Tag Archives: Sarah Fair George

And Another One Bites the Dust

Well now. One day after Beth Pearce announces she will not seek re-election, along comes Attorney General TJ Donovan to say he’s stepping aside. Might not even finish his term, in fact. Already his top deputy, Charity Clark, has taken to Twitter to announce she’s considering a run to succeed him.

That’s four, count ’em, four, openings out of our six statewide offices, and six out of nine if you include Congressional seats.

Anything you’re not telling us, governor? Auditor Hoffer?

Besides the lieutenant governor vacancy in 2020, it’s been a long time since any Democrat could see a way to move up the ladder. Now, it’s not so much a ladder as a single step onto a boundless plateau. Who’s got next?

Besides Clark, I have no idea. I’d love to see Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah Fair George give it a shot, but she seems uninterested. She told VTDigger she will run for re-election instead because she’s more interested in criminal law than in the civil cases that make up the bulk of the AGO’s work. Otherwise, I’m sure there are boatloads of people contemplating a run for AG or Treasurer.

This is going to be one hell of an August primary.

Well, that’s a look at my political crystal ball, hopelessly opaque like a furiously shaken snowglobe. But there are still a few things to say about Mr. Donovan and the odd specifics of his departure.

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The Empire Strikes Back?

Well, that [seemingly] came out of nowhere.

Ted Kenney, an attorney from Williston, told VTDigger he’s thinking about a primary challenge to incumbent Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah Fair George.

Under normal circumstances, this could be labeled “quixotic” but without the raffish charm of the original Quixote. Primarying an incumbent in a race that few people pay any attention to?

Why bother?

Well, I think I know why.

I think he thinks there’s a substantial constituency who prefer a more traditional approach to the office instead of George’s pioneering progressivism. And he may well be right, at least in terms of the power brokers and royal families and business-class donors in the county party.

Kenney’s run, if he makes one, is of a piece with Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger’s consistent pro-police stance — and whatever touched off the departure of Tyeastia Green, the first director of the Burlington Racial Equity Inclusion and Belonging Department (REIB) and the resignation of three of the REIB’s four managers.

If you’d like details about Weinberger’s law-n-order policies, click on the first link. Mark Hughes of the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance runs down the ways that Weinberger — once he was safely re-elected with a plurality of the votes in a race against two progressive challengers — laid down the velvet glove in favor of an iron fist.

And he keeps waving the bloody flag, depicting the Queen City as a lawless wasteland whose handful of police officers dare not walk the streets. If Miro thinks that’s smart politics, is it any wonder that Kenney believes he could beat George by running to her right?

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Panic on Church Street

The Church Street Marketplace (Not Exactly As Illustrated)

The good merchants of Burlington’s Church Street are up in arms over an alleged plague of loitering and related bad behavior. Or, as several dozen of them described their charming streetscape in a letter to Chittenden County state senators, “public intoxication, open drug use, public urination and defecation, public sex acts, aggressive and harassing behavior, commandeering and blocking public thoroughfares, and sleeping or camping in both private and public spaces.”

Ick. Well, I haven’t been on Church Street since the pandemic hit, but that sounds more like my old stomping grounds in Detroit (pictured above) than the crown jewel of Vermont downtowns.

Anyway, they are asking for tougher state laws on various abuses of the common. And their lament drew a quick and caustic response from the progressive Twitterverse. “Bicycles & Books” wrote, “Throwing more cops at a problem is never the solution.” Josh Lisenby added, “Merchants want to lock up the poor.” Mairead Catherine suggested a boycott of the merchants.

And this from Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah Fair George:

But actually, I feel quite a bit of sympathy for the merchants. They’re suffering from two consecutive seasons, with no end in sight, of greatly reduced foot traffic on the Marketplace. If the pandemic continues much longer, which it seems certain to do, it’s very likely that one-third or more of those merchants will be out of business within months. A lot of people would suffer, a lot of workers would lose jobs, and Church Street would be in danger of losing the critical mass of merchants it needs to remain vibrant.

The merchants can’t do anything about Covid-19, so they’re looking for anything else that might help. But no, making criminals of the least among us is not the answer.

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Where is TJ going?

Much speculation has surrounded Democratic Attorney General TJ Donovan this year. Will he run for governor in 2020, or won’t he?

Maybe the real question ought to be, Which primary would he contest?

Donovan has taken a couple more rightward steps in recent days. Last week, Gov. Phil Scott directed his officials to allow people inspecting state documents to take photographs or otherwise record images without incurring any fees. Afterward, Donovan doubled down on his position that fees should be charged to anyone getting copies of public records — whether the copies were made by state employees or not.

Congratulations, TJ. You’re now officially to the right of our Republican governor on a key transparency issue.

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When a politician says “It’s not political,” you can bet your ass it’s political

On Thursday, Democratic Attorney General T.J. Donovan sided with Republican Governor Phil Scott against Democratic Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah Fair George in a high-profile murder case. And he insisted, naturally, that his decision had nothing to do with politics.

OK, before we get to the merits of his argument, let’s make one thing clear. It’s political. Whether Donovan wanted it to be or not — whether politics entered into his thinking or not — his decision indisputably has political ramifications.

In May, George dismissed charges against Aita Gurung for the 2017 murder of his wife because George decided she wouldn’t be able to rebut Gurung’s insanity defense. (A court-hired expert and a prosecution expert had both concluded that Gurung was insane at the time of the fatal attack.) It was one of three high-profile dismissals by George on the same day. Later, Scott asked Donovan to review the three cases.

Donovan was George’s predecessor in Chittenden County. His decision in the Gurung case clearly casts doubt on her judgment because he has just overruled her judgment. His protestations of “utmost respect” for George ring hollow.

In a media scrum after Gurung’s re-arraignment Friday, Donovan presented a bunch of inadequate and contradictory explanations. He sounded like he was grasping at straws.

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