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January 21, 2010

As Goes Massachusetts, So Goes Vermont?

Britton Does Republican Scott Brown's U.S. Senate victory Tuesday bode well for Republicans in another liberal New England state like Vermont?

Republicans say — of course. Brown's victory over Democrat Martha Coakley means that senate seat will be held by the GOP for the first time in almost 40 years.

"Last night's victory has shown that momentum is on our side," wrote Steve Larrabee, state GOP chairman, in an email fundraising pitch to donors.

Republican Len Britton, who is challenging U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), said Brown's victory is good news for his fledgling campaign. Leahy also faces a Democratic challenger, Daniel Freilich.

Britton sent his campaign manager, Dan Riley, to Massachusetts to help with last-minute get-out-the-vote efforts.

“Massachusetts voters are sending a true statesman to Washington to represent them. Scott ran a positive, issue-based campaign, worked endlessly, and will thankfully be the 41st vote to stop the healthcare plan Washington is trying to cram down Americans' throats," said Britton. "His race was about policy, for the people, and will be heard across the country for years to come."

Britton is currently on a “Citizen Legislator Listening Tour” campaigning around Vermont.

"I think people are tired of what they see as an entrenched political class," said Britton. If elected, he said he would only serve two terms.

But he's up against one of the most powerful Democrats in the country — and someone who has enjoyed deep, bipartisan support in election years.

Leahy, first elected in 1974, brings home millions of dollars in federal “pork” and is the third longest-serving Democrat in the U.S. Senate. He chairs the judiciary committee and is the second most senior Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Carolyn Dwyer, Leahy's campaign manager, said not too much should be read into the Massachusetts election tea leaves.

"All politics is local, and Vermonters are well aware that Vermont is not Massachusetts," said Dwyer. "Senator Leahy has never taken any election for granted, and this election is no different. He enjoys strong support in Vermont because he has always been there for Vermonters when they have needed him, from businesses looking to expand to farmers who need a helping hand. His record of service for Vermont speaks for itself."

Britton said his campaign is refusing any money from political action committees. His campaign headquarters will be based in Rutland.

While Leahy's camp may not feel too threatened by the loss of Coakley in Massachusetts, state Democrats are taking no chances.

"This defeat serves as a wake-up call to all Democrats," wrote state party chairwoman Judy Bevans in a fundraising pitch to Vermont Democrats. "If we want real change, we need to work twice as hard to achieve it."

At his weekly press conference, Republican Gov. Jim Douglas, who is chairman of the National Governor's Association, said the GOP victory on Tuesday bodes well for his party this fall — especially his chosen successor Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie.

"I think it bodes well for the party for the rest of the year," said Douglas. The Massachusetts victory, following on the heels of gubernatorial wins in Virginia and New Jersey, "puts the wind at our back."

Douglas believes Brown's victory was, in part, a referendum on Pres. Barack Obama, but also expressed a frustration voters have with "one-party" rule.

"One-party domination is not good, whether it is in Washington or Montpelier," said Douglas.

 

It seems like many voters in Massachusetts kept a pact to vote for Teddy until he died. Because of that, they've been oxygen starved for fifty years and were looking for any breath of fresh air they could get. What's his face just happened to come along and kinda provide that, I guess.

The results in Massachusetts have little bearing on Leahy's re-election chances. Especially if his opponent is going to refuse PAC money. If Britton would allow in the potential flood of PAC money waiting at his gates, he'd be in a good position.


I'm kidding.

One party rule that's an interesting thing to bring up. There was six years of one party rule when Bush was president. That led to corruption and incomptence. It seems that the voters in Massachusetts want to go backward. Mr Brown will have to do something other than look good on camera. He represents the failed Republican policies of Bush. That will play itself out in the next few months.

Teddy was reelected because of two reasons: first, he got things done. He knew how to get other politicians to go along and get along. Second, he brought home the bacon. If Smith doesn't try to do these, he's a one termer.

I don't think that Leahy, Sanders, and Welch have to worry about the same thing happening here. They DO work well with the other party (well, the ones that aren't bat$h!+ insane) and they DO bring home the bacon to Vermont.

And remember--this is a much smaller state and the three are more visible to the voting population. I lived in California for over 10 years and never met my representatives. Here, I run into them all the time at Shaw's, bookstores, Skinny Pancake...it's both refreshing and strange. That counts for a lot. For many people, just getting to tell Pat Leahy that they think he needs to go harder on Obama's domestic surveillance policy is enough to satisfy them.

Second, the three are popular with the average Vermonter. This, despite the frustrations you read in the Freep's comments pages. Those sad, tired, and bitter commentors are not the average Vermonter--as much as xcel1, horde33, and realvt would like you to believe. (I wish the Freep would require REAL names as they do on the editorial page.) People in this state seem to genuinely like our representatives.

I DO think that the "Holy Trinity" have some 'splainen to do. What's been done since January of last year? A recovery package that was too little. Health care reform that's stalled out and falling to earth. No real changes to the war on "terra". They can only blame the other side for so long. the mistake was thinking that the Republicans wanted bipartisanship. They never did.

If the House and Senate don't take some bold and perhaps radical steps to fix the economy--get people back to work so that they spend to buy so that more people go back to work so that they spend...they don't deserve their jobs. And please, if the economy isn't measurably better in November, if people don't see improvements happening and improvements day by day, don't tell me I must vote for Democrats or things will get worse. At that point, many voters will say "Prove it."

What the heck is a Citizen Legislator Listening Tour? Wasn't that a Beatles album?

Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts should be a wake up call for Senator Patrick Leahy. Leahy, who has lived inside the D.C. Beltway for thirty-five years, could be the poster child for the arrogant, old-boy politics voters just dramatically rejected.

A recent, egregious example of Leahy’s out-of-touch behavior was his and his wife’s, taxpayer funded trip to a luxury spa in England. Adding insult to financial injury, Leahy’s boondoggle came at a critical time in the health care debate. Instead of staying in Vermont during the senate recess, talking to constituents and explaining the issues to us directly, he bolted town on our dime. If we had questions or concerns, his website coolly instructed us to send an email.

But, defenders of the status quo will argue Leahy has too much seniority to be vulnerable. This logic doesn’t hold up to the fact that the even more powerful Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will likely lose his seat in November. Closer to home, Sen. Chris Dodd from Connecticut, another thirty year veteran, read the tea leaves and his tanking poll numbers and has already bowed out of his race.

Leahy’s campaign touts his seniority which allows him to bring home lots of pork and finagle back-room deals for Vermont, like the kind Ben Nelson got for Nebraska on health care (the Cornhusker Kickback) and Mary Landrieu got for her state (the Louisiana Purchase). But voters are fed up with these kinds of corrupt and/or sleazy inside-the-beltway dealings. It is precisely Leahy’s style of graft politics and earmark budgeting that has put our country in the debt-ridden, financial crisis we face today. It is at the heart of why regular citizens have lost faith in how government operates.

But, Brown’s victory aside, Vermont is not Massachusetts. True. Vermont is actually more conservative than the Bay State. Vermont Republicans hold three of nine statewide offices, Massachusetts Republicans hold just one (Brown) of eighteen. In the statehouses, Massachusetts Republicans hold just 10 percent of the seats as opposed to Vermont Republicans who hold about 30 percent. Len Britton, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate for Vermont, will be starting out with a much smaller gap to close, and more time to close it.

But, whatever the issues or the demographics, Leahy raised $3 million for his war chest. Ask ex-New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine how much a mega-bankroll helped his campaign for re-election. What should alarm Vermonters is the fact that of the $3 million Leahy collected, roughly $2.8 million has come from out of state and from special interests, much of it from California (FEC, Sept Filing Report, http://query.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/can_ind/2009_S4VT00017) Voters are sick and tired of politicians who aren’t connected to and aren’t listening to them. This is what voters think is wrong with Washington.

Indeed, over the past three and a half decades Leahy has come to have more in common with the Hollywood types he hangs out with like Bono and the cast of Batman than with the average working Vermonters he is supposed to represent. One has to wonder if in a state where the dress code is Carhartt and family budgets are hurting, the voters will find they’ve had enough of being represented a guy just named one of GQ’s “District Dandies” for his high-end banker’s attire and “groovy” Panama hats. (GQ.com, January 2010) http://www.gq.com/style/style-guy/201001/best-worst-dressed-politicians-style-dc-slideshow#slide=7)

What should be most worrisome for Leahy is the fact that Len Britton is an attractive, articulate candidate who is everything that Leahy is not. Britton, running as a true citizen legislator, has never held elected office. His experience is down to earth: running a small lumber and feed business, employing people, meeting payroll, and raising a family of five children in Vermont. Scott Brown may drive a truck, but Len Britton drives a forklift – and he gets what Vermonters are going through. Does Len Britton have an uphill climb ahead? Yes. But is it doable? Given Pat Leahy’s record and the mood of the country… absolutely.

And yet, Robert, Pat Leahy has high approval ratings from Vermonters. He works with those on both sides of the aisle. Even Republicans such as Orrin Hatch like him and know that he listens to what they say and will compromise if he can.

Pat Leahy brings government contracts and money to Vermont. I don't care if he stars in the next Batman film as the villian. I don't care how he dresses. He makes more money than me? Good for him. He has consistently voted for the average Vermonter.

I think Britton is going to have a very tough fight which he'll lose. Of course, the teabaggin' websites you're getting your astroturf information from ("like the kind Ben Nelson got for Nebraska on health care (the Cornhusker Kickback) and Mary Landrieu got for her state (the Louisiana Purchase). But voters are fed up with these kinds of corrupt and/or sleazy inside-the-beltway dealings. [...] of graft politics and earmark budgeting that has put our country in the debt-ridden, financial crisis we face today. "), don't tell the real story. Yeah, I read those sites too. Nice cut and paste job.

It isn't "graft politics and earmark budgeting" that have put the country in the hole. Bush came to office with a surplus that he squandered in a dick measuring contest in the mid-East. And giving Halliburton and other companies a free ATM card to the treasury didn't help.

Sir Winston,

Leahy and his supporters will not doubt make that case. We'll see which one wins out in November. But as for your assertion that Leahy is a non-partisan, well liked, reaching hands across the aisle kind of guy, I have to disagree.

From The Hill magazine last year: "The Hill asked all 99 seated senators which member of the opposing party they most enjoyed partnering with on legislation. The senators were also quizzed (on a not-for-attribution basis) about their least favorite.

"Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) are the easiest senators to work with, while Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) are the most partisan members of the upper chamber, according to a survey conducted by The Hill."

Whatever his image is here, in DC, Leahy is a highly partisan figure and not well liked by peers. And such partisanship is falling out of favor these days.

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