Tag Archives: Molly Gray

Molly Gray Cares Not for Your Stupid “Rules”

Lt. Gov and wannabe U.S. Representative Molly Gray proudly tweeted out the above photo, writing that she was meeting “with the Central VT Chamber of Commerce on this moment of tremendous opportunity and how we can work in partnership to recover stronger from COVID-19.”

Lovely. Leadership and collaboration in action to tackle a tough issue.

See anything wrong with that photo?

Well, it’s an indoor space, and nobody seems to be wearing masks. Maybe they’re skating by on the technicality that it’s a lunch meeting, but I don’t see anybody eating or drinking. Gray certainly isn’t.

This isn’t the end of the world or anything, and I wasn’t going to write about it until I realized that this meeting was in the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Montpelier.

That would be the city with the mask mandate for indoor public spaces.

Such as this conference room.

I believe this is the same Molly Gray who’s called for indoor masking. Oh wait, here it is, from an interview with WAMC Radio: “…we need to continue to encourage Vermonters and Americans to get vaccinated, to get their boosters, and to wear a mask when they’re inside.”

Except when you’re talking to important people, I guess? Potential campaign donors, hmm? Is it harder to make your pitch if they can’t see the anodyne expression on your face?

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Vermont’s Most Closely Contested (and Unpredictable) Primary Since 2010

The field is set. Maybe. The third of the expected candidates, state Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale, launched her bid Thursday morning.

Who knows, there might be other people who want to succeed senator-in-waiting Peter Welch in the U.S. House. There might even be candidates credible enough to face up to the three very talented women already in the race.

But even without any further entries, this is already promising to be the toughest primary campaign in Vermont since 2010, when Republican Jim Douglas’ retirement prompted five Democrats to run for their party’s gubernatorial nomination. Peter Shumlin won that election by a mere 176 votes. This one could be as close. It’ll likely be far more expensive.

Lt. Gov. Molly Gray. Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint. Senator Ram Hinsdale. It seems certain that one of these three will become the first woman to ever represent Vermont in Congress. (The Republicans have no shot.) And right now, I have no earthly idea which one it will be. When it was a two-person contest I gave Gray the edge simply because of statewide campaign experience and name recognition. The three-person faceoff is far less predictable. Maybe Gray is the early fave, but the margin is so small as to be effectively meaningless.

As for That Poll… “it’s far too early” doesn’t even need to be said, does it? The “VPR – Vermont PBS 2022 Poll,” as we are obligated to refer to it at every opportunity, not unlike the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl, shows Gray in the “lead” with 21 percent support, Balint at 7, and Ram not showing because she hadn’t declared her candidacy when the poll was conducted. Actually, the lead spot went to “Not Sure” at 32% followed by “Unlikely to Vote in the Democratic Primary” at 30%.

Gray’s showing reflects her head start in name recognition and nothing more. That doesn’t make her the “unquestioned frontrunner” as one out-of-state political operative claimed. It’s like if the Red Sox scored a run in the top of the first and the announcer called them “the unquestioned favorite to win the game.”

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Molly Gray 2.0

Purposeful stroll? Check.

Pictured above is Patricia Preston, freshly-minted Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor who has a very low public profile. She’s got no track record in politics, but offers some decent credentials from the nonprofit world. She offers an unconventional resumé for a would-be politico. At 36, she’s young for a statewide candidate.

Are you starting to get serious Molly Gray vibes? Well, there’s more.

Preston is a native Vermonter who grew up on a family farm far away from the cosmopolitan (read: Not Real Vermont) precincts of Burlington. She graduated from the University of Vermont. She spent time working in the international nonprofit arena.

Her initial campaign video is practically a carbon copy of Gray’s, not that Gray’s was anything exceptional. It leans heavily on personal biography. Open and close feature Preston speaking directly to the camera; in between are images of a rural road, the family farm, aerial shots of Vermont towns, the Statehouse, a classroom, renewable energy projects, herself walking outside, herself staring into the sun. The only remotely controversial images show a solar farm and a scale model of two wind turbines, onscreen for a half second or so each.

Which brings us to her Gray-like agenda. It’s long on bromides and short on specifics. It’s full of praise for her home state and a hazy vision for how to make it even better. What does she hope to do as LG? “…help Vermont rebuild a resilient, safe, and healthy future for our families and loved ones, our communities, and this incredible state.” Yeah, that’s the stuff.

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Balint Lays Down a Marker

When I wrote earlier this week that Lt. Gov. Molly Gray is the early favorite over Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint in the race for Vermont’s Congressional seat, I closed with this line:

…those who underestimate Balint do so at their peril.

Well, I’m sure glad I wrote that. Balint took the opening round of the campaign yesterday by announcing a first-day fundraising total of $125,000. This, after the Gray campaign had boasted of raising $110,000 in the first week.

Gray laid down a full house. Balint topped her with a straight flush.

Now, it’s ridiculously early. Both candidates had impressive hauls, and both will raise enough money to be seriously competitive. But political folk take note of this stuff. That one-day total proved that Balint is a serious contender.

Especially given Gray’s connections to the power brokers in Vermont politics. It’s no surprise that she raised a bunch of money right off the bat. It is a surprise that Balint did so much better. If there were any doubts about her ability to play the inside game as well as Gray, well, they’re gone. My own questions about Balint’s ability to lead the Senate and conduct an intense campaign at the same time are not entirely gone, but they seem less relevant today.

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Balint Jumps In

As expected, Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint has joined the race for Congress. To get to the payoff right away, I still list Lt. Gov. Molly Gray as the early favorite. But Balint will be a tough, engaging campaigner. And she’ll have to be.

Let’s start with the job she already has. No sign that she’ll step away from the Pro Temship, which would be a disaster for the Legislature; there are no obvious candidates to take her place in a very tricky job. And this is going to be one hellacious session. No time for a rookie leader.

But if she remains as Pro Tem, Balint will have a really difficult job that will take up a lot of time and energy. This session won’t be easy. Can she campaign during the session? Can she wait until June and still manage to be competitive? Can she raise money? Not only in Vermont, but nationally?

Besides all that, when you’re the House or Senate leader, you can’t define your own political profile. Your job is to get a majority together on crucial votes without alienating anyone you might need down the road. Your task is crafting acceptable compromises, not spearheading the charge.

So it ain’t gonna be easy. But Balint is a gutsy, energetic, determined individual — to me, the single most impressive person in the Legislature — and I won’t be surprised if she wins the Democratic primary.

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The Battle for Molly Gray’s Wikipage (Updated with source credit below)

On November 29, Lt. Gov. Molly Gray’s Wikipedia page was edited 34 separate times. Most of the traffic involved minor adds or corrections, but some of it was aimed at turning the page into campaign propaganda — and counter-efforts to restore content removed or altered by the propagandists.

The lead actor in this one-day drama was “Alaenahunt.” The AH account on Wikipedia was created at 3:41 p.m. on November 29. AH made eight edits to Gray’s Wikipage between 4:12 and 7:35 p.m., and has done nothing since then. “Alaenahunt” is presumably a pseudonym; editors can post biographical information but they don’t have to, and AH didn’t. But it’s obvious that AH is either a very staunch Gray supporter or a member of her campaign team. AH’s deletions involved potentially controversial material; additions read as though they were lifted straight from Gray campaign material.

This sort of thing has happened before. In 2016, when former state Senator Peter Galbraith made a doomed run for governor, an editor named “Devotedamerican” repeatedly added positive material and deleted negative stuff from Galbraith’s Wikipage. That editor was repeatedly upbraided by other Wikifolk for obvious shilling.

On three days in May 2012, when then-attorney general Bill Sorrell faced a challenge from then-Chittenden County state’s attorney (and current AG) TJ Donovan, there was a torrent of activity on Sorrell’s Wikipage. Until then it had been a stub with very little information. Suddenly, an anonymous user started adding whole chunks of favorable material and deleting the unfavorable. It basically turned the page into a campaign ad for Sorrell.

Wikipedia has rules about such things; you’re not supposed to engage in advocacy, opinion, scandal mongering, self-promotion or advertising/PR. But it happens.

Now, let’s follow the Molly Gray Wikitrail.

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The Vague Visionary

Well, Lt. Gov. Molly Gray has come out swinging. Today she declared her candidacy for the Congressional seat now held by U.S. Senator-in-Waiting Peter Welch with a two-minute campaign video simply dripping in Vermontiness. Lots of shots of Gray working on her family farm, tramping through the countryside, walking down quaint small-town Main Streets, a heavy dose of her all-Vermont-all-the-time personal story, and…

… no specifics whatsoever on issues. No platform. No policy positions.

But as much as I poke fun at the sheer obviousness of the video, it’s a damn effective piece of work. Vermonters do love themselves some Vermont, after all; wrapping herself in the Freedom and Unity flag is a winning move. Especially since she can honestly claim all that stuff. She was born and raised on a family farm. She did go to UVM on a skiing scholarship. She did work her way through Vermont Law School. (She still owes student debt, and ain’t nothing more Vermont than that.) She did come back home after a stint with the International Red Cross.

And, with precisely the same playbook, she did come from nowhere to win election as lieutenant governor.

Only a year ago, yes. But hey, who’s counting? Her very brief political resume sure didn’t hold her back in 2020, and I don’t think 2022 will be any different.

Yeah, she’s the early favorite to win the Democratic primary and the general election (against a no-hope Republican, no doubt) and become Vermont’s first female member of Congress.

When I say “early favorite” it’s not an endorsement. It’s the political form book. It’s the Vegas line. I might not vote for her, but I wouldn’t bet against her.

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Rumblings

A major tectonic shift in the Vermont political world seems to be underway. If you listen closely, you can hear the rumblings.

According to the very active political grapevine, Sen. Patrick Leahy will not seek re-election, U.S. Rep. Peter Welch will run for his Senate seat, and at least three prominent Democrats are rushing to fundraise and assemble a team to run for Welch’s seat.

I’ve also heard from one good source that Gov. Phil Scott won’t run for re-election either. I’m not sure if I believe that; there’s no way he’d lose in 2022 unless the pandemic goes hog-wild (which is at least a possibility after the last two days’ case counts). But then, Scott isn’t your typical politico and isn’t motivated by the usual political impulses. Could be he’s feeling the strain of managing the pandemic for the better part of two years.

We’ll leave that aside for the moment and go back to Leahy. I’d expected him to run for another term for several reasons: He’d set the all-time record for Senate seniority in his next term, he’s at the pinnacle of power, and as chair of Senate Appropriations he can ensure a steady supply of federal dollars to Vermont.

Also, cynically, an elderly Senator can be propped up by a reliable staff, which Leahy has. But I don’t know his personal situation; looming health issues for him or wife Marcelle could easily lead him to step aside. Or maybe he just wants to enjoy some retirement time. Or maybe he thinks the Republicans will take control of the Senate in 2022. That’d make another term a lot less appealing.

After the jump: Jockeying for position.

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Some of My Best Friends Are Native Americans, Why Do You Ask?

Well, Lt. Gov. Molly Gray kinda stepped in it, as she tried a little too hard to celebrate Vermont and Vermonters yesterday. In response to the news that we’ve passed the 80% vaccination mark, Gray tweeted out a quote from Calvin Coolidge, staunch conservative and native Vermonter.

I love Vermont… most of all, because of her indomitable people. They are a race of pioneers who have almost beggared themselves to serve others. If the spirit of liberty should vanish in other parts of the union and support of our institutions should languish, it could all be replenished from the generous store held by the people of this brave little state of Vermont.

Seems benign, right? Nice gesture by a prominent Democrat to promote a famous Republican (albeit a dead one)?

Well, maybe not if you’re a Vermonter of Native American heritage.

The people of Vermont “are a race of pioneers,” huh? That pretty well covers white Vermonters. But it excludes the people who were here first, and who were nearly exterminated by that doughty “race of pioneers.”

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The Gray Eminence

Lt. Gov. Molly Gray is, as far as I can tell, an unprecedented phenomenon in Vermont politics. (Someone with longer tenure than I may recall a comp.) In a state where “Wait Your Turn” is the norm, she entered the arena at the age of 36, ran for a statewide office, defeated a strong field in the Democratic primary, and defeated Republican Scott Milne by a comfortable margin in the general election. Considering the dominance of Democratic men in higher offices, her gender makes the accomplishment even more impressive.

Somehow, I don’t think we’ve fully appreciated how rare and special this was. In February 2020, as she was preparing to launch her campaign, she was an almost complete unknown. (Well, she was an assistant attorney general, but there are dozens of those.) Nobody in the Statehouse had a clue, nor did they take her seriously at first. The betting favorite, and it wasn’t close, was then-Senate president pro tem Tim Ashe.

Once in the race, Gray ran a nearly flawless campaign despite having no experience in electoral politics. That’s immensely difficult to do.

But Gray has often received more criticism than credit. (Yes, including from me.) There are good reasons for some of that; but much of it has to do with two things about Gray that are rare in our politics: Her age and her gender. And that’s troubling.

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