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September 04, 2009

Salmon: Political Fish Out of Water?

Will Democratic State Auditor Thomas M. Salmon, the son of a former Democratic Vermont governor leave the party and become ... a Republican?

That's the question lighting up comment threads on one prominent liberal blog as well as one prominent conservative blog. It's also been a topic of a story earlier this week in the Rutland Herald.There are rumors abound that Salmon will run for reelection as a Republican—even run for governor as a Republican if Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie takes a pass on the race.

Salmon Salmon (pictured right) told Seven Days he plans to issue a statement Tuesday to clear up the air around his intentions, but doesn't expect to make any concrete decisions in the immediate future.

"I'll make some statement on my intentions, but it's not going to be a big glamorous proclamation," said Salmon. Instead, it's likely to outline how he's approaching the question, and what information he'll seek out in the coming weeks before making a final decision.

He's already been seeking the counsel of friends and family, stopping by his father's house last night in southern Vermont. "My dad told me to count to twenty," said Salmon. Meanwhile, a legislative friend told him to "count to thirty."

His father, Thomas P. Salmon, was governor from 1973 to 1977.

"I'm sure that anybody looking at me right now would wonder if I'm committing political suicide or just being politically opportunistic," said Salmon. "The bottom line is: I don't need to be auditor. I don't need to be governor. So I'm in this place where I just say what I mean and mean what I say and that hasn't sat well with the Democratic party."

Salmon ruffled legislative feathers this year when he offered to mediate talks between Republican Gov. Jim Douglas and the Democratically-controlled legislature. Salmon believed both sides were talking past each other, and he hoped he could broker a more focused discussion. Lawmakers, meanwhile, saw it as political opportunism that fed into the Douglas meme that the legislature was out of touch.

"At the time, I told lawmakers that the the state would benefit from more conservative Democrats or Republicans in the mix so there is more of sense of teamwork and more of a balance," said Salmon.

That concept went over like a lead sinker in a pond full of loons.

Branded by liberals as a Republican — in the way that former Gov. Howard Dean was pegged a "Republican in drag" for his conservative fiscal policies — Salmon faces this dilemma: Remain a conservative Democrat and continue to be isolated, if not ridiculed by some left of center folks in the party, or become a liberal Republican?

Salmon said he is talking with Democratic candidates for governor, lawmakers, friends, and his family as he tries to chart his political course.

"For me, I need to do what's right and follow my heart and be transparent about it," said Salmon. "I would want my supporters to know exactly what I was thinking so they could understand this was a principled decision and since. If I decide to switch it would be purpose-driven, not strategic."

While nationally the GOP has spurned moderate to liberal Republicans (which led to the famous switch of Sen. Jim Jeffords from a Republican to an independent), in Vermont there is a move among younger factions of the GOP to lure socially liberal and fiscally conservative pols into the GOP fold.

"We would certainly welcome Tom Salmon into the party," said Vermont Republican Party chairman Rob Roper.

And, why not? Salmon's switch would be a major coup for the Vermont GOP, and one of the most high-profile switches in recent memory. With only Douglas and Dubie holding top statewide spots as Republicans, Salmon could also quickly become a titular figure for the party in short order.

If Salmon needs any advice on what it's like to switch parties, he should ask Rep. Andy Donaghy (R-Poultney). He left the Democratic party after winning a House seat in 2002, defeating four-term incumbent Rep. Fred Maslack (R). In fact, during the election he almost left the party to run as an independent.

Donaghy fully switched parties after 2002 and won reelection as a Republican in 2004. Ironically, the Democrats were in the minority in 2002 and the Republicans in 2004.

Donaghy said Salmon may need to leave the party in order to feel more at home, at least when it comes to fiscal priorities.

"He's got be true to himself and to feel comfortable in his own skin, and if he professes to be fiscally conservative that's just not the way to go in the Democratic Party right now," said Donaghy.

Donaghy said if  Dubie were to not run for governor, he would likely support Salmon for governor as Republican — and believes other GOP lawmakers would too.

I particularly appreciate this quote:

"The bottom line is: I don't need to be auditor. I don't need to be governor. So I'm in this place where I just say what I mean and mean what I say and that hasn't sat well with the Democratic party."

Well, yeah. If you're part of a party it's because you made intentional - some might even say thoughtful, moral - decisions that led you to choose a party. So when you are out there saying what you mean -- and what you mean is that you think the folks you CHOSE to join stink -- folks tend not to like it.

And Tom, we also may not NEED you to be any kind of elected official. Just sayin.'

Good for him for being public about being a moderate. God knows this state could use more of them -- a lot more.

the really funny / ironic thing is that Jim Douglas is not fiscally conservative; he's just a guy who dislikes government and would rather privatize many of its functions (and the only savings would accrue from lower wages for Vermonters)

example, what was fiscally prudent about saying no to the proposed purchase of the (reliable, renewable, and cost-effective) Conn. River dams? just a huge lost opportunity

likewise, what was fiscally prudent about saying no to the "all fuels efficiency" bill? his own DPS consultants said it would save residents & businesses $500 million (at a return on investment of 3 or 4 to 1); another huge lost opportunity

and what is fiscally prudent about VEPC's tax "incentives"? three different Auditors have found it to be a wasteful program (and BTW - why isn't Tom Salmon fighting for the latest Audit of VEPC that found it was wasting money?)

and what is fiscally prudent about trying to shrink the Corrections Dept. while paying a private company to take more and more of our prisoners? he will say it's cheaper but they hope (eventually) to pay the company (Corrections Corp. of America) to build a private prison in NH; sure, use taxpayer money to pay a private for-profit company to build a prison in a neighboring state; if we pay for it, why shouldn't we own it? and why should we pay to shift jobs out of state?

and what was fiscally prudent about his efforts to lower the tax rates for the wealthy as a trade off for eliminating the (absurd) 40% capital gains exclusion? he wanted to make sure it was "revenue neutral" - translation, don't reap the savings from eliminating a misguided policy; rather, use the savings to (further) enrich the wealthy who have benefitted disproportionately from federal & state tax changes

and what is fiscally prudent about cutting state jobs that are paid with federal money? it's all about shrinking gov't. even if we don't realize any savings

and what is fiscally prudent about the Gov. paying a group of PR flacks hundreds of thousands of dollars?

and what is fiscally prudent about the Gov. receiving over $15,000 per year in per diem food allowances when he earns over $100,000?

right, Jim Douglas is a shining beacon of fiscal prudence
what a crock

Yay! Shrink government!

Wow, I didn't think it would be this easy to convince voters that my hand picked replacement, Salmon, was a moderate.

Look into my eyes and repeat after me.

Salmon is a moderate, Salmon is a moderate. Salmon is a moderate. Once the election is over you will snap back into reality.

and just to remind everybody how skewed any of this is, Mazza called Shumlin the most moderate Dem in the field. If that's true, Salmon is Dick Cheney

It's true: the political spectrum in Vermont is so tilted toward Bolshevism that Salmon qualifies as a moderate. Now that's sad.

And BTW, Mazza knows damn well that Shumlin isn't a moderate, but he also knows that Shumlin's in charge of his little 30-member club.

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