Tag Archives: Terri Hallenbeck

That Rubio endorsement is looking better and better

Two days after his as-quiet-as-possible endorsement of Marco Rubio, Lt. Gov. Phil Scott finally talked to a reporter about it. And he made it even worse.

He told Seven Days’ Terri Hallenbeck that he had planned to endorse John Kasich until the Ohio governor signed a bill defunding Planned Parenthood. For the self-described pro-choicer Scott, that was a deal-breaker.

But wait: Rubio is, if anything, more profoundly anti-choice than Kasich. He has voted, numerous times, to defund Planned Parenthood, and opposes abortion rights even in cases of rape or incest. Scott’s weasely response?

Scott acknowledged that Rubio opposes funding Planned Parenthood, but said, “He didn’t sign a bill doing so.”

Oh, what a load of crap.

Which is worse: endorsing an actual Planned Parenthood defunder, or endorsing an anti-Planned Parenthood candidate to, among other things, nominate Supreme Court justices?

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Planet Norm’s increasingly erratic orbit

Any time a reporter has a few minutes to spare and wants to buy the Vermont media equivalent of a lottery ticket, all they have to do is give once-and-maybe-future-Senator Norm McAllister a call. If he answers the phone, he’s almost certain to say something dumb or offensive or both.

This week’s winner was Terri Hallenbeck of Seven Days, who wrangled a juicy quote from Good Ol’ Norm, whose internal exile has, unsurprisingly, failed improve his perspective. In fact, he’s showing signs of outright conspiratorialism.

The context: Hallenbeck was previewing this week’s Senate vote on marijuana legalization. At the time, it was looking like a very close thing — maybe one vote either way. Which prompted Hallenbeck to observe that this was “the second of two recent legislative initiatives on which [McAllister] might have swayed the results.” (The other one was the paid sick leave bill.) That is, if he hadn’t been suspended in January because of those pesky sexual assault charges.

Take it away, Norm…

Reached at home in Highgate, McAllister said he would have voted against both measures. “I got an idea that’s probably why some people didn’t want me there.”

Yeah, solid thinking. It wasn’t the multiple felony charges or the pending trial or the embarrassment of having an accused felon in their midst. The Real Truth is that Norm McAllister was simply too dangerous and had to be silenced! 

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I almost feel sorry for the Franklin County GOP

Please note: “Almost.”

The various critters who live under the Golden Dome must have felt a great sense of relief when Sen. Norm McAllister’s trial was delayed by at least three months. The trial was to have begun this week, and would have featured a parade of elected officials taking the stand and doing their best Sergeant Schultz impersonations. “I saw nothing. I heard nothing. I know nothing.”

Unseemly, to say the least. And it might have interfered with the free flow of Democracy In Action that we usually see at the Statehouse this time of year.

(Hey, you in the back row: Stop laughing.)

So now it’s put off until May 10, when the Legislature will almost certainly be safely adjourned. Ohh, you can bet your sweet bippy they’ll be gone by then.

Well, it’s a relief for the Legislature. It’s the worst possible news for Franklin County Republicans. McAllister’s trial won’t even begin until a mere fortnight before the filing deadline for major party candidates.

I’m sure the party is lining up a candidate for McAllister’s seat (two current Representatives, Carolyn Branagan and Corey Parent, are being mentioned). But I’m convinced that McAllister is clueless enough to file for re-election.

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A tale of two troubled campaigns

Over the weekend, when I realized that much of the Vermont political media corps had decamped for Iowa, I jokingly Tweeted an alert to politicians: this would be an ideal time to dump some bad news, because it would likely be under-reported by our depleted media corps.

Well hey, turns out I was right. Because not one, but two Democratic candidates for statewide office took the opportunity to fire their campaign managers: gubernatorial hopeful Sue Minter, and Rep. Kesha Ram, running for lieutenant governor. (Technically, Minter reassigned her campaign chief, but that’s so transparent it fails the laugh test.) The news was broken by one of the only political scribes who didn’t decamp to Iowa, Seven Days’ Terri Hallenbeck.

I think we’ve just achieved a great deal of clarity on the likely Democratic ticket. I don’t know for a fact that the Minter and Ram machines are in the ditch, but I do know that this is something that only happens when a campaign is in deep trouble.  It’s like a baseball team going into a new season with a new manager — and then firing the poor bastard on Memorial Day. It doesn’t happen unless there are exigent reasons, such as a 12-30 record and dead last in the standings.

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The unintended consequences of law

Conceptual rendering of the Act 46 debate. Dave Sharpe's in there somewhere.

Conceptual rendering of the Act 46 debate. Dave Sharpe’s in there somewhere.

This Act 46 thing is turning into a giant-sized tangle of no-win, isn’t it?

The House and Senate are at odds, with the Senate voting to repeal limits on school budgets and the House considering a range of tweaks. The Senate is also throwing the House under the bus, disavowing any responsibility for the spending limits. The Governor is hounding the Legislature to repeal without thinking about it too much. On top of all that, we discover that the Agency of Education misinterpreted a key passage of Act 46 in a way that changes the actual limits for many a district.

Meanwhile, the Republicans can just sit in the balcony, laughing and throwing Jujubes. As VTDigger’s Anne Galloway notes, unless the House gets buffaloed into changing course, the Republicans will get exactly what they want: the limits will remain in place and the Democrats will look like disorganized idiots who don’t care about rising property taxes. And if the limits are repealed, the Republicans will get something just about as juicy: the Democrats repealing a measure designed to provide some tax relief, and looking like idiots in the process.

Meanwhile, school districts are closing in on Town Meeting time with no idea how to plan their budgets.

Yeah, nice. This lame-duck session is off to a rip-roaring start.

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Cautionary notes on the Phil Scott inevitability, part 3: Deadweight party

See also: Part 1, addressing the massive turnout difference between presidential and non-presidential years; and part 2, on the unhelpfully archconservative nature of the Republican presidential field.

Strangely, there was no media presence at last Saturday’s meeting of the Vermont Republican Party.

I say “strangely” because the VTGOP’s four officers were up for re-election. And they haven’t been all that successful; the party continues to trail the Democrats in finances, staffing, and organization, both statewide and grassroots.

I couldn’t be there because I was out of town all weekend, but I have heard some news.

To begin with, in a sign that Executive Director Jeff Bartley doesn’t have his finger on the pulse, he scheduled the meeting for the opening weekend of hunting season. That’d seem to be a no-no for The Party Of Traditional Vermont (And Guns), if not for a young urbanite like Jeff. From what I hear, they barely mustered a quorum.

On the topline, there was no drama. All four officers were re-elected. Maybe the conservatives were out baggin’ deer, or maybe they just don’t have much to offer. (Two years ago, their choice for party chair was John MacGovern, who’s best known in these parts for being an ultraconservative joke candidate against Bernie Sanders in 2012. If he was the conservative wing’s best option, then ugh.)

Here’s something you’ll be surprised to hear. Both gubernatorial candidates addressed the “crowd,” and from the whispers reaching these ears, Phil Scott was underwhelming. How underwhelming? Well, Bruce Lisman looked good by comparison. Apparently, Scott rolled out his usual bumpf, while Lisman actually offered some red meat to the faithful.

In the long run, that’s probably meaningless. Scott remains the overwhelming favorite for the nomination, but there might just be a few chinks in the favorite’s armor.

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Good Luck Zuck

While existential doubt continues to swirl around Garrett Graff’s proto-candidacy, yet another liberal has stepped into the race for lieutenant governor. So much hankerin’ for Vermont’s very own bucket of warm spit.

This time, it’s David Zuckerman, Dem/Prog State Senator from Chittenden County, confirming what many had expected: he’s in the race. Originally a Progressive, he’s campaigned for Senate on both Prog and Dem tickets, and he plans to enter the Democratic primary.

And in a sign of the Progs’ perilous position, he probably won’t run at all if he can’t get the Dem nom. This is either a high-stakes gamble, or Farmer Dave is tired of the Senate: he’s trading in a sure thing for what looks like a lottery ticket — one entrant in a field that already includes either two or three Democrats, depending on the disposition of Young Graff’s residency issue. And there may be further entrants from the Senate Democratic caucus, although I suspect that when push comes to shove, most (or all) of them will prove unwilling to let go of their comfy Senate perches.

(Really, can you imagine the likes of John Campbell or Dick McCormack entering a race they’d actually have to work hard to win?)

Zuckerman’s candidacy begins with inconvenient questions about fundraising. He says he may pursue public financing — but Seven Days’ Terri Hallenbeck reports that he may already be disqualified from that very restrictive process because of his early announcement. (The rules say no campaigning, period, before February 15. Which is far too late in the unprecedentedly early Vermont campaign season.)

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Paid sick leave: everybody’s binky for 2016

It’s been a years-long battle to enact a paid sick leave law in Vermont. The issue came close in 2015, passing the House but failing to survive the Senate. Next year? Bet on it sailing through.

As Seven Days’ Terri Hallenbeck reports, top Democrats (with the consicuous exception of Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell, a PSL skeptic) held a news conference Wednesday at Hen of the Wood Restaurant* to announce that PSL legislation would be on top of their agenda for 2016.

*Nice work if you can get it.

The move was not at all political, no sirree. Just ask declared gubernatorial candidate, House Speaker Shap Smith:

Smith dismissed his political ambitions as a factor Wednesday. “The election has nothing to with it,” he said. “It’s the right thing to do.”

Regardless, Smith will be up against other Democratic candidates who support the concept. If he’s able guide the bill into law in 2016, that success will give him a boost in a Democratic primary race where the issue is likely to resonate.

Yup.

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Somebody’s ethical compass needs a tune-up

Congratulations to Governor Shumlin for finding the time in his busy schedule to do something about Eternal General Bill Sorrell.

Like Sorrell, the Governor couldn’t see the seriousness of the situation on his own; he had to be dragged kicking and screaming. I hope his moral compass is truer in other areas, though I fear not.

Also, the next time he pleads a lack of time to deal with an inconvenient issue, we’ll know it’s bullshit.

But that’s not my primary topic for this missive. No, that would be the Vermont media’s widespread failure to address the Sorrell story until it smacked them between the eyes.

Not all are equally guilty, and I’ll offer a ranking below. But their failure in the Sorrell case is sadly typical of the Vermont media’s myopia when it comes to the foibles of the powerful. There’s a presumption of innocence, a reluctance to challenge, that’s uncharacteristic of the media at its best.

Let’s take John Campbell, for instance. In late February, Seven Days’ Terri Hallenbeck wrote about the Senate President Pro Tem having “quietly increased his office’s staffing and more than doubled his payroll.”

The response from the Vermont media? Crickets.

Admittedly the dollars involved are not large — we’re talking roughly $55,000 before and $110,000 after — but big stories have been spun out of smaller stuff. Usually involving a nameless functionary, not an elite officeholder. (Anybody ever hear of William Goggins until this month?)

Why did Campbell get a free pass? I have no idea, but it reflects poorly on our fourth-estate watchdogs.

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Don’t expect the Governor to do anything about Bill Sorrell

Went to Governor Shumlin’s news conference today, planning to ask about the Bill Sorrell situation. Which, as you might recall, featured Our Eternal General facing questions about possible campaign finance violations (and VTGOP Vice Chair Brady Toensing formally requesting an independent counsel), and Our Eternal General assuring us all that Our Eternal General is above reproach and an independent probe would be a waste of money, Trust Me On This.

And a couple days ago, I rhetorically asked the state’s top elected Democrats what they planned to do about it.

Shumlin4.21.15The answer from Governor Shumlin? Nothing anytime soon. Maybe nothing ever. Because he’s just too busy doing the people’s business.

(If the press corps had been playing the Governor Shumlin Drinking Game, in which everyone has to take a swig every time he repeats certain catchphrases, we all would have been falling-down drunk within a few minutes. The rhetorical bag of tricks was emptied in an effort to evade responsibility.)

I threw out the first Sorrell question: Does the Governor think there should be an independent counsel to look into the allegations?

You know, as you can imagine, I am really focused on trying to get my agenda through the legislature. It’s the most ambitious agenda that I’e set out. And these things have to succeed. Balancing $112M budget shortfall. Getting out of hear with a clean water bill that actually cleans up our polluted waters. Making sure that we finally address both the cost and quality issues in our education system. Getting out of here with my energy bill. That’s what I’m focused on.

I have not had a chance to read the complaint. When the Legislature is all done, I suppose I’ll have time to do that, but I’m focused on my job.

Even by Shumlin standards, that was a rapid-fire pivot away from the question at hand. Continue reading