jim Douglas accuses Peter Shumlin of public corruption. A crime.

Mark Johnson was the first, and only, media person to report this.

Most of the media accounts of the Douglas memoir (aside from Paul Heintz’ hard-hitting review in Seven Days) were softball affairs. They sorta mentioned Douglas’ long-held grudges against the media, but otherwise downplayed anything that might be controversial or reflect badly on Douglas. That is a remarkable failure by our watchdogs of the Fourth Estate.

By the way, the other three candidates for Governor recognized a white-hot potato when they saw it. None expressed the tiniest bit of criticism for Shumlin or Robinson. They all, including Republican Scott Milne, backed away from the question as fast as they could. None even mentioned the name “Jim Douglas.” A wise choice.

Marion Milne 1935-2014

I’m saddened to hear of the death of Marion Milne, pioneering lawmaker, businessperson, and mother of gubernatorial candidate Scott Milne. VTDigger reports that she “died unexpectedly Monday morning at her home in Washington.”

I saw her in person for the first time at Milne’s campaign launch last month, and now I’m sorry I didn’t try to meet her and express my respect.

Marion Milne founded the family travel agency in 1975 shortly after graduating from Goddard College. That agency has grown and thrived under her leadership and Scott’s, during very challenging times for the travel agency field.

Of course, her most significant public moment came in 2000, when she was one of a handful of Republicans to vote in favor of Vermont’s groundbreaking civil unions law — the first step on the road to marriage equality. For her courage, she was voted out of office that fall after serving three terms in the State House. From a post-election account: 

Milne knew her vote could lead to the end of her career, as did others. State Rep. John Edwards, who represents two towns along the Canadian border, also got the boot in what became a single-issue race. Edwards, a former state trooper, said he started to get that sinking feeling while standing at a polling place Tuesday. He noticed the averted gazes, the voters who had never turned out before, the thumbs-up signs directed at the other two candidates.

… Edwards said he has lost longtime friends. Milne has endured slurs like “queer lover” aimed at her and her 13-year-old grandson and watched her travel agency lose business.

“There are a lot of people angry with me,” she said from her home, shaking her head.

She had endured a bitter campaign, often encountering hostility while going door-to-door and finding herself alienated from former supporters and friends. She was on the right side of history, but that must have been cold comfort at the time.

Marion Milne was a hard worker till the end, as reflected in this word from the Milne family: “On the day she died, Marion had an appointment to have her hair done, planned to work at her desk in the travel agency, and attend a board meeting for the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.”

I’ve written plenty about Scott Milne’s campaign, but now is not the time for partisanship. It’s a time for respect, love, and family. My best wishes to the entire Milne family and the agency, and to Scott, now faced with carrying on a long-odds campaign shadowed by the loss of his mother and business partner.

Godspeed, Marion Milne.