Tag Archives: Roger Allbee

Will the VTGOP run an anti-renewables campaign?

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign…

— 2010 Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Dubie emerges from five years of political hermitage to reveal himself as a vocal anti-wind advocate. He insists his stance has nothing to do with a proposed wind farm near his house, ahem.

— Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, the likely GOP gubernatorial candidate, doesn’t like ridgeline wind. He has described a road-to-Damascus moment when he was biking in rural Vermont, saw wind turbines on a ridgeline, and thought they looked ugly.

— Former Douglas Administration Ag Secretary Roger Allbee comes out of the weeds with an essay questioning whether wind and solar energy are in keeping with “Vermont’s environmental heritage,” which he describes in extremely rosy terms.

— Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning, a potential candidate for Lieutenant Governor, has expressed (on this very site) his opposition to any more large-scale renewable projects in the Northeast Kingdom.

— Then you’ve got VTGOP Chair David Sunderland, who has said “there’s science on both sides” of the climate change issue.

Taken together, that’s quite a few signs that the Vermont Republican Party will be running an anti-renewable campaign in 2016. Well, they’ll dress it up as favoring local control and taking “sensible” action (meaning little or none) while providing plenty of lip service about climate change.

This is one of the potential negative effects of a Phil Scott governorship: he would be a major obstacle to further progress on renewables.

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Is the ground buckling under Phil Scott’s feet?

Lately, there have been signs aplenty of passengers taking their leave of the Good Ship Moderate Republicanism, helmed since last November by Captain Phil Scott and first mate “Super Dave” Sunderland. Or maybe Scott’s the admiral and Sunderland is captain, whatever works.

Scott and friends came away from last November’s VTGOP meeting with a rather conditional mandate to broaden the party’s base. Make it more attractive to moderate and undecided voters, and the pragmatic business types who’ve made their peace with the Democrats under Governor Shumlin.

It seemed a promising direction. Indeed, the only possible direction, since the Vermont electorate wasn’t suddenly going to turn Texas red. The conservative VTGOP of “Angry Jack” Lindley et al. had hit a glass ceiling at about 35% of the vote.

But it was going to be a tough job for Scott, previously not known for his willingness to tackle tough jobs. He was, by dint of his elective office, the only person who could credibly take it on; but he also, by dint of his personality, seemed unsuited for the task. And even if he rose to the occasion, the odds seemed to be against him. Shumlin and company have done a really good job of co-opting the center, and it’d be a hell of a job for Scott to win back all those voters and supporters without moving so far to the center that he completely alienates the easily alienated conservative base.

It’s only been about nine months, and the Good Ship Moderate Republicanism looks to be taking on water. Recent signs include:

Bruce Lisman’ decision to forego any sort of alignment with the VTGOP, even after he stepped away from leadership of Campaign for Vermont, the self-described nonpartisan policy shop.

Lisman’s brief and pointless flirting with a run for Governor this spring, which lasted just long enough to force State Rep. Heidi Scheuermannf (a Lisman ally) out of the race.

The continued activity of Campaign for Vermont. Its members do include people from across the political spectrum, but the group still tilts substantially toward the right. And many of its key supporters are the kind of people who used to be mainline Republicans.

Roger Allbee’s decision to run for State Senate as a Democrat. The former Douglas Administration cabinet functionary and self-described liberal Republican could have been a powerful ally for Scott. Instead, he’s hoping for a place on the other ticket.

— Former State Rep. Oliver Olsen’s decision to run again for his old seat, but this time as an Independent. In the 2011-12 biennium, Olsen was one of the more vocal and effective members of the House Republican minority; this time, he seems to believe that he’s better off without the “R” next to his name.

— Last week’s VTGOP campaign finance report which, as I reported in this space, was truly horrific. A quarterly fundraising total — during a campaign season, mind you —  of only $7,500. The bulk of that came from a few party insiders. And over the past year, the VTGOP has drawn virtually no small donors, a sign that so far it’s failing to reach the grassroots. In spite of Sunderland’s repeated claims that the people of Vermont are waking up to the failures of the Shumlin Administration. Well, they haven’t awakened enough to write any checks, that’s for sure.

What that dismal report means is that the VTGOP has lost some of its hard-core, ideologically driven donors, but has yet to even begin to attract a new donor base. Nor has it even begun to convince former Republican stalwarts to come back home.

— And finally, this week’s formation of Vision to Action Vermont (V2AVT), a “bipartisan” PAC aimed at supporting candidates who are focused on improving Vermont’s economy. Its co-founder is Scheuermann herself, and her decision to create this independent group is an interesting one. You’d think that Scheuermann would be one of Phil Scott’s most trusted lieutenants, with a bright future in Republican politics. But as with Allbee and Olsen, she has apparently decided that the Republican brand is too toxic to advance her goal of electing lawmakers who are focused on economic issues.

Take all these events together, and it seems like the Republican center-right is fragmenting in all directions rather than coming together behind Scott and Sunderland. That, I think, is a very bad sign for Scott’s effort to broaden his party. The people who might have been part of a new, broader, more vibrant VTGOP are channeling their energy in other directions.

It may seem unfairly early to declare Scott’s project a failure. After all, it’s been less than a year, and it took quite a few years for the VTGOP to get so badly screwed up. But Scott’s party has no resources and few candidates; if he fails to make any headway in Legislative elections, a substantial portion of the party will be ready and eager to unseat Scott’s team and return the party to its former course: down an ideological dead end.

The Campaign Finance Report Day That Was: more miscellany

I’m going to put off a couple items till tomorrow, if you don’t mind: The full impact of Governor Shumiln’s money tsunami, and the Curious Case of the Local Republican Committees. For now, let’s clean out the ol’ inbox.

— If dollars are any indication, the Windham County Democratic Senate primary is definitely taking shape. Incumbent Jeanette White hasn’t submitted a report, which most likely means she raised and spent little or nothing. Okay, so she’s the incumbent. Two other Dem candidates posted relatively meager totals: Joan Bowman and “The Artful Roger” Allbee. The financial powerhouse in the race is Becca Balint, who raised more than $10,000 and spent about $4200. Her many donors include one Jane Lynch of Los Angeles, California, who kicked in a cool grand. Would this be the Jane Lynch of Glee fame? Don’t know.

But most of Balint’s money came from within the county. Which is a sign that the local money is on her side, and she’s off to a sizeable lead over her competition. (Recap: there are two Senate seats in Windham County. Jeanette White’s running for re-election, and Peter Galbraith is, praise the Lord, not. There are four candidates on the Dem primary ballot, fighting for two spots. No Republicans have entered the race, unless you count former Douglas Administration functionary Allbee, who’s running as a Dem.

— As far as I can tell, the most well-endowed (please hold the locker-room yucks) Senate candidate is one Dustin Degree of Franklin County. He’s raised over $15,000, including $6,000 from members of the Vallee family. One notable expense: $1700 to the St. Albans Messenger for what Degree’s filing calls “print adds.” A bit of remedial spelling is in order chez Degree.

Phil Scott has picked up his fundraising pace, now that he has to deal with the publicly-funded Dean Corren. Our Lieutenant Governor carried forward a $41,000 balance from his yawnfest of a win over Cass Gekas; he’s raised $61,000 and spent a chunk of that, leaving him with a current cash balance of $78,000. He vows that he will match Corren’s $200,000 in public-financing dollars with at least that much of his own. A lot of his contributions, natch, are from corporations and business-friendly PACs.

— Two years after losing to Bill Sorrell in the Democratic primary, TJ Donovan has finally closed out his campaign account. He’s folded virtually all the remaining funds — more than $4,600 — into his campaign for re-election as Chittenden County State’s Attorney. Which is probably $4,599 more than he will need to win. I guess he can always open up a new Attorney General campaign committee and shift the money back over.

— Donovan’s campaign filing for State’s Attorney had one interesting donation: $1,000 from Thom Lauzon, the Republican Mayor of Barre. 

— Lenore Broughton’s colossal waste of money, Vermonters First, looks to be inactive for this season. The SuperPAC is carrying a balance of roughly $3,000, but there was virtually no activity during the most recent reporting period. If Broughton is gearing up for another push, she’s hiding it well. (Oh, and her new Minion of Record is Robert Maynard, best known as a writer for the useless True North Reports. Her former Minion, Tayt Brooks, landed himself a new gig with the conservative movement-building enterprise American Majority.)

FedEx may be unfriendly to union organizing, but it seems to like Democrats — at least in Vermont. The FedEx PAC gave $4,000 to Governor Shumlin’s campaign, plus $1,000 each to the Vermont Democratic Party and the Dems’ House Campaign Committee. And not a sou for the GOP. Sad.

That’s it for tonight. Tune in tomorrow for the last two big items from filing deadline day. And thanks for reading; this site set a new record for single-day pageviews, and I appreciate the traffic and the implied respect.

Early afternoon thoughts on campaign finance filing day

First, a couple newsworthy Tweets from VPR’s Peter Hirschfeld. He reports that the Scott Milne campaign will report roughly $20,000 in contributions, and that Phil Scott will report about $50,000. Milne’s total is awfully pitiful; Scott’s still got a ways to go to catch up with Dean Corren, who qualifies for up to $200,000 in public financing.

As of 1 p.m., neither candidate had actually filed. Other notes:

— The aforementioned Corren reported just under $20,000 in donations from 862 donors. No single donation is worth more than $50. That’s an impressive show of organization and appeal.

— If you want a snapshot of the relative financial pull of the Democrats and Republicans, take a look at their respective House campaign operations. The Dems have raised a daunting $108,000 for their House campaign kitty and spent almost all of that. Notable on the expense ledger are salaries for two campaign staffers — just for the House campaign. (The Repubs, at last check, had one paid staffer for the entire state party. Might be two.) The Republicans’ House campaign operation has raised a paltry $12,000 and spent about 5K.

— Most of the House Dems’ money has come from two sources: State Representatives financially supporting a joint campaign, and corporations and their PACs. Big bucks from MVP Health Care, the Association of Vermont Credit Unions, the Vermont Realtor PAC, New England Cable and Telecommunications Association, and the Corrections Corporation of America (yuck), among others.

— You know which PAC has taken in more money than the Republicans’ House campaign? The Common Sense Leadership PAC, the brainchild of House Minority Leader Don Turner. He’s raised $26,000 for this cycle and spent $12,000. None of it on donations to House candidates. He has paid $2700 to consultant Shayne Spence, and $900 to Johnston Consulting. Why he’s wasting money on Darcie Johnston’s “expertise” only he can say. Turner raised $10,000 of his money in $2000 increments from two stalwart Republican families: the Vallees and the Pizzagallis.

— In the closely-watched State Senate race in Windham County, Joan Bowman has reported donations totaling $1500. But about three-quarters of that is from herself or her family. Bowman is one of four Democrats running for two Senate nominations in August: the others are incumbent Jeanette White, former Douglas Administration cabinet member “Artful” Roger Allbee, and newcomer Becca Balint. It’ll be interesting to see how much Balint takes in; from the outside, it looks like she and Bowman are in a face-off for the non-White, non-Allbee votes.

Bill Doyle doesn’t have to lift a finger, and isn’t. He’s sitting on a balance of $6,500 from previous campaigns. He’s raised $100 this year and spent nothing. I think he’s rightly confident.

Pat McDonald, the former Republican State Rep who’s now running for one of Washington County’s three seats, has racked up a noteworthy $10,000 in donations. She’s spent about half of that.

Doug Hoffer has raised a modest $4400 and spent most of it. Well, he is essentially unopposed in his bid for a second term as Auditor. The bulk of his spending was in two contributions to the state Democratic organization: $1500 to the party, and $2250 to the Dems’ “coordinated campaign.” I guess Doug’s taking this “Prog running as a Prog/Dem” thing seriously.

— Former Republican Representative Oliver Olsen, on the comeback trail as an Independent, is raking in the cash (by House standards). He’s raised $5,700, and spent almost nothing.

— Who hasn’t been a candidate in four years, but keeps on filing campaign finance reports? Matt Dunne, that’s who. He filed as “not a candidate” and reported a carry-over surplus of $2,856.54.

— Former Democratic State Senator Bill Carris, who resigned for health reasons in 2012 (Eldred French was appointed to fill out his term), has liquidated his campaign funds. He had $9400 on hand, and distributed it to a variety of candidates and the state Democratic Party. Notable gifts: $2000 to Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell, $1000 to French’s re-election campaign, and $1800 to his son William Tracy Carris, who’s also running for a Democratic nomination in Rutland County, which has a total of three Senate seats.

— Perhaps the most active of Republican groups so far, at least in terms of supporting candidates, is the Green Mountain Republican Senatorial Committee, which has raised over $15,000 and given healthy start-up contributions of $1500 each to Senator Kevin Mullin and Senate candidate Brian Cullamore, both of Rutland county; and $1,000 apiece to Senator Norm McAllister and Senate hopefuls Dustin Degree, Pat McDonald, Joy Limoge, and Bob Frenier.

I’ll be watching the filings all afternoon. (What a life.) More updates later. Stay tuned!


The day before campaign finance report deadline day

Tuesday July 15 is the deadline for the latest round of campaign finance reports. We’re still waiting for the big ones — Shumlin, Milne, Phil Scott, et al. But there are some early filers worthy of note.

“The Artful Roger” Allbee, Republicrat for State Senate, pulled down $1,350 in donations, including two $500 gifts from out-of-staters and $250 from himself. (His only expenditure is to the state Democratic Party for voter lists. After all, he’s gotta get to know the Democrats in his district. Being a longtime Republican now running as a Dem.

A few PACs have filed reports. Perhaps most noteworthy is the MVP Health Care PAC (an arm of the health insurer), which split its early gifts: $1500 to the Vermont Democratic House Campaign Committee and $1000 to the VTGOP. Covering the bases, I suppose.

The state troopers, on the other hand, are all-in with the Dems so far. The Vermont State Troopers PAC gave $3000 to Shumlin for Governor (coals to Newcastle, that), $500 to the Vermont Democratic Party, and interestingly, $3000 to TJ Donovan for Chittenden County State’s Attorney. I doubt he really needs the money, so I presume the troopers want to stay on the good side of our Attorney General In Waiting.

The Patient Choices for Vermont Victory Funda pro-health care reform group,* has amassed roughly $23,000 in donations and spent a “mere” $2,500 for Democratic campaigns: $1,000 each for Governor Shumlin and the House Democrats, and $500 for Senate Democrats.

*Update: As a reader has kindly informed me, Patient Choices’ core issue is not health care reform; it’s death with dignity. It’s kind of interesting that they’re still being fairly active considering they got their bill through the Legislature last year. Maybe they’re ensuring against a counter-attack?

Of the few state senate candidates to have filed so far, Alice Nitka has a respectable bankroll. The Democrat still had almost $3,500 from previous campaigns and added another $500 this time, for a total of just under $4,000.

Joy Limoge is doing substantially better than that. She’s the only Republican State Senate candidate in Chittenden County aside from perpetual incumbent DIane Snelling. Limoge, previously known for her cheesy, ungrammatical campaign website, took in a cool $10,000 this reporting period for a total of $14,000 overall. Notable donations include $1,000 from Randy Brock, $1,000 from the Green Mountain Republican Senatorial Committee, and $2,000 from IpCapital Group, a consulting firm.

Margaret Cheney, former State Rep and current member of the Public Service Board, disposed of her remaining campaign funds from 2012, giving $100 to Tim Briglin (who’s running for the House seat she formerly held) and $1,294 to the Vermont Food Bank. Nice touch.

Martha Heath, retiring State Representative, cashed out her campaign fund and gave the proceeds, $483.14 in all, to Liz Subin, the Democratic candidate in Heath’s district.

I’ll be watching for more filings between now and tomorrow afternoon’s deadline. Watch this space!





Meet Windham County’s Favorite Republicrat

One of the bigger surprises of last month’s filing deadline was the appearance of an old face in a new place: Roger Allbee, Ag Secretary under Jim Douglas and self-described “liberal Republican,” is running for the State Senate in Windham County.

… as a Democrat.

Well, last Wednesday I guest-hosted the Mark Johnson Show on WDEV*, and I booked Allbee as one of my guests. I thought it worthwhile to try to pin him down on his move to the Democratic side.

*For those unfamiliar with the show, Mark frequently does in-depth interviews with key figures in politics and government. He posts his more noteworthy interviews in an online podcast, available anytime for people outside of WDEV’s range or who can’t listen live between 9-11 a.m. because they, y’know, have to work and stuff. The podcast is a bit out of date right now because Mark’s been on vacation. But it’s worth bookmarking. 

The result, such as it was, has earned Allbee a nickname: The Artful Roger.

He bobbed and weaved, ducked and parried, and determinedly changed the subject at every opportunity. In a very genial way, I should add. It wasn’t at all contentious; he simply wouldn’t say much about it. If you’re a Windham County Democrat wondering about the sincerity of his party switch, well, you can keep on wondering. The Artful Roger didn’t lay any doubts to rest. Indeed, my conclusion is that he hasn’t changed a bit: he’s still a moderate Republican, and his positions are more or less in line with the likes of Phil Scott.

His case for his candidacy as a Democrat: “People who know me know that I have always worked in a very bipartisan manner, and even when I was Secretary, to bring things together.”

Want more?

I’m passionate about Vermont and the values of our community, and believe that with my knowledge of the state and my reputation for working with people on all sides of the aisle in a very bipartisan way, that I can bring my great passion and knowledge to the Senate. I know how it works, and have been there as Secretary and think that my values, my skill and my background can help make a difference.

Prospective slogan: “Vote for Allbee: He’s Very Bipartisan.” Alternatively: “Allbee: ‘Some of My Best Friends Are Democrats.'”

He says he hasn’t moved, but the GOP has moved away from him:

When I grew up in Brookline many years ago, party labels really didn’t mean much. People voted for the individual, and for what the individual believed in. I still believe that, but the Republican Party that I’ve known in the past, the Aiken party, the Dick Snelling party, that party has certainly moved in a way that it doesn’t represent my views today.

True enough, but with Phil Scott trying to make the party more inclusive, this seems like exactly the wrong time for a liberal Republican to jump ship. Allbee replied that he respects Scott, but still believes his views “haven’t been included as much as they should be” in the party. Which doesn’t really answer the question.

Then again, he gave no indication that he has actually jumped ship. When I asked about switching to the Democratic Party, he replied, “I can’t say I really did switch parties.”

As quickly as he could, The Artful Roger launched into a lengthy explication of what he sees as the three big issues facing Vermont: Health care reform, the public school system and how to fund it, and economic development. An explication that lasted more than five minutes.

And it sounded like the kind of stuff you’d hear from Phil Scott (or, Lord help us, Bruce Lisman): long on exploration, short on specifics, plenty of talk about “concerns” with current policies but no outright criticism, and invocations of a more balanced approach to stuff like taxes and regulation.

I redirected the conversation by noting that Allbee should expect skepticism about his candidacy, and asked him to convince me it wasn’t sheer opportunism — his only way to win in a very liberal constituency. His answer was more of the same.

I think people who know me and know what I’ve done and how I’ve worked collaboratively with others and know my personality and my values, know that it’s not opportunism, but it’s using my experience. Obviously there will be some who say that. So be it. I think I have a history of working with all sides, and supporting candidates like Pat Leahy and Peter Welch and working with them, even Bernie Sanders. Governor Shumlin asked me to stay on [as Ag Secretary], because I had the reputation of being collaborative and working on the issues. So some will say that, but my history demonstrates otherwise.

“Even Bernie Sanders.” Nice touch.

My conclusion: Allbee’s a nice enough guy with a lot of experience and knowledge. I think he’s more or less honest about running as a Democrat, although there’s clearly an element of opportunism at work. He’s running in a solidly Democratic county at a time when one of the two incumbents is stepping down, leaving an open seat.

Still, he’d be a fine Republican candidate — from somewhere else, like Rutland or Caledonia. But Windham? One of the most liberal counties in the state shouldn’t be represented by a neo-centrist.

Besides, the State Senate already has too many of these types, both Democrats and Republicans: centrists or center-rightists who’ve helped block a lot of progressive legislation during the Shumiln years. We really don’t need another Dick Mazza, do we?

Postscript. There hasn’t been any coverage of the Windham County race in the statewide media (except my own stuff on Green Mountain Daily), which surprises me. I realize the primary isn’t until late August, but this is a slow time for political coverage and Allbee’s entry sets up perhaps the most intriguing primary race in Vermont: a four-way run for two Democratic nominations, including one incumbent (Jeanette White), two newcomers (Becca Balint and Joan Bowman), and Allbee. And with no declared Republican candidates, the winners of the Dem primary will waltz their way into the Senate.

Me on the radio (updated)

Hey, I’m at the very compact digs of WDEV, getting ready to do the Mark Johnson Show today from 9 to 11 a.m. EDT. 550 AM or 96.1 FM in northern/central Vermont. One of m;y scheduled guests canceled yesterday, which set off an invigorating scramble for a substitute.

Bit it all worked out nicely. Here’s the revised rundown.

9:00 am: Roger Allbee, former Douglas Administration Agriculture Secretary. The lifelong Republican is running for the State Senate as a Democrat. He’ll talk about his decision to run, and to switch parties; and we’ll ask him if he had an honest change of heart, or if it’s sheer political opportunism at work.

9:40 am: Cary Brown, Executive Director of the Vermont Commission on Women. She just returned from the White House Summit on Working Families. We’ll talk about the summit and what was actually accomplished, beyond the sound bites and photo ops.

10:10 am: State Rep. Chris Pearson, chair of the Progressive Party caucus in the State House. He’ll be talking about the state of the party heading into the 2014 campaign, its challenges and opportunities, and its highest-profile candidate: Dean Corren, who will take on incumbent Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott.

Tune in if you can, on the radio or online at wdevradio.com.


Me. on the radio (part 2)

Hey, I’ll be back on WDEV radio this Wednesday 6/25, guest hosting the Mark Johnson Show. And I’ve got a couple of guests I’m really looking forward to.

At 9:00, I’ll be speaking with former Agriculture Secretary Roger Allbee. The lifelong Republican was responsible for one of the bigger surprises of the June 12 filing deadline when he put himself up as a Democratic candidate for State Senate in Windham County. I’ll ask him why he switched parties, whether he had any contact or involvement with the Democratic Party before filing, his positions on the issues, and why we shouldn’t cynically see this as an opportunistic move to get elected in a strongly liberal constituency.

And in the second hour of the show, I’ll go one-on-one with Dave Sunderland, chair of the Vermont Republican Party. I’ll ask him about his efforts to make the party more inclusive, the GOP’s failure to field candidates for four of the six statewide offices, the longshot candidacy of Scott Milne for Governor, and whether this is an honest move to the center or just another effort to “rebrand” the same old conservatism. Should be fun.

WDEV can be heard throughout much of northern Vermont on 550 AM, and from central Vermont to Burlington on 96.1 FM. Hope you can join me!