Tag Archives: Matt Dunne

False equivalencies on renewable energy

VTDigger’s commentary page recently featured a call to Kumbaya by Brian Tokar, UVM lecturer and board member of 350Vermont. His argument is that our debate over renewable energy has been toxified by extreme positions taken by both sides:

On one hand, groups like VPIRG and Renewable Energy Vermont have staked out a position that any possible limitations on large-scale projects represent an existential threat to our appropriately ambitious renewable energy goals. On the other side are those who view all utility-scaled developments as an assault on our precious lands and wildlife habitats, among other concerns.

His characterization of pro-renewable advocates is 100% pure bullshit. Nobody from VPIRG or REV or Iberdrola or The Secret Blittersdorf Cabal is opposed to “any possible limitations” on renewable siting. In fact, they just spent a laborious 2016 legislative session working with all interested parties on a revised siting bill that allows for local input.

It was the other side that refuses to come to the table, insists on nothing less than full veto power for local governments, and depicts anyone who disagrees with them as corrupt toadies of rich, powerful, foreign interests.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Senate Tweaks Doomed Program

Well, huzzah. The State Senate has approved a change in the public financing law. Currently, a candidate who wants public financing has to wait until February 15 to say or do anything campaign-related. Given the current fashion in extra-early campaign launches, that’s a significant handicap.

Tne new bill would start the clock “as soon as a privately financed candidate raised or spent up to $2,000 on a gubernatorial or lieutenant gubernatorial campaign — up to one year before Election Day,” reports Seven Days’ Paul Heintz.

This solves the too-late problem without ensuring ever-earlier campaign launches. Good idea.

However, it’s quickly becoming apparent that the deadline is far from the biggest problem with the public financing system. The biggest problem is the skyrocketing cost of statewide campaigns and the paltry sums on offer through the public funding system.

Currently, a gubernatorial hopeful who earns enough small donations gets to (a) keep that money and (b) get enough public dollars to bring their campaign total to $450,000. For lieutenant governor, the figure is $200,000.

And those are absolute limits. Not a penny more, from any source. Not even a mention in a party’s email blast.

These days, that’s simply not enough to support a competitive campaign.

Continue reading

With friends like these, who needs EMILY’s?

The Sue Minter campaign is hoping to win the support of EMILY’s List, the high-powered PAC for liberal women. Minter recently replaced her in-state campaign manager, Sarah McCall, with Molly Ritner, an outsider reportedly handpicked by the EMILY’s folks. When asked if an EMILY’s endorsement is in the works, Ritner replied cryptically, “They are actively engaged.”

EMILY’s support would be a Big Biden Deal for Minter. It’d go a long way toward overcoming Matt Dunne’s early lead in fundraising. But while she has yet to receive EMILY’s imprimatur, she has managed to gain the support of “Maria’s List,” a Massachusetts-based EMILY’s wannabe.

Maria’s List has scheduled a fundraising event for Feb. 29 at the Boston-area home of its founder, Maria Jobin-Leeds. That’s the good news; the bad news is the invitation letter for that event may be the most ineptly-drafted piece of political mail I have ever seen. It’s full of typos, bad grammar, and factual errors. Doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

When asked about Maria’s List, Ritner offered this noncommittal reply by email:

As you might know, Maria’s List is an organization that supports “progressive candidates who stand by their values and who run viable campaigns.”  They have decided to support Sue in her campaign and are hosting an event on her behalf.

As for the email specifically, the content was not approved by the campaign.

Well, that’s good. Because the content is awful. The letter in full, after the jump.

Continue reading

Rumor Central: Can you be the Comeback Kid if you never left?

A juicy little rumor is making the rounds in Democratic circles. There is absolutely no confirmation, and it may simply be a case of wishful thinking on the part of certain Dems. But even so, I’ll invoke Blogger’s Privilege and put it out there.

The rumor: House Speaker Shap Smith might run for lieutenant governor.

At first, I was dubious. But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made.

For those just joining us, Smith launched a bid for governor last summer. But he pulled out in mid-November, citing his wife’s battle with cancer.  He also announced he would not run for re-election to the House, which also meant abandoning the Speakership at biennium’s end. However, he left the door just a teensy-weensy bit open.

He told reporters that even if the treatments go well, it was unlikely he would re-enter the race.

“Unlikely.” He didn’t completely dismiss the idea.

All right, here’s where we turn to pure speculation.

Continue reading

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.

Welp, I guess we know who the Free Press is backing for governor

bfp/PhilFor no particular reason, the Burlington Free Press chose to give over its November 28 front page to the smiling mug of Lt. Gov. Phil Scott.

News hook? Well, it was Small Business Saturday, the traditional bleat of locality that follows the irresistible onrush of Black Friday. The Freeploid could have marked the occasion by profiling some local gift creators or counting down its Top Ten Vermont Gift Ideas or some such retail puffery. Instead, it provided some invaluable servicing to Scott.

The pretext? Well, he’s got these faux-tiedyed stickers urging folks to “Buy Local — It’s Not Just for Hippies Anymore.”

Stickers he’s been giving out for YEARS. Stickers that are not, in any way, fresh or new or newsworthy. Stickers that emit a faint undertone of contempt for alternative lifestyles.

Besides, when the hell was “Buy Local” only for hippies?

Vermont Teddy Bear. Lake Champlain Chocolates. Beer, beer, beer, beer, cider, beer. Cheese. Hundreds, if not thousands, of artists, artisans and craftspeople. (Never mind; they’re all hippies.) Farm-Way. King Arthur Flour. The Vermont Country Store. Food products from Vermont farmers, the very bedrock of our imagined self — and of the Republican Party, come to think of it.

I’ll stop arguing with Phil Scott’s stickers and get back to the main point: the Free Press is in the tank for Phil.

Continue reading

The Phil Scott conundrum

Two truisms at war:

1. Vermont faces big challenges, and Vermonters are hungry for a new direction.

2. Phil Scott is the apparent front-runner for governor.

Does anybody else see anything wrong with this picture?

Just about everyone agrees that we face a bunch of big problems. Some solutions are in process, more or less successfully (Lake Champlain, school reorganization, health care reform) and others lie squarely in front of us (the annual budget gap, an outmoded tax system, soaring Medicaid costs, bad demographics, wage stagnation).

Vermont Republicans offer an apocalyptic vision of a Vermont bankrupted by Democratic mismanagement and prodigality. Democrats and Progressives acknowledge a long list of challenges we face.

And yet Phil Scott, a man who’s made his political bones by being inoffensive, and whose “platform” so far is about as radical as a bowl of oatmeal, looks to be leading the field. And those Republicans, who view Vermont as teetering on the brink of disaster and in need of far-reaching, fundamental change, would be perfectly happy to elect good ol’ Phil.

Er, that’s the same Phil Scott who happily served in Governor Shumlin’s cabinet and worked with the administration on a variety of issues. At least, he happily did so until he got the gubernatorial itch himself, and started distancing himself from the incumbent.

Continue reading