Tag Archives: Tunbridge Fair

Phil Scott by the pound

Y’know, if I didn’t think Phil Scott was a different kind of politician, a straight shooter who refuses to indulge in gamesmanship, I’d congratulate him for a decent bit of trickeration today. See, on the morning of WDEV Radio’s Tunbridge Fair debate (the one he refused to take part in), he held a press conference to unveil a major policy initiative.

Complete coincidence, I’m sure. Because Phil Scott would never resort to such shenanigans.

The big unveil was Scott’s “comprehensive blueprint for economic growth.” And it seems \designed to counter the criticism that his campaign is short on specifics. It weighs in at a robust 56 pages — although that includes roughly 14 pages of large photos, mainly featuring Phil Scott.

The document includes a “12-part Economic Growth Plan” with “more than 50 specific ideas, initiatives and proposals.”

Trying too hard, are we? Looks like a high schooler trying to pad the ol’ word count.

Most of those 50 ideas have been previously announced. Some appear to have little to do with the economy, including “Restoring Faith &: Trust in State Government” and “Addressing Vermont’s Opiate Epidemic.”

Some of the “specific ideas” are fundamentally nebulous, like his assertion that he will “encourage and support all employers” and “retain and recruit the best medical professionals.”

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Ducking and Knuckling — UPDATED with Minter reax

I see from Paul Heintz’ “Fair Game” column that one feature of every electoral season is in high gear: the debate over debates.

Apparent front-runner Phil Scott is doing what front-runners do: insisting on conditions that minimize his exposure. To wit, he wants beloved nutcase Bill “Spaceman” Lee to take part in all debates.

So, this week’s one-on-one with Sue Minter might turn out to be a one-off.

Which would be a shame, and a disservice to the electorate. The real contest is between Scott and Minter. There should be a thorough exploration of their ideas, and they need to be put to the test in direct confrontation without any moonbats cluttering up the stage and hogging one-third of the available time.

Scott insists he’s not being chicken, but let’s keep it a hundy. He is.

And now, let us consider two media outlets who have responded very differently to Scott’s ultimatum. Let’s see if you can guess which is which.

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Scott v. Corren, round one: a spirited, informative debate

The two major-party candidates for Lieutenant Governor stood their ground and clearly articulated their positions in their first debate this morning. Incumbent Republican Phil Scott and Prog/Dem Dean Corren debated on WDEVs Mark Johnson Show, broadcasting from a windy, chilly Tunbridge World’s Fair.

(Johnson has posted the audio as a podcast for your listening pleasure. Also, the video is available here, thanks to CCTV.)

Scott and Corren provided the voters with a clear choice… although the Scott option involves his usual bobbing and weaving on the issues. But that’s Phil Scott, and he said as much in his closing statement: if you like the job I’ve been doing, I promise two more years of the same. Corren made a strong, understandable case for his progressive agenda, particularly single-payer health care.

Neither candidate made any notable stumbles. If you went in a Phil Scott fan, you almost certainly left as one. Ditto Dean Corren. Undecideds were given a lot to think about, and a clear choice between two contrasting styles and philosophies.

I also have to say a word on behalf of host/moderator Mark Johnson. He conducted the proceedings without a hard-and-fast format, which often results in a stilted faux-conversation; instead, Johnson was able to maintain a flow and pursue follow-up questions as he saw fit.

The first half of the debate was dominated by health care reform, and especially whether to

Dean & Pete: Best buds

Dean & Pete: Best buds

pursue single-payer. That was to Corren’s advantage; since he has a clear position.

He began with the fiscal case for single-payer. He argued that single-payer would be simpler than the former or current system, and far better for controlling health care costs. It will require new taxes, he acknowledged, but the current system is extremely burdensome; single-payer will reduce the overall burden. As Lieutenant Governor, he would be an advocate for single-payer, communicating its virtues and being a “watchdog” to ensure that the details are done correctly.

Cost control efforts have failed, Corren argued, because no one entity has full control over all the costs. If a reform cuts costs in one area, those costs are actually shifted to an unregulated area. Single-payer would allow for a unified effort to cut costs.

Phil & Pete: Best buds

Phil & Pete: Best buds

Scott remains “skeptical” — his favorite word, as he himself admitted. He wants to see the details before making a decision on single-payer, but he clearly prefers to stick with the current system instead. Which involved a bit of tortured logic: he said that the rollout of Vermont Health Connect has been “disastrous,” but that nonetheless, having a health care exchange “makes sense.”

He also said that reform may be difficult because Vermont is such a small state, and offered the idea of a tri-state insurance “coalition” involving Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.  Not sure he articulated the advantage of such an approach, but there you go.

Personality and approach: Scott kinda tried to have it both ways — but hey, that’s the way he is. He played up the advantage of his “collaborative” approach but also claimed that “I stick to my guns.” When asked to cite an example of an issue he feels strongly about, he offered the environment and growing the economy. Not a convincing display of passion or principle; everybody is in favor of both. The devil is in the details.

Corren portrayed himself as a strong progressive voice on the issues. As such, he’d be a valuable part of Governor Shumlin’s team. But at the same time, he’d be independent enough to take stands when he sees fit. As such, he argued, he’d be a better “watchdog” over health care reform than Scott because he truly wants it to be successful: “We need a Lieutenant Governor who will work for reform, not be skeptical.”

Party problems: When asked about past differences between Progs and Dems, including his own criticism of the Dems, he said that was all behind him, and asserted that the Democratic Party and the electorate in general have moved to the left, making a better fit between D and P. “I feel very comfortable working with the Democrats,” he said. “I’m proud of what the Democratic majority has done.”

Scott was asked why the Republican Party struggled so much in Vermont. He blamed perceptions of the national party’s stands, especially on social issues. He said the “core of Vermont Republlicanism” was embodied by leaders like George Aiken, Bob Stafford, and Jim Jeffords, and said “We lost that, and we need to refocus.”

Property taxes and school funding: Scott said he was “disappointed in the Legislature” for failing to tackle the issue this year. He said “we need to do it,” but acknowledged that “it’s difficult.” He said that education costs need to be brought under control and acknowledged that might require some school consolidation. But he said it should be on a “case by case basis” instead of an overall mandate.

Corren said the school funding system has hurt the middle class more than anyone; the wealthy pay a smaller proportion on a per capita basis, and income sensitivity eases the burden on poor and working Vermonters. He advocated expanding income sensitivity to the entire populace — which would presumably shift some of the burden upward. He also pointed out that health care is perhaps the biggest driver of school cost increases, and again stumped for single-payer.

Energy. Corren is a strong proponent of developing renewables, including wind. He referred to the “imagined horrors” of living near wind farms, which won’t make him any friends in the Annette Smith camp. He did say that the state should have a clear plan that includes specific areas where wind should be developed and where it should not.

Scott is, to use his favorite word, a wind power “skeptic.” He declared himself a “big proponent of renewable energy,” but emphasized solar power over wind. He repeated his earlier support for a moratorium on new wind projects.

On the Vermont Gas pipeline, Scott tried to have it both ways, expressing his support for the project as a “bridge to the future,” but also supporting a second look at the project by the Public Service Board. Corren declared himself a “skeptic,” saying the economic and environmental benefits of the pipeline are “not proven.”

Children and DCF: Neither candidate had much to offer. Corren said that “problems persist” but acknowledged that he’s “not sure what to do.” Scott said that the Department of Children and Families is full of “good people doing good work,” and wondered if they needed more resources without committing to it. And he returned to his hobby-horse of economic development, arguing that the “affordability crisis” puts more “stress on families.”

Top priorities: As a closing question, Johnson asked each man what they would pledge to do in the next two years.

Corren: He would “work on the details of health care reform, and make sure we have a sustainable plan.” He also promised to work on jobs and development, particularly in the renewable energy sector. He sees that as a major growth opportunity for Vermont.

Scott promised “the same thing as in the past. A collaborative effort to bring people together as a team to move Vermont forward.”

And then, given the last word, he fired a shot at the Democrats. In the last legislative session, he said, there were hundreds of bills, but only about 20 of them had to do with growing the economy. And most of those, he added, failed to pass.

The truth of that assertion probably depends on your definition of bills that have to do with the economy. But Corren didn’t have the chance to respond.

With that, the debate was over. I have to say that, thanks to Johnson’s stellar work as moderator and two candidates who can articulate their positions well, it was one of the more informative debates I’ve ever heard. Too bad there will only be three more, thanks to Phil Scott’s reluctance.

Phil Scott, chicken

Buck-buck-bacawwwww!

Our Lieutenant Governor, who isn’t afraid to steer a race car around a dirt track, is apparently ascairt of little ol’ Dean Corren, his P/D challenger. 

Corren had called for a series of ten debates. Scott’s answer? 

Four. 

Predictable but disappointing. Usually, a light schedule of debates would be okay in the race for Lieutenant Governor. But this year, when the gubernatorial race is effectively over and Scott is supposedly the spearhead of The New VTGOP, this particular campaign has taken on added importance. 

The Scott camp had some weasel words at the ready: 

Scott’s campaign manager, Rep. Patti Komline, R-Dorset, said the three-term incumbent lieutenant governor would rather travel the state listening to voters than champion his own views in exchanges with Corren.

Aww, fucknuts. The voters are being asked to elect Phil Scott to a high office. They don’t need him to tilt his head and nod sagely; they need to know where he, the actual candidate, stands on the issues. Of course he should be listening, as should any politico worth their salt. But the time for listening is the rest of the two-year cycle. Now, in the final eight weeks of campaign season, is the time when you define yourself so the voters can make an informed choice. 

You do want voters to make an informed choice, don’t you? Well, maybe not. 

Corren saw through the bullcrap: 

“It’s a tried-and-true method for the incumbent to avoid debates and attempt to skate in under the radar.”

Yup. And especially true for an incumbent whose entire stock-in-trade is foggy blandness. 

Another thing. Of the four scheduled debates, three are in the state’s northwest quadrant — two in Burlington, one tentatively in Johnson, and one at the Tunbridge Fair, this Friday at 9 on WDEV’s Mark Johnson Show.  Nothing in the southern half of the state. Nothing in the Northeast Kingdom.

Phil Scott, Man Of The People, is hiding behind a faulty fig leaf of an excuse, and minimizing the chances that The People will actually learn where he stands on the issues. 

Phil Scott, chicken. 

Milne campaign shifts into… er… second gear

About a week ago, I wrote a piece lambasting the Scott Milne campaign for scheduling an un-grand total of two days’ worth of campaign events in an entire week. 

Well, the schedule’s out for this week. And the good news is, it’s a vast improvement in the week before. Monday 9/8 is the only day that’s unscheduled, and there are multiple events almost every day.

Details in a moment, but first a word about his alleged running mate, Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott. He’s maintaining a busy schedule of his own, and none of it includes Scott Milne. As far as I know, the Lite-Gov hasn’t made a public appearance with Milne since Milne’s campaign launch — and then, Phil Scott stayed in the background. He didn’t say a word. Unlike Jim Douglas, who has made dutiful appearances on Milne’s behalf. I realize that Phil Scott has to fend off Dean Corren, and he seems completely preoccupied with that task. But if he’s trying to build a more inclusive VTGOP, shouldn’t he be doing everything he can to prop up Milne? He’s probably Milne’s only hope for building a positive public image. And he ain’t lifting a finger to help anybody but Phil Scott. 

Okay, back to This Week In Scott Milne. He spent much of the weekend at the State Fair in Rutland, presumably pressing the flesh and kissing babies or whatever it is that politicians do these days. (Pretending to enjoy deep-fried foods? Wearing funny hats?) 

He also found time to attend Republican events in Barre Town and Essex, plus a Private Reception (open up your wallets, good people) in Hartford. Tuesday will be spent in Newport, visiting businesses and the hospital, taping an interview on community access TV (which is kinda sad, in and of itself), and holding another Private Reception in Derby. 

Wednesday’s mostly a Washington County day; meeting with veterans, visiting Norwich University and the Barre American Legion, plus doing VPR’s Vermont Edition and hanging out with the Vermont Grocers Association in Burlington. 

Thursday and Friday are devoted to the Tunbridge Fair; he’ll also do a Meet and Greet (wallets, people) in Killington. 

Good stuff. 

Of course, it’s the kind of good stuff he should have been doing last year, if he had serious hopes of building a statewide movement. Holding fundraisers, meeting with Republican groups and businessfolks, touring different parts of the state. 

By now, he ought to have built grassroots support and name recogniation, and should be spending more time holding news conferences and doing media interviews wherever he can find a camera or microphone, and making the rounds of every daily and weekly newspaper in the state. There are only two media events thee ntire week — VPR, which is good, and NEK-TV, which is, all due respect to community access television, not. A major-party candidate for Governor should be getting his face on the big three TV stations, not on community access cable.

Of course, in order to hold news conferences, he’d need to have some news to announce. We’re now into the second week of September, and we’re still waiting for Scott Milne to start unveiling his platform. What does he want to do about health care, taxation, the economy, school governance and funding, energy, the environment? How would he refocus Act 250 and balance development with conservation? 

We… still… don’t… now. It’s now less than two months until Election Day, and Scott Milne is still a policy cipher. His attacks on Governor Shumlin have been strong and tough at times, and milktoast at times. And sometimes in the same paragraph. 

His number-one problem remains his lack of money, and his apparent inability to raise funds outside of his immediate friends and family. But beyond that, he’s got serious trouble with defining himself and building name-recognition. Things that, again, should have been done months and months ago.