Hey, it’s another Essex Republican! To be specific, Roger Drury, retired member of the Vermont National Guard, proud dad, hunter, maple sugarer, and beekeeper. Now, those are some impressively Vermonty bona fides! Almost as good as fermenting your own kombucha!
Aamong all the stealth conservatives I’ve profiled in this series, Drury comes closest to actually pulling it off: Maintaining a veneer of reasonable conservatism and keeping the extreme stuff safely hidden.
But he can’t quite do it. Spend enough time looking at his record and public statements, you start to see stuff. He’s a climate change denialist, he’s against abortion, he thinks our southern border is wide-open, he’s in favor of parents getting into the weeds of school curriculum, he thinks a lack of “personal responsibility” is the cause of high health care costs.
Oh, and he thinks cannabis legalization may be a cause of our opioid crisis.
Must be something funny in the water up Lamoille County way. The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Libertarian Party of Vermont claims a total of six candidates for the Legislature, all of them running as Republican/Libertarians. They include previous stealth conservative Rebecca Pitre, House candidate Spencer Sherman, and Senate candidate (and perennial also-ran) Dexter Lefavour.
The other three are all from Lamoille County. And they’re running in a pair of two-seat districts, Lamoille-Washington and Lamoille-2, that have been reliably Democratic for a while now. For the VTGOP to be running Libertarians in these districts speaks of a certain amount of desperation. That, or the VTGOP mainstream is the same body of water as the Libertarian puddle. Lamoille-2 is currently represented by Democrats Kate Donnally and Dan Noyes; Lamoille-Washington’s sole incumbent candidate is Avram Patt. His running mate is Saudia Lamont.
Pictured above with putative moderate Gov. Phil Scott is Nichole Loati, candidate in Lamoille-Washington. Her ticketmate is Ben Olsen, who doesn’t bear the Libertarian brand but seems to agree with Loati on pretty much everything. The R/L’s in Lamoille-2 are Richard Bailey and Mac Teale.
This post will focus on Loati, but these four candidates seem like peas in an ideological pod. Loati’s campaign website reveals little of this. She presents herself as “a married mama of six and a small business owner” and describes her politics as “fiscally conservative, socially moderate and hyper-focused on America’s constitution.” (Lower case hers)
But then you get to the details and it becomes clear that while she’s definitely fiscally conservative, she isn’t that socially liberal. Really, it’s hard to find any distinction between Loati and your typical stealth conservative.
Makes you wonder, again, why Phil Scott endorsed her. You might also wonder why she’s been endorsed by other pillars of Republican moderation: former governor Jim Douglas, outgoing state Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, and Lamoille’s perpetual Senator, Richard Westman. Is it time to stop pretending there are two kinds of Republicans, the extremists and the moderates? They’re all on the same side this fall.
This is Allison Duquette, farmer, personal trainer, candidate for Vermont House in the Chittenden-25 district, and ardent deployer of dog whistles.
Duquette goes to great lengths to present herself as a fiscally conservative, socially moderate Republican. Trouble is, she’s just not very good at it. Her brand of dog whistle is so poorly constructed it can actually be heard by human ears.
Chittenden-25 includes Westford and an eastern chunk of Milton. Duquette’s Democratic opponent is Julia Andrews. This is a newly-reapportioned district; Westford used to be in Chittenden 8-3 and has been represented by the very conservative Bob Bancroft.
Duquette and Andrews appeared at an online candidate forum in late September, which can be viewed on Lake Champlain Access Television. Her answers usually started off acceptably moderate before veering right off the cliff. Details to come, but first a note about her Facebook page.
We can end the competition for Best Moment in a Political Debate in 2022. We already have a winner!
The honorees are state Reps. Kathleen James and Seth Bongartz of Manchester, whose star turn came in an October 12 candidates’ debate on Vermont’s best community access TV service, gnat-tv. The forum featured the three candidates in the two-seat Bennington-4 district. Pictured from right to left (in the photographic sense only): James, Bongartz, gnat-tv moderator Andrew McKeever, and Republican candidate Joe Gervais, seen here desperately wishing he was somewhere else.
Gervais is a Covid denialist, vaccine truther, and 2020 election conspiratorialist among other things. Oh, and he sees the hand of God in random cloud formations.
Throughout the debate, he did his best to conceal his extreme views behind the usual façade of run-of-the-mill Republicanism. But near the end (just before the 49-minute mark in the one-hour program), James calmly rolled out a devastating attack.
When you and I met for the first time on primary night, outside the Arlington polls, you told me you believed that Trump had won the 2020 election and that basically it had been stolen by massive national voter fraud, and that was disturbing to me… And I’ve gotten a call from a constituent who said that you told her that you were at the Capitol on January 6th, the day of the insurrection. And you’re campaigning on honesty and transparency, and I want to know if you were in Washington DC at our nation’s capital on the day that a violent mob attacked it
Ah, the last dying embers of Republican power in Vermont. Jim Douglas and Brian Dubie. Those were the days, eh?
Now, who’s that nice little old lady between them? That would be Maryse Dunbar, Essex resident and two-time candidate for the House. Lovely, right? Nice of Brian and Jim to lend her a hand.
She’s also gotten a big assist from VTGOP chair Paul Dame, who sent an email blast soliciting support for Dunbar. Cool. I assume he’s fully informed about Dunbar’s political views, and they must be consistent with his vision of Republicanism.
Now let’s take a look at Dunbar’s Facebook page and… oh dear.
Yep, that’s Our Lord and Savior guiding the hand of God’s Chosen One, Donald J. Trump. Funny thing, this is not an outlier on Dunbar’s Facebook page, a melange of conspiracy theories, Christian nationalism, and Covid denialism of the rankest sort.
In other words, she’s just another Vermont Republican candidate in the year 2022.
Today’s edition of Stealth Conservatives features two Kindly Old Grandpas, or so their newspaper profiles might lead you to think. On the left, in the photographic sense only, is John Lyddy, the previously discussed election truther running for House. On the right, in every possible sense, is Peter Caldwell, Republican candidate in the solid blue Middlebury House district.
Both received the benefit of kid-gloves treatment in their local newspapers. These candidate profile pieces are often cranked out in a hurry, out of a sense of obligation rather than due diligence. But in a day when many Republicans are purposefully concealing their ultraconservative views, our political media need to do better.
In July, the Brattleboro Reformer published an extremely friendly profile of Lyddy, who has repeatedly exposed his extreme views on social media. The uncritical piece depicted Lyddy as a goodhearted retiree who simply wants to serve his community. And it completely ignores his attendance at the January 6 insurrection (and insistence that the Democrats stole the 2020 election), his veiled threats against elected officials and government agencies, and his advocacy for “a brief correction by civil war” to remove Democrats from office.
Meet Rebecca and Tom Pitre. They make maple syrup and keep chickens. She plays guitar. She ferments her own kombucha. She’s a certified riding instructor, using horses as therapy animals.
She has also said some very nasty things about Drag Queen Story Hour on social media.
Which matters because Rebecca Pitre is a Republican slash Libertarian candidate for Vermont House in the Lamoille-3 district, which includes Cambridge and Waterville. In her campaign, she presents herself as an everyday sort who just has some sincere concerns about the health of rural Vermont. In service of this deception, she seems to have scrubbed her past social media activity; her only extant Twitter account is a campaign-related one that only recently went live and has [checks notes] 13 followers.
Unfortunately for her, a community member dug up her five-year-old drag queen comments, and Aaron Calvin of the Morrisville-based News & Citizen has done a thorough job of reporting the controversy. In his story, Pitre makes a strenuous effort to weasel out of her self-inflicted corner — but she makes it clear that she still believes 100% in her past statements.
This story is why, my friends, I keep hammering on the duty of political reporters to dig beneath the surface when writing candidate profiles. In a time when Republican candidates are trying to disguise their extremism, who else is going to pull off the masks?