The one-sided votes in Grafton and Windham against the Stiles Brook project were victories for the anti-wind movement. But there were some setbacks that call into question the movement’s political sway.
Four prominent opponents of ridgeline wind were candidates for the State House this year. None were elected.
Each race was different, and generalizing form a small sample size is a mug’s game. But there are a couple of inferences that strike me as valid.
1. The anti-wind movement is not strong enough to have a measurable impact on elections. The results support the movement’s image as noisy and dedicated, but numerically small. There aren’t many voters who are motivated by the issue.
2. The movement is hamstrung by its own political divisions. There are anti-wind activists in all three of Vermont’s major parties*. Two of the four losing candidates ran as Democrats; the other two as Republicans.
*Liberty Union may be a Major Party by Vermont’s very generous legal standard, but it is not a “major party” by any objective measure.
Two years ago, the Republican State Leadership Committee funneled $370,000 into Vermont, backing candidates in close races for the Vermont House. The VTGOP won several of those seats and took away the Democrats’ supermajority status.
So far this year, the RSLC has spent a lot less. But a handful of closer-to-home moneybags have taken matters into their own hands. They’ve donated more than $100,000 to individual Republican House candidates and House Minority Leader Don Turner’s political action committee.
In the small-dollar world of State House campaigns, that’s a huge amount of money.
First, a hat tip to Green Mountain Daily’s Sue Prent, who reported on the Franklin County iteration of this phenomenon a couple weeks ago. Turns out, it’s only part of a bigger pattern. But because the money is broadly dispersed, the pattern has attracted little attention.
Two of the donors are familiar names to anyone who follows Vermont politics. The other two might be new to you.