Tag Archives: Tom Koch

The “moderate” VTGOP is a mythical beast

A few interesting things came out of the Vermont Republican Convention on Saturday — besides revealing that Phil Scott can’t take a rhetorical punch.

I thought it shone a harsh and unforgiving light on the idea that Vermont Republicans are a breed apart — the last surviving redoubt of moderate Republicanism. That’s largely a fiction created in a desperate effort to appeal to the liberal Vermont electorate. It takes on the veneer of reality thanks to the thoroughly moderate image of Lt. Gov. Phil Scott. But the party ranks are full of garden-variety 21st Century Republicanism. Vermont Republicans may have thrown in the towel on social issues like marriage equality and abortion rights*, but they are a stoutly conservative bunch when it comes to brass-tacks issues like government spending, regulation, and taxation.

*Well, let’s say they are withholding the towel. I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts they’d change their tune if they ever achieved political power.

After all, this is a party that eagerly embraced John Kasich, a man whose tax plan would make Ronald Reagan blush with embarrassment. George W. Bush, too, for that matter.

But there were signs aplenty at the Convention that this is a party with a strongly conservative core.

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Suddenly, everybody wants to amend the Constitution

Funny thing has happened in recent days, as we approach the legislature’s vote for governor:  Everyone’s talking about a Constitutional change to make sure this never happens again.

Bill Doyle must be enjoying a quiet “told you so” moment, considering that he first proposed such a change in 1974.

Nineteen seventy-four. Hell, a lot of you whippersnappers weren’t even born yet.

But did anyone listen to The Perpetual Senator? Nope, this is Vermont; we don’t fix things until they convincingly prove they’re broken. As the joke goes,

“How many Vermonters does it take to change a light bulb?”

“Change it? That was my grandfather’s light bulb!”

There are many ideas for a new way of electing a governor when no candidate receives a majority. Doyle would lower the threshold for election from the current 50% plus one to 40%. Some, including Sen. Joe Benning (on VPR yesterday) would prefer a runoff election. Some see an opening for Instant Runoff Voting, to avoid the hassle of a second vote. Some, such as outgoing State Rep. Tom Koch, simply say “We’ve gotta change this” without endorsing a new course.

The common ground, after weeks of uncertainty? We can’t let this happen again, ever.

Even those who’ve supported Scott Milne’s stubborn refusal to concede have concluded that We can’t let this happen again, ever.

Does that seem the least bit contradictory to you? People who are encouraging and enabling Milne’s pursuit of the governorship don’t want anyone else to do what he’s doing. Perhaps they’ve realized the slow corrosive effect of such machinations.

The system, as outdated as it is, was working fine as long as there was a tacit understanding among Vermont politicians: I’ll concede to a plurality winner if you will. Former Gov. Jim Douglas realizes the expediency of this approach, and advised Milne to concede the race after the election results were made official.

But Milne, stomping to the beat of his own drummer as always, forged ahead. Which has forced the state’s political class to confront a flaw in our system, and contemplate changing the Constitution.

Which brings up another contradiction. Milne supporters have carefully parsed every word of the Constitution in search of the hidden wisdom of our predecessors, in much the same way as federal Originalists treat the U.S. Constitution as a sacred text dictated by God himself. But now that they’re facing the consequences of a rickety process created in very different times* — a process that puts us in a class with only Mississippi in how we settle majority-free gubernatorial elections, and that’s a class you never want to be in — they want to tear that bit out of the Constitution and, as Rep. Heidi Scheuermann would say, bring it into the 21st century. I guess that bit wasn’t so sacred after all.

*Tom Koch’s opinion piece, posted on VTDigger, nails the anachronistic character of our current process. “Relic,” he calls it. 

Well, it’s progress, and I’ll take it.

However, I’m doubtful that the legislature will greenlight a Constitutional change. Tempers will cool after Milne has been dispatched back to the business world. There will be squabbles over the best process. There will be many whose knee-jerk reaction to change is “But that was my grandfather’s light bulb!”

And that, combined with the Legislature’s tendency to postpone action whenever possible, will kill any and all amendments.

And we’ll go back to living with a bad process and hoping we never get another Scott Milne again.


The Milne campaign does something smart. Stop laughing, I mean it.

Do Not Adjust Your Set. It’s True, It’s Damn True.

Scott Milne’s people, a.k.a. Brent Burns, put out a press release listing the names of prominent Republicans who have endorsed his candidacy.

And it’s an impressive list. 42 names of current and former officeholders. It puts to shame the tiny number of dead-enders and no-hopers who’ve opted for Libertarian Dan Feliciano.

It begins with former Governor Jim Douglas, the shining star of contemporary Republicanism. Unlike other people I could name (ahem, Phil Scott), Douglas has come out of his hidey hole and actually campaigned for Milne. His endorsement alone is worth approximately 1,000 Darcie “Hack” Johnstons.

After that, you get most of the VTGOP’s Senate delegation – Bill Doyle, Joe Benning, Norm McAllister, Peg Flory, and Kevin Mullin. From the House, add Kurt Wright, Heidi Scheuermann, Patti Komline, Chuck Pearce, Tom Koch, and Duncan Kilmartin and many more, plus former Rep and current Senate candidate Pat McDonald. A couple of interesting names: former Representative and current Senate candidate Dustin Degree and current Rep. Tony Terenzini, neither of whom are particularly moderate folks.

This primary-eve blast should put to rest any talk of a Feliciano groundswell. A couple of state party officials may have turned their backs on Milne, but the bulk of its officeholders – those with proven appeal to actual voters – are solidly behind him.