Tag Archives: Phil Scott

VPR/VPBS Gov Debate: Into the Valley of Death

In today’s first gubernatorial debate of the general election campaign, David Zuckerman showed us how it can be done. He came straight at Gov. Phil Scott with a well-articulated progressive critique. He was polished, he was focused, he fought the good fight, and it probably won’t do him a damn bit of good.

Interstitial note: The debate was cosponsored by Vermont Public Radio and Public Television, but for the life of me I can’t find the video online. The link above is to the VPR audio.

It was the stoutest debate challenge Scott has faced in his three gubernatorial campaigns — and more. Zuckerman is the first experienced statewide campaigner Scott has faced in his SIX runs for governor or lieutenant governor.

Scott has usually had the benefit of facing the B-Team. Previous opponents did their best, but Cassandra Gekas, Dean Corren, Sue Minter and Christine Hallquist ain’t exactly Murderers’ Row. All four were in their first statewide campaigns, and two had never run for any office. Scott has also enjoyed the soft opposition of those willing to cast him as a well-meaning Nice Guy who’s kind of a Republican In Name Only.

There is a solid Democratic/Progressive critique of Scott; it’s just sat on the shelf for most of the past decade. Zuckerman pulled it down and discovered that there’s some power in that weapon.

Unfortunately, he drew the short straw. He’s opposing Scott at the high point of the governor’s popularity. But Zuckerman is drawing a roadmap for future campaigns against Scott, and may at least put some dents into that Teflon coat.

As for Mr. Nice Guy, he responded with some rare attacks at Zuckerman and quite a bit of passive-aggressiveness — Scott’s favorite variety of aggressiveness when he’s not behind the wheel of Big Green No 14. At this point in his tenure, all aglow with the universal praise for his handling of the pandemic, Phil Scott is unaccustomed to confrontation.

He also, at this stage of his political career, fresh out of new ideas.

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The Poll: A Wake-Up Call for Vermont Dems

Obligatory Vermont Exceptionalism jerkoff question.

The big news in the just-released VPR/VTPBS Poll was below the topline. I mean, the size of Gov. Phil Scott’s margin over Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman was a shock but not a surprise, if that makes sense. Unless something truly dramatic occurs in the next six weeks, Scott’s gonna win, but not by as much as the poll suggests.

For Dems, the alarm bells ought to be ringing loudly over the result of the race for lieutenant governor, which shows Dem Molly Gray with a slight lead, and the hypothetical Scott/Pat Leahy matchup in 2022, which puts Scott in the pole position.

Neither are a cause for panic, but both should inspire the Democrats to stop screwing around and get serious about this politics thing.

As for the LG race, I actually see it as bad news for Republican Scott Milne. He’s been on the statewide ballot twice before and almost became governor in 2014, plus he headed a high-profile business and comes from a storied family of moderate Republicanism. In name recognition alone, he should have an edge on Gray, who didn’t enter the political realm until about eight months ago.

Milne’s 31% shows that he’s enjoyed little carry-forward from his previous sallies. Plug any generic Republican into the LG slot, and they’d get 31%.

Which points to the even bigger problem for Milne: The Republican base is far too small to elect anyone, and he has yet to crack into the centrist/Democratic ranks — his two Dem endorsements notwithstanding. I suspect that all it will take to render a knockout blow to Milne is the likely outcome of the debates. Milne is an awful debater, and whatever you think of Gray, she’s got game.

Still, the Dems can’t be complacent about the race.

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Mr. Milne’s Recycling Bin

Scott Milne tried to make up for his two previous statewide campaigns, which were remarkably issue-free, by releasing a lavishly illustrated and ridiculously detailed 60-point policy agenda this week.

His Tuesday announcement got lost in what turned out to be a very big news day, including Dr. Anthony Fauci’s guest appearance at Gov. Phil Scott’s Covid-19 briefing and Scott’s veto of the Global Warming Solutions Act.

I felt a little sorry for Milne at the time. But having taken a dip in his mile-wide-but-inch-deep policy pool, I decided it’s probably better for him that this stale batch of recycled ideas didn’t attract much notice. The package is dominated by conventional Republican tropes, failed Scott administration proposals, and plenty of filler to make the agenda seem more impressive than it is. You’d think a guy who’s reinvented himself as an edgy cryptocurrency investor would have some fresh ideas to contribute.

What’s even worse is that Milne completely fails to address some of our most critical challenges. There’s nothing about our raging opioid crisis, not a mention of racism, justice, policing or corrections, and barely a nod to climate change.

Since Milne’s document is searchable, we can quantify that. “Opiates” and “racism” are nowhere to be found. The word “climate” occurs precisely once in the 33-page document. And that’s a reference to Vermont’s economic climate.

After the jump: YOU get a tax incentive! And YOU get a tax incentive! EVERYBODY gets a tax incentive!!!

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Was Anyone Really Surprised By the Veto?

Gov. Phil Scott. (Not Exactly As Illustrated)

After the Legislature passed H.688, the Global Warming Solutions Act, there were bits of rose-colored speculation that Gov. Phil Scott might see his way clear to signing the thing. After all, he’s apparently sailing to re-election; he has no reason to fear a revolt from the Republican Party’s sad, atrophied right wing. This might have been an occasion to cement his reputation as a caring moderate, perhaps in anticipation of a future run for Congress.

But no, in the words of a thousand uncreative ledes, he “wielded his veto pen.” And the reasons were utterly predictable, and absolutely in line with his consistent position on climate change: He acknowledges the scope of the challenge, but refuses to support any real interventions. And just for added spice, he threw in one of his spurious constitutional arguments against the bill.

Scott’s approach to climate change is to oppose any measure that would impose enforceable goals before the safely-distant year 2050, cost a single Vermonter a single dime, or inconvenience any Vermonter with mandatory changes in energy usage. His vision of achieving our 2050 goal depends heavily on market forces, future technological advances, and a whole lot of water power from the green-but-otherwise-problematic flooding of First Nations land by Hydro Quebec.

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The Strange Tale of Kid Swastika and the Scummy Consultant

There’s a curious whiff of white nationalism around the Scott Milne campaign. The fresh-faced youngster above, Kolby Lamarche, is Milne’s director of field and digital operations. Lamarche became notorious back in 2017 when he used a Hindu swastika as his profile picture on his school email account. The Hindu version is slightly different from the Nazi swastika, but more than close enough to trigger the reaction he got — and seemed to welcome at the time.

Next we have Texas-based Harris Media, which has collected $16,000 from the Milne campaign for graphic design and online advertising. In recent years, Harris has created campaign advertising for some of Europe’s finest ultra-nationalists, including France’s Front Nationale and Germany’s Alternative fur Deutschland.

Is Milne is secretly assembling an All-Star team of neo-Nazis? Of course not. But the hiring decisions seem… shall we say… curious at best, and stupendously ignorant at worst. I mean, why go out of your way to hire a teenager and an out-of-state consultancy that might create bad publicity? Especially when you’re trying to wrap yourself in the Phil Scott cloak of plausible moderation?

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The Phil Scott Century

Gather ’round, kids. It’s storytime.

Today I’ll tell you a tale of how Vermont Democrats owned themselves into a Phil Scott Senatorship.

We pick it up from the present day, when the Dems have clearly waved the white flag on the 2020 gubernatorial race. In fact, many of them believe Scott deserves a third term because of how he’s handled the pandemic.

They are entitled to their opinion. But they may not like the consequences headed their way.

Let’s assume that Scott wins re-election by double digits, further cementing his reputation as a moderate who can win elections in solid blue Vermont — enhancing his unique value to national Republican forces looking to pick off a safe blue Senate seat.

At the same time, Joe Biden wins the presidency and the Democrats take a majority in the U.S. Senate. Biden opens the floodgates of federal assistance for fighting Covid-19 and rebuilding the economy. Pat Leahy becomes chair of Senate Appropriations, where he can make sure Vermont gets a healthy slice of the pie.

This makes Scott’s third term much easier, as he doesn’t have to close massive budget gaps. But he decides against seeking a fourth term in 2022, and departs the scene as a noble figure who steered the Good Ship Vermont through stormy seas.

After the jump: Governor Donovan, Dem disunity, Bernie the retiree, and Senator Phil Scott.

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Campaign Vermont 2020: No Juice

Welp, the air is out of the bouncy house. Sad to say, here we are on September 2, and there’s pretty much nothing in this woebegone Vermont campaign season to speculate about or prognosticate or even stir up the slightest semblance of interest.

That’s my big takeaway from the September 1 campaign finance reports. It’s all over but the whimpering.

Unless something huge happens, none of the statewide races look competitive. There will be, at best, only minor shifts in the makeup of the Legislature. We’ll head into a new biennium full of financial hardships and across-the-board policy challenges — with the same crew that’s given us a whole lot of status quo for the last four years.

Can you feel the excitement?

The two financial disclosures that tell the story weren’t even filed by candidates, or Vermonters. They came from the Vermont-specific political action committees funded by the Republican and Democratic Governors Associations.

The DGA’s “Our Vermont” has yet to lift a finger or spend a dime this year.

The RGA’s “A Stronger Vermont” has spent some $94,000 on a pair of polls, one in February and another in August. Otherwise, they spent a few thousand bucks on a bit of online advertising. Which tells you all you need to know about the results of those surveys: The RGA is so confident that Gov. Phil Scott will win a third term that they aren’t bothering to spend money.

Point of comparison: In the six weeks between Primary Day 2016 and October 1, 2016, the RGA spent $929,000 in support of Scott’s campaign. There was a poll in there, but the vast majority — $664,000 — bought a TV ad blitz that put Dem Sue Minter on the ropes. She never got back into the race. If the RGA saw Zuckerman as a threat, they’d be doing the same thing right now.

Election Day is still two months away, and the dynamics of the race could change. And a meteor could strike the earth. But there is no sign of a game-changing event.

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Which Side Are You On, VT Dems?

Let the doubts begin! about whether Vermont Democrats really want to defeat Gov. Phil Scott in November.

VTDigger’s Kit Norton reports today that the party is dithering about whether to provide full access to its voter database to its duly nominated candidate for governor.

Full stop. That’s all that matters. I don’t care that the ponytailed pol in question is a longtime Progressive. I don’t care how many loyal Dems are butthurt over the alleged offenses of the Progs — such as daring to win elections that are, I guess, the Dems’ by birthright.

The Dems couldn’t field a stronger candidate than David Zuckerman. They should get over themselves, pull up their pants, and do the right thing.

One of my favorite people in Democratic politics, former executive director Conor Casey, gave the following rationale:

“Until we reach a point where Progressives and Democrats are not running against each other, the Democratic Party also just needs to be cautious with its data and make sure that it stays in the hands of people really underneath the party banner and not a party that is competing against them,” he said.

My advice stands. Pull yer pants up. Sure, you may think it cheeky when Progs run in Dem primaries. And I’d agree with you when Progs do so unsuccessfully and then run as Progs, which they have a habit of doing.

But the Dems are complicit in a system that makes it almost impossible for Progressives to exist purely as Progressives, which I’m sure they’d prefer to do. It’s a duopoly, unless or until we get some form of ranked-choice voting. And the defined-in-state-law primary system is an open one, so Zuckerman ran as a Dem fair and square, just like Bernie. Go ahead and enact a closed-primary system, I dare ya.

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A Hero’s Journey

He has a hobbit’s chance.

David Zuckerman, that is. Having won the Democratic gubernatorial primary, he now faces an epic adventure in his attempt to defeat Gov. Phil Smau– I mean, Scott.

If the election were held today, Scott would win in a walk. But there is a path to victory for our friend the Zuckerhobbit. Not gonna be easy, though. And quite a few factors are largely out of his control.

As I get to play the role of J.R.R. Tolkien, here’s the long and winding road to a Zuckerman victory.

First, he needs a bunch of money right quick. Zuckerman’s campaign entered the month of August with a cash balance of $42,000. He also had a $26,000 surplus from previous campaigns. At the end of July, he reported several mass media buys totaling $15,000 that weren’t included in his August 1 financial report. I conclude that his actual cash balance on 8/1 was $27,000. Add in the surplus, and you’ve got $53,000.

To be competitive in a statewide race for governor, you need to have — conservatively — at least a million bucks. Preferably a million and a half. Between the launch of his candidacy and the end of July, Zuckerman raised $347,000. In the 2016 cycle, which had some different deadlines, Dem nominee Sue Minter had raised over a million bucks by mid-August. He has to pick up the pace at a time when liberal donors have plenty of calls for their money, including the race for president, the battle for a U.S. Senate majority, and efforts to turn state legislatures blue in time for the 2022 redistricting wars.

Second, he needs not to wake the dragon. In this case, the Republican Governors Association. So far, the RGA has committed very little money to defending Scott. But that could change in an instant. If the RGA sees evidence of a rising Zuckerman insurgency, it can pour in boatloads of cash in an instant. In 2016, it spent more than $3 million to get Scott into the corner office. It can, and will, do so again if Scott looks vulnerable. Zuckerman has to hope that the dragon doesn’t wake up until late October or thereabouts. Seems unlikely; the RGA is smarter than that.

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The Dems’ Campaign Begins With a (Literal) Bang

Besides that, Mr. Sullivan, how did you like the play?

When outgoing state Rep. Mary Sullivan agreed to emcee this morning’s post-primary Democratic unity rally, I doubt that she realized she was taking her life into her hands. But there, right in the middle of her introductory remarks, came a-tumblin’ the state flag of Vermont, crashing down within inches of her head, rattling the podium on its way to the earth.

Undaunted, Sullivan continued to speak. Although afterward, there might have been some sharp words for whoever set up that flag.

That wasn’t the only cock-up of the morning. The microphone was not correctly tied into the Facebook Live feed of the proceedings, so most of the speakers could barely be heard. A note must also be passed to whoever wrangled that podium, which was too tall for a couple of the speakers — Sen. Debbie Ingram and President Pro Tem In Waiting Becca Balint. They looked like old drivers peeking over the wheel to get a glimpse of the road.

The speakers’ list was comprehensive. The winning and losing candidates for governor and lieutenant governor were there (except for Carcajou), as were the rest of the party’s candidates for statewide office, U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, designated hitters for our two U.S. Senators, and legislative caucus leaders.

All the speakers touted unity. Not all were specific about their calls. In fact, it wasn’t until the sixth speaker that someone actually endorsed the party’s nominee for governor, Progressive/Democratic Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman. It was Attorney General T.J. Donovan who broke the ice, “proudly” endorsing Zuckerman and lite-guv nominee Molly Gray and devoting the bulk of his remarks to praise for the Democratic ticket.

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