Tag Archives: Shap Smith

Two bites of the apple

The Progressive Party doesn’t have much of a ticket this year. Many of its candidates are running as Democrats because they stand a better chance of winning. Smart tactics in the short term, and something of a worry for Dems. They’re seeing previously “safe” seats peeled off by the Progs, potentially weakening their legislative caucuses.

This year, we have a new twist on that technique: Progressives running as Democrats, losing the primary, and then refiling as Progs for the same contest.

There are four such candidates (that I know of), all running for the House, and all in “safe” Democratic districts. The Two-Biters:

— Jill Charbonneau, Addison-1

— Steve May, Chittenden-1

— Marci Young, Lamoille-Washington

— Carl Etnier, Washington-5

This is of direct interest to me, because I live in one of those districts.

Each person must make up their own mind. Me personally, I’m disinclined to vote for a Two-Biter.

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Progressive Party: sovereign entity or barnacle?

Here’s an interesting factoid. Voters in the August 9 primary will have their choice of three ballots — Democratic, Republican, and Progressive.

The latter will be available statewide in printed form. And in most of our precincts, the entire Progressive ballot will contain precisely one name: Boots Wardinski, Capital City Farmers Market stalwart and Progressive candidate for lieutenant governor. He’s run for Lite-Guv twice before, both times on the Liberty Union ticket, with minimal result.

We are all paying (by one account, $80,000*) to put Boots Wardinski’s name on ballots that will be largely ignored by voters. Most Progressives won’t take a Progressive ballot because so many Progs are running in Democratic primaries. Like, for instance, real live actual Progressive David Zuckerman, running as a Dem for lieutenant governor — in a tough race against Democrats Shap Smith and Kesha Ram. How many Progs are going to pass up a chance to influence that race just to cast a vote for Boots Wardinski?

*According to the Secretary of State’s office, the total cost of this year’s primary ballots is roughly $160,000. One-third of that would be $53,333.33. So there’s your Boots Tax.)

Beyond the unfortunate use of public funds for all those straight-to-the-shredder Wardinski ballots, this raises an existential issue about the Progressive Party.

Is it gradually ceding its sovereignty, and turning into nothing more than a barnacle on the Democrats’ underside?

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Toward a more Progressive Senate

I welcome Chris Pearson’s entry into the race for State Senate from Chittenden County. The Progressive state rep is the Progs’ sharpest policy voice in the House, and he should be a formidable candidate for Senate.

For those just joining us, the Chittenden County district elects six Senators, and it’s usually a free ride for incumbents. This time, two of the six seats will be voluntarily vacated; David Zuckerman is running for Lite-Gov, and Helen Riehle (appointed to fill out Diane Snelling’s term) is not running for a full term.

The openings are sure to attract a strong Democratic field, while Republicans are desperately searching for someone who might retain Snelling’s position. Searching in vain, methinks.

But the race on the left will be lively. It’ll be interesting to see how Pearson will fare in fundraising — I suspect he’ll do quite well. He’ll certainly have better name recognition than the Democratic non-incumbents.

And should he win, there is the potential for a real shift in Senatorial power.

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Good Ol’ Norm: The gift that keeps on giving

The news arrived on Friday and got buried under the end-of-session avalanche: State Senator-In-Waiting Norm McAllister will face two separate trials on multiple sex-crime charges. Trial was slated to begin today, but the first of the two proceedings has been postponed until June 15. That’s the one regarding McAllister’s former “assistant,” which will feature testimony from McAllister’s legislative colleagues. That’ll be a real get-your-popcorn moment. (The second trial has yet to be scheduled.)

But that wasn’t the most interesting point.

No, the most interesting point is that McAllister is actively mulling a run for re-election. He told Seven Days’ Terri Hallenbeck, “I probably will file anyway. I can always change my mind and decide not to run later.”

No surprise to me. I’ve been saying all along that there’s nothing to stop McAllister from seeking re-election. Indeed, there’s nothing in state law to bar him from returning to the Senate if he wins in November — even if he’s convicted and facing prison time. The Senate does have authority to determine if someone is fit to join their august body, and it wouldn’t be hard to exclude him — if, indeed, he is convicted. If he’s acquitted, on the other hand, the Senate would be hard-pressed to banish him. He’d make everyone horribly uncomfortable, but that doesn’t constitute grounds for exclusion.

In Other News, the Republican Slimy Lies Committee — er, sorry, Republican State Leadership Committee — is back with a despicable ad targeting legislative Democrats.

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All boot, no cattle

So the five major-party candidates for governor got together earlier this week for Gov Pitch, a forum on boosting Vermont’s economy hosted by the fine folks at Fresh Tracks Capital. A couple of items caught my attention: Bruce Lisman’s curious choice of footwear, and the impenetrable vagueness of the Phil Scott campaign.

First, Bruce’s Boots.

Four of the five were dressed for business, including well-polished footwear in black or brown. Bruce Lisman, apparently desperate to come across as a true-blue Vermonter, sported a pair of beige shitkickers — the kind of boots you’d normally wear in a barnyard. Here’s a piece of a Seven Days photo:

Matt Dunne, Bruce "Boots" Lisman, Shap Smith

Matt Dunne, Bruce “Boots” Lisman, Shap Smith

I seriously doubt he ever wore those to his digs in the dark heart of Wall Street. Then again, we’re kinda-sorta supposed to forget about his decades-long immersion in the culture of high finance and accept him as a born-and-bred Vermont boy. Just like, mmm, Rich Tarrant.

Anyway, nice try, Bruce. But in the future, you might just stick with the Guccis and try to prove your bona fides with the substance of your remarks.

On to Phil Scott, whose campaign has trumpeted his LEADERSHIP but said little to indicate where, exactly, he wants to LEAD us.

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Look who crashed the pickle party

The most likely gubernatorial contenders have all made the same calculation: get in early, or get left out. It’s still 14 months until Decision 2016, but the field grew to five today with the entry of soon-to-be-former Transportation Secretary Sue Minter.

‘Bout time we got a woman in the running, I say. And I don’t mind declaring that, if all else is equal, I’d have a preference for Minter due to the simple fact that women have been woefully absent from the top tiers of Vermont politics.

“If all else is equal” is a huge qualifier, but so far I see the Democrats having three strong candidates of roughly equivalent abilities. If I had to vote today, based on the little that I know now, I’d probably vote for Minter.

Fortunately, I don’t have to vote today.

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Everybody in the pool

So the news broke on Labor Day: Phil Scott announces that he will announce he plans to announce a run for governor.

It’s more than a year till Election Day, and we’ve already got extremely competitive races on both the Democratic and Republican sides. Pop quiz for Vermont history buffs: when was the last time that happened? If it ever has?

And I do have a prediction. Not on the winner; aside from Scott wiping the floor with Bruce Lisman in the GOP primary, it’s way too early to pick winners. But I can say, without much trepidation, that this will be the most expensive campaign for a state elected office in Vermont history.

Heck, there may be more money spent in the primaries alone than in any previous full campaign.

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Cruisin’ for a bruisin’, part 2

When I whip off a reference to the prospective Democratic field for governor, I mention three names: Shap Smith, Sue Minter, and Matt Dunne. There are a couple other oft-mentioned names that I leave off my list.

One of them is Doug Racine. I’ve got nothing against him; if he runs I’d give him serious consideration. But I haven’t seen much evidence that he’s serious about running. If I had to guess, I’d say he’s looking for reasons not to run rather than pushing a candidacy forward. (If anyone in the audience has seen such evidence, let me know in the Comments.)

The other is the formerly Slummin’ Solon, Peter Galbraith. I dubbed him the Slummin’ Solon because he seemed to believe that occupying a seat in the State Senate was a task unworthy of his stature. When he left the Senate last year, he was allegedly clearing his decks for another peace mission in the Middle East.

Well, it seems he never left, and his Green Mountain ambitions remain unquelled, because here he is on everybody’s list as exploring a run for governor.

In many ways, Galbraith is the Democratic equivalent of Bruce Lisman. Both men are very wealthy, enough to self-fund a substantial campaign. Both have very high opinions of themselves and their qualifications for Vermont’s highest office. Both have very high opinions of their political appeal, with no particular evidence to back it up.

And as with Lisman, my response to a potential Galbraith candidacy is “Oh please. Oh please please PLEEEEEEEASE run for Governor. I’m beggin’ ya.”

Because if Galbraith runs for governor, he’s in line for a rude surprise. He’ll go down in flames.

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Seven Shades of Nothing

After a couple of big surprises Wednesday morning, the rest of Campaign Finance Filing Day was rather a damp squib. Nothing much was revealed. Unless, that is, the “nothing” is in itself significant.

And I wouldn’t be a political blogger if I couldn’t make something from nothing.

And so, theVPO presents the top seven nothings and what they might mean.

In the race for Governor, four of the five top prospective candidates did nothing. A marginal hopeful did the same. As for the potential Democratic faceoff for Attorney General, neither incumbent Bill Sorrell not declared challenger TJ Donovan reported any new activity.

None of this is terribly surprising. Among those potential gubernatorial candidates, only Matt Dunne had an existing campaign structure (dormant since 2010) to accept donations. And by Vermont standards, it’s still extremely early for anyone to be beating the bushes.

The two likeliest Democratic candidates for governor not named Dunne, Shap Smith and Sue Minter, didn’t seek funds for a corner-office run. Smith reported a bit of fundraising for his State House campaign kitty, easily transferable should the need arise. This leaves Dunne with a sizeable lead — but there’s a lot of time to catch up. In this regard, Dunne’s dollar total is less significant than his ability to quickly sign up a brace of top-tier liberal donors in Vermont and in Silicon Valley.

On the Republican side, the losing 2012 nominee, Randy Brock, didn’t report anything. The putative front-runner, Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, didn’t do any new fundraising — but he has nearly $100,000 left over from his 2014 campaign, so he’s definitely in no hurry.

And then there’s Dan Feliciano, former Libertarian turned kinda Republican, who’s been pondering a second run for governor.

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Matt Dunne lays down a marker

There are still many reports yet to be filed, but it looks like the big news from today’s midyear campaign finance deadline will be Matt Dunne’s hefty, and heavy-hitting, finance report. The former State Senator and onetime gubernatorial candidate reports $115,000 in fundraising — but since the report was prepared, he says, he’s added another 20K to the total, bringing his tally to $135,000.

Which is particularly impressive when you consider that he’s done almost all of that work in the last ten days. “Governor Shumlin made his announcement [of non-candidacy] only four or five weeks ago,” he said. After that, Dunne deferred to his political mentor, Congressman Peter Welch, who announced he would not run for governor on June 26 — the very day that Dunne was going out of town for “a long-planned family vacation.”

And yes, if you scan his list of contributions, the earliest date you’ll see is July 6. And the first names on the list: the heavy Dem donors Jay and Caroline Canning. Jay owns the upscale Hotel Vermont. Dunne kept his virtual rolodex* spinning as he contacted well-heeled Vermonters and his many acquaintances in Silicon Valley; Paul Heintz has many of the details in his “Fair Game” column. Suffice it to say that he’s cut a swath through the roster of deep-pocketed Democrats. (A couple names not mentioned by Heintz: Will Raap of Gardeners Supply, the Growald family of Woodstock, and from across the river, former Democratic Party National Committeeman Peter Burling and members of the Taylor family. Dunne’s wife is the author Sarah Stewart Taylor [hi, Sarah]; it’s always nice when you can marry well.)

*Come on, you don’t think a Google executive has an actual Rolodex, do you?

It’s hard to interpret this as anything but a strong marker — a sign to other potential candidates that Dunne is dead serious and has a lot of support, in spite of his nearly five-year absence from statewide politics. Absence, at least as a visible part of the process; he says he’s been heavily involved in various endeavors in Vermont that have kept him very much in circulation.

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