Tag Archives: Sianay Chase Clifford

Balint Bags Bernie Backing

Well, this is big.

Sen. Bernie Sanders has gone and endorsed Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint in her bid for U.S. Congress. It’s not technically a violation of the unwritten rule against taking sides in a party primary because Bernie’s technically not a Democrat, but still.

It’s not the first time he’s done this, but it is the most impactful. In 2020 he endorsed David Zuckerman over Rebecca Holcombe in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, but he didn’t do so until July 27. The white smoke wafted up the chimney three weeks earlier this time, which is crucial because mail ballots are already in circulation.

I can only speculate on the why. Is this one last shot in the sub rosa contest of ideas between fiercely independent Bernie and loyal Democrats Leahy and Welch? It certainly reads like a power play — a contest to see who really captures the hearts and minds of Vermonters.

The less Machiavellian reading is simply that Sanders sees Balint as an ideological match, and Lt. Gov. Molly Gray as an unacceptably centrist candidate. My guess is that it’s mostly the latter, and the former is the cherry on top.

I don’t think Leahy or Welch will be willing to break the rule for their Chosen One. But I bet they’ll bend it some more by continuing to say nice things about Gray without actually endorsing, and keeping their networks active on her behalf.

That’s a big help, but Bernie’s public support is bigger.

Continue reading

Ram Hinsdale Got the Headline, But Not So Fast

The latest federal campaign finance reports are in, and State Sen Kesha Ram Hinsdale took the headline by winning the first-quarter fundraising race among the Democratic candidates for Congress with $444,213. Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint was next with $368,382. Lt. Gov. Molly Gray, rather surprisingly, was third with $292,208 in first-quarter takings. (Sianay Chase Clifford isn’t competitive in the money race with a little more than $7,000 in donations. She’ll have to hope for a people-powered David v. Goliath effort.)

But those topline numbers don’t tell the whole story. In fact, they’re downright misleading for a number of reasons. Ram Hinsdale took in the most during the first quarter — but if you look at fundraising for the entire campaign, Gray is first. If you look at cash on hand, Balint is first and Ram Hinsdale is a distant third. And that’s really the most important metric, isn’t it?

(Standard disclaimer: Fundraising is only one measure of a campaign’s strength. As long as you’re competitive, it doesn’t matter how much you’ve got. It’s how well you spend it and how strong your grassroots game is. But money is the only campaign metric that’s easily measurable, so we dutifully measure it.)

Another thing. Ram Hinsdale has 56 individual donors who’ve given the maximum $2,900 for the primary campaign. That’s $162,500 of her total, and none of those people can give to Ram Hinsdale again until the general election campaign. Balint, by comparison, has only 23 max donors, worth $66,700 of her total. She has a lot more room to go back to donors and ask for more money. (Gray has 27.)

On the other side of the ledger, Ram Hinsdale has been spending money at a brisk pace, including a boatload on out-of-state consultancies, strategists, and media production outfits. In fact, if you look at her fundraising and spending without knowing whose it is, you’d think you were looking at a big-money corporate Democrat’s campaign, not a self-described champion of working folk.

So let’s look at cash on hand which, to me, is the most important metric going forward. Balint has $432,597. Gray has $404,369. Ram Hinsdale? $218,691. She’s got much less room to fundraise, and she’s got half as much money in the bank. Does that sound like the “winner”?

Continue reading

First Debate: A Truly Impressive Showing

Four of the five Democratic candidates for Congress had their first debate Tuesday night, obligatory sponsor credit to VTDigger, and I have to say, all four of them did extremely well. From start to finish, they put on one of the best debate performances I can recall viewing. Their answers were direct and concise (I only counted one time when an answer went over the 90-second time limit). Each of them had a clear message, in words and in presentation, and they got their messages across. A few jabs were thrown, but there were also expressions of respect. Camaraderie, even.

Maybe this is what we get when the women take the stage. Makes me think we’ve been electing the wrong gender all these years.

So, before I start picking away at this thing, I’ll say it again: I came away with a positive view of all four participants. You have to get down to the nit-picky level to find grounds for criticism. They even handled the “Name one mistake you’ve made” question with aplomb. None fell back on the “I can’t think of one” or “Sometimes I’m too smart for my own good” kind of stuff that you often hear from, well, male politicians. Each referenced a mistake, owned it and explained it, openly and honestly.

The debate was a real display of the importance of representation. Lt. Gov. Molly Gray named paid family leave as her top priority. I doubt you’d hear a man say that. Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint made eloquent use of her identity as a gay woman. Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale and Sianay Chase Clifford showed how their lived experience informs their work on behalf of women and people of color.

I’m going to focus most of my attention on presentation, for two reasons: Voters are more swayed by their impressions than by policy positions. Likeability and relatability count for a lot, and I say that as someone who cares about policy. Second, there simply wasn’t much separation on the issues. Gray took a more moderate position several times, but that makes her a Pat Leahy/Peter Welch type, not some Republican in Democratic clothing. Ram Hinsdale and Chase Clifford positioned themselves in the progressive camp; Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint was, for the most part, right there alongside. She differed more in approach than in substance.

Continue reading

The Forum Conundrum

Tonight (Wednesday), VTDigger is hosting a very important early event in Vermont’s most competitive primary race of 2022 — the Democratic contest for U.S. Congress. It’s the first high-profile candidate forum in the race. There are five declared candidates; four of them will be included.

Above is the other guy: Dr. Louis Meyers, hospital physician at Rutland Regional Medical Center. Why won’t he be there? Well, because VTDigger, for reasons of its own, refused to invite him.

I’m not here to bash Digger; I think they made a considered decision. But on balance, I think it’s a mistake to exclude Meyers.

Meyers is a moderate Democrat. He’s been a practicing physician for three decades, and offers first-hand experience with the health care system. No reason to not take him seriously so far.

The other side of the coin: Meyers has twice run for state Senate in Chittenden County and finished dead last in both Democratic primaries.

If pressed, Digger would likely point to his electoral record and claim that he has no proven appeal. Certainly not compared to the three heavyweights in the race: Lt. Gov. Molly Gray, Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint, and Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale.

But then there’s the fourth candidate, Sianay Chase Clifford. She has Congressional experience as an aide to U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachiusetts, but she’s never run for or held elective office. And while she spent her youth in Vermont, she moved away to go to college and only returned to Vermont within the past two years. She has no more proven appeal than Meyers. So why will she be there?

Digger knows. I don’t.

Continue reading