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August 24, 2012

Hot Off the Press: Newspapers Back Donovan for AG

TJ endorsement

Updated below: Donovan racks up another newspaper endorsement.

In the closing days of the race for the Democratic nomination for attorney general, newspaper endorsements are steadily trickling in. And, as with endorsements from politicians not named Howard Dean, Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan appears to be cleaning up.

Last Friday the Stowe Reporter and Waterbury Record, which are both owned by Biddle Duke, weighed in — arguing that Donovan has "innovative ideas... and the leadership skills to put those ideas to work." Sorrell, the papers' editorial board wrote, "has appeared distant and remote — at least until he faced a real challenger."

On Wednesday, St. Albans Messenger publisher Emerson Lynn used the "R" word as well to describe the incumbent AG: "Mr. Sorrell's extended tenure has made him more remote, less approachable. He's lost that personal connection that Mr. Donovan would restore." Sorrell's challenger, Lynn wrote, "is capable of communicating at a level that will benefit Vermonters directly. He is one among us and looks at problems at a community level, which is where he lives and works."

Lynn followed up Thursday with another, more pointed editorial — this one arguing that by waging a fight at the U.S. Supreme Court to limit the influence of money in politics and then accepting nearly $200,000 in support from a "super PAC," Sorrell was being a tad inconsistent: "But isn't it hypocritical to argue against the influence of big money in Vermont politics, and then be the beneficiary of such largess without the slightest hint of regret or opposition?"

On Friday, the Burlington Free Press weighed in, giving its kiss of death — ahem, I mean endorsement — to Donovan as well. As Seven Days has snarkily noted over the years, the Freeps' has a nearly spotless record in endorsing the eventual loser of Burlington mayoral races. Since 1981, the city's paper of record has only once picked the winner of a mayor's race: when it chose Progressive Peter Clavelle over Republican Kurt Wright in 1999. You may recall that in March, the Freep's picked Wright over eventual winner Miro Weinberger.

To be fair, the point of an endorsement is not at all to pick a winner. And, anyway, the Freeps' track record of endorsing successful candidates at the statewide level is far better. In 2010, the paper chose Democrat Peter Shumlin over Republican Brian Dubie. And during former Republican governor Jim Douglas' reign, the Freeps stuck with him over his unsuccessful rivals.

Writing on behalf of the Freep's three-member editorial board — which also includes publisher Jim Fogler and executive editor Mike Townsend — editorial page editor Aki Soga argues that Donovan "will bring a new energy" to the AG's office, presenting "an alternative to the comforts of incumbency." Needless to say, the Freeps gives Donovan points for stressing government transparency throughout his campaign.

Will any more Vermont newspapers put their fingers on the scale in the next couple of days? Two that won't are the Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus, which are both owned by John Mitchell. Editorial page editor David Moats tells Seven Days that, as the two papers often do, they are sitting out the primary election.

Update — August 27, 12 p.m.

Donovan took home another newspaper endorsement this weekend. The Valley News, which is based in Lebanon, N.H., but which covers Upper Valley towns on both sides of the Connecticut River, wrote Saturday that it supports Donovan for two reasons: The paper believes Donovan would prioritize developing alternatives to incarceration in Vermont and would "more forcefully promote increased openness for police records of all kind." 

Photo by Paul Heintz

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