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Election 2014

February 07, 2014

On Trip to Vegas, Shumlin Met With Potential DGA Donors

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Shumlin and Health Commissioner Harry Chen spoke at a Burlington press conference Friday

Gov. Peter Shumlin said Friday that while in Las Vegas this week, he "made a couple of fundraising visits" to potential donors to the Democratic Governors Association. But he would not say whether he raised any gold for his own reelection campaign while on his trip to the Silver State.

Shumlin traveled to Vegas on Wednesday to attend the National Association of Home Builders' annual meeting and trade show, at which the gov said he "spoke with the home builders about jobs and the work we're doing in Vermont to try to boost housing." The two-day trip was paid for by the DGA, a partisan electoral organization of which he is chairman. 

As Seven Days reported this week, the organization's nonprofit advocacy arm and its super PAC raised $28 million last year. Most of that came from five- and six-figure contributions from special interest groups, including labor unions and the pharmaceutical, insurance, telecom and tech industries.

Neither the DGA nor the governor's office responded to questions posed by Seven Days over the past week about whether Shumlin would be taking part in any fundraising activities while out-of-state. But Shumlin confirmed at a Friday press conference at Burlington's Community Health Center that he had.

Continue reading "On Trip to Vegas, Shumlin Met With Potential DGA Donors" »

February 06, 2014

This Week's Issue: A Neighborly Noise Feud in Burlington, 'Border' Security and Maple Saplings

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Find these news and politics stories in this week's Seven Days...

February 03, 2014

Amidst Talk of Presidential Run, Sanders Ramped up Political Fundraising in 2013

BernieSen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) ramped up his political fundraising last year as he hinted at a possible 2016 run for president, according to new documents filed late last week.

In the second half of 2013, Sanders raised nearly $327,000 for Progressive Voters of America, a "leadership political action committee" he recently revived. The second-term senator, who does not face reelection until 2018, raised an additional $15,000 for his traditional campaign account in the final three months of the year.

Year-end fundraising and spending reports filed Friday with the Federal Election Committee show that all three members of Vermont's congressional delegation — Sanders, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.) — have come to rely upon so-called leadership PACs to conduct political business. In addition to their traditional campaign accounts, members of Congress can establish such entities to raise money and spend it for political purposes, though not explicitly on their own reelection campaigns.

Before last year, Leahy led the way in steering support to a leadership PAC; his is called Green Mountain PAC. But in March, Welch filed paperwork to establish his own, called Maple PAC. And in July, Sanders announced to his email list that he would focus on building up Progressive Voters of America, a leadership PAC he founded in 2004, but which never previously raised more than $51,000 per quarter. Sanders said at the time he hoped to use the group to "create a strong grass-roots movement in all 50 states, and work hard to elect progressive candidates at the local, state and national level."

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A Place on Burlington's Ballot Eludes a 'Lost Boy'

LM-peterdeng-MTPeter Garang Deng, a former “Lost Boy” from South Sudan, was poised to become the first refugee to seek elected office in Vermont. But the city clerk last week barred Deng from running for a seat on the Burlington school board because he failed to submit the required number of valid signatures on his candidate petition form.

“It’s very unfair,” Deng said after being notified of his disqualification. “They should be more welcoming of candidates.”

The 27-year-old employment counselor for the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program added that his disappointment is such that he’s unlikely to run for office in Vermont in the future. And that’s a potential loss for those who would like to see more racially diverse representation in the nation’s second-whitest state. (Only Maine is more monochromatic).

Burlington’s 16-member school board may be especially in need of a broader racial mix. There are no people of color on the board sets policy for a school district whose students are 30 percent nonwhite.

Continue reading "A Place on Burlington's Ballot Eludes a 'Lost Boy'" »

January 27, 2014

Candidates Declare for Seven Open Burlington City Council Seats

Two Republicans — one veteran and one newcomer — are seeking to hold onto their party’s meager presence on the Burlington City Council.

Monday marked the filing deadline for council hopefuls, meaning that the candidate pool for the seven open seats has solidified. Elections will be held on Town Meeting Day, March 4. 

Democrats and Republicans are vying for two seats in Ward 4 and Ward 7; if Democrats secure both, they would lay claim to all four New North End seats, leaving Republicans without representation on the council.

Democrats currently control seven seats on the 14-seat council, while Progressives hold four, Independents two and Republicans one. Two incumbent Democrats and one Republican opted to vacate their seats this spring rather than seek reelection.

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Shumlin Names Fox's Widower, Michael Sirotkin, to Vermont Senate

Sirotkin.FoxGov. Peter Shumlin on Monday named South Burlington attorney and lobbyist Michael Sirotkin to replace his late wife, Sally Fox, in the Vermont Senate. 

Sirotkin was one of three candidates recommended to the governor last Wednesday by members of the Chittenden County Democratic Committee. The others were Williston Selectboard member Debbie Ingram and Burlington management consultant Dawn Ellis.

"There were several exceptional candidates interested in this Senate seat," Shumlin said in a written statement. "But Sally wanted her husband to fill her seat after her death, and recognizing Sirotkin's strong qualifications, I'm honoring that request. I'm confident that Michael will continue the great work Sally did for the district and the state."

Continue reading "Shumlin Names Fox's Widower, Michael Sirotkin, to Vermont Senate" »

January 24, 2014

Fired Planning Chief Considering Challenge to Montpelier Mayor

HallsmithTwo months after her firing as the City of Montpelier's planning and community development director, Gwendolyn Hallsmith says she's seriously considering running for mayor of Vermont's capital city. 

"My motivation for running is to continue to give citizens a voice in their future and to make sure their voice is not forgotten," she says.

Hallsmith (pictured at right) says she is collecting signatures to put her name on the ballot and is "tentatively" planning to announce her bid on February 5, though she says she may still reconsider. 

Hallsmith would face off against Mayor John Hollar, with whom she publicly tangled throughout the fall. After she was put on paid leave in November, Hallsmith accused the mayor of orchestrating her ouster because of her outspoken advocacy for public banking. Hollar is a contract lobbyist whose clients include Wells Fargo and Bank of America.

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Progressives Poised to Take Over Ward 1 Seat in Burlington City Council Race

600819_10150872857517031_1721988787_n(2)Progressive Selene Colburn (pictured at right) has all but secured a seat on the Burlington City Council. Her Democratic opponent for the open Ward 1 seat, Molly Loomis, has dropped out of the race.

Loomis’ exit likely clears the way for Progressives to at least retain their four seats on the 14-member council. They could claim a fifth, depending on what happens in Ward 2, where former Vermont Democratic Party spokesman Ryan Emerson is challenging Progressive Councilor Max Tracy.

Tracy is one of four Progressives currently serving on the council.  Democrats occupy seven seats, while independents hold two and Republicans one. Independent Councilor Sharon Bushor often votes alongside the Progressive caucus. 

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January 23, 2014

A Lobbyist in the Legislature? How Sirotkin Would Segue to the Senate

SirotkinThere's no shortage of teachers, lawyers and retirees serving in the Vermont legislature. But just what would happen if one of Montpelier's top lobbyists — a co-owner and namesake of one of its most influential firms — were to join the Vermont Senate? 

That's the question many in the Capitol are pondering as Gov. Peter Shumlin appears likely to appoint Michael Sirotkin to a vacant Chittenden County Senate seat.

As the widower of the late Sen. Sally Fox, whose seat he would fill, Sirotkin would, in many ways, be a natural pick. But as a contract lobbyist with a three-decade history of influencing his (potential) peers, his appointment could raise some novel questions.

Recognizing that, Sirotkin says that, if appointed, "I would be resigning from my practice immediately." 

And he wouldn't simply serve out Fox's term in a caretaker role, then return to lobbying. If appointed, he says, "I would most likely run in 2014."

Nor would he remain an owner of Sirotkin & Necrason. "I would not seek to retain an interest in my firm," he says.

But even if he severed all ties with the lobby shop, would Sirotkin not feel some residual loyalty to his former partners and clients? Would it be difficult to make the transition?

"There would be some challenges. I think not as many as people would think," he says. "Of course, most of the people I've advocated for directly are grassroots kinds of interests, and those are the kinds of interests I'm most interested in."

Continue reading "A Lobbyist in the Legislature? How Sirotkin Would Segue to the Senate" »

January 21, 2014

Donovan Says He Won't Challenge Sorrell for Attorney General in 2014

TJ DonovanAfter months of deliberation, Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan has decided he won't challenge Attorney General Bill Sorrell to a rematch this year.

"In the final analysis, I came to the conclusion it's not the right time for me personally and professionally," Donovan said Monday. 

Instead, the two-term county prosecutor said, "It's likely that I'll run again for state's attorney."

In August 2012, Donovan (pictured at right) came within 714 votes of unseating Sorrell, who was first appointed to the post in 1997. The unusual and remarkably bitter primary pitted against one another two Burlington Democrats from interconnected families. Ever since, the 40-year-old Donovan has publicly and privately hinted that he might give the 66-year-old incumbent another run for his money. 

But last week, Donovan said, he finally decided against it.

"I've been struggling with it for quite some time," he said. "Literally my mind would change every morning when I woke up. I'd feel one way one day and the next day I'd feel another way. And, you know, I had to make a decision, so I did."

Continue reading "Donovan Says He Won't Challenge Sorrell for Attorney General in 2014" »

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