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August 2012

August 31, 2012

Pressed for Time, Shumlin Nixes AARP Debate

Shumlin podiumFor months, Gov. Peter Shumlin has been dodging questions about Republican challenger Randy Brock, telling reporters there'd be plenty of time for "silly season" after Labor Day.

Now — on the day his campaign finally announced a forthcoming campaign kickoff event — Shumlin's campaign manager is saying there's not enough time left for the governor to take part in debates held by "special interest groups."

That includes AARP Vermont's traditional gubernatorial debate, which has been held on Vermont Public Television each election cycle since Jim Douglas went tete-a-tete with Doug Racine in 2002. This year it was scheduled for Sept. 18 in South Burlington and was to be moderated, as usual, by former Vermont Public Radio reporter Steve Delaney.

"The reason is because there are roughly eight weeks left before the election, and while the governor is absolutely going to be campaigning, he's going to be focusing on the job Vermonters elected him to do," newly-minted Shumlin campaign manager Alex MacLean said Friday. "If he were to say yes to every request that came in, he would be spending all of his time campaigning."

Asked if she was, in fact, serious that the Shumlin campaign would suggest it was crunched for time after kicking the campaign can down the road for months, MacLean said she was.

"Seriously," she said. "The governor still needs to be governor of the state. He has to balance both campaigning and governing."

Continue reading "Pressed for Time, Shumlin Nixes AARP Debate" »

Could Annette Smith Still Win the Prog Nomination for Governor?


Three days after the Vermont primary elections, there's one nail-biter of a race still in contention.

Could Annette Smith — a write-in candidate for governor on the Progressive Party ticket — unseat party chair Martha Abbott as the party's pick for opposing Peter Shumlin?

Smith's supporters won't officially know until next week how their upstart, seat-of-the-pants write-in campaign panned out. The Secretary of State's unofficial tally shows Abbott leading over write-in votes (not all of which may be for Smith) 304-248. With only 77 percent of precincts reporting, Smith supporter Stephanie Kaplan thinks the race could be much closer. She put in a call to Craftsbury, where Smith's fierce opposition of the Lowell wind project has won over some fans, and learned that 33 voters chose a write-in candidate on the Prog ticket. Newark counts another eight. 

In other words, it's a tight race — which is a surprising turn of events in a contest announced just two weeks before the primary, and particularly one in which the candidate herself has refused to campaign, make speeches, or even engage with reporters beyond the reminder (as she told this Seven Dayzer on August 14) that she'd be happy to talk about her advocacy work but not her election.

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Former Governor Howard Dean is Now on Twitter — And He Loves String Cheese Incident


Can anyone hear your Dean scream on Twitter?

Howard Dean has joined Madeleine Kunin (but not Jim Douglas) on the list of former Vermont governors on Twitter with username @GovHowardDean. He started tweeting back in June, but it's only in the last couple of weeks that he's found his stride. At the moment, Dean seems particularly enamored of the retweet button but when the former governor speaks for himself in his tweets, it's as good as you'd expect. 

Dean started his Twitter life with a scream joke. So self-aware.



Continue reading "Former Governor Howard Dean is Now on Twitter — And He Loves String Cheese Incident" »

The Scoreboard: This Week's Winners and Losers

Over the next few weeks, we'll be launching a few regular features here on Seven Days' brand-spanking-new politics blog, Off Message. Today, we're debuting The Scoreboard, a weekly reckoning of winners and losers in Vermont politics and news.

We're aiming to avoid the completely obvious. For instance, you won't find Attorney General Bill Sorrell in the winner column this week — or Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan in the loser column. Instead, using a very scientific — but super secret — formula, we'll bring you a less-predictable list of the people, organizations and ideas we think are up and down in this week's news cycle.

Care to make a nomination? E-mail us by the end of the day Thursday with your ideas. We promise to keep your suggestions to ourselves.

Now, to The Scoreboard, for the week of August 31.


  • Assistant Attorneys General — Bill Sorrell is undoubtedly pretty stoked that he held on to his job for another two years, but so too are his top deputies in the Vermont Attorney General's office. We don't know how many lawyers would've had to update their resumes if Donovan had defeated the incumbent, but you can bet a bunch of J.D.s were cracking open bottles of champagne on the third floor of the Pavilion Wednesday morning.
  • Vermont Television Stations — Sure, out-of-state "super PACs" might be bad for democracy, but they're great for Vermont's television stations. Absent the intervention of the pro-Sorrell Committee for Justice and Fairness into the AG's race, it's unlikely a down-ballot, August primary would've featured TV ads. But by plunking down at least $145,000 on 30-second spots — and then watching their candidate cling to victory by the narrowest of margins — the group showed that TV can make the difference in a tight race. And that's good news for the ad reps over at WCAX, WPTZ and FOX 44.
  • Ryan Emerson — Donovan may have lost his bid for AG, but his campaign ran a remarkable get-out-the-vote effort in the closing days of the race. Behind it? Newbury native and Donovan campaign manager Ryan Emerson. By all accounts, the former Chittenden County field director for Gov. Peter Shumlin's 2010 primary campaign did a bang-up job running the Donovan operation. His services will surely be in demand in future statewide races.
  • Incumbents — Across the board, established incumbents held on to their jobs during this week's primary, as is typical in Vermont elections. In addition to Sorrell, several legislators — including Sen. Mark MacDonald (D-Orange) and Rep. Bill Aswad (D-Burlington) — held off challengers. All four incumbent Democratic state senators in Chittenden County's six-member district won slots on the party's general election slate. And even in the Republican primary for the two-member Franklin County senate district, which featured no incumbent senators, two House members — Dustin Degree and Norm McAllister — easily dispatched a third candidate, Joe Sinagra, who had never held office.


  • Labor — For the second election cycle in a row, the candidate backed by organized labor fell short. Two years ago, it was gubernatorial candidate Doug Racine; this time it was Donovan. Sure, you could argue that the unions got both candidates close to the finish line, but close ain't winning. And given labor's tough talk about the incumbent AG, the unions better hope they don't end up going head-to-head with Sorrell in the next two years.
  • Town Clerks and the Secretary of State's Office — We're not sure exactly where to lay the blame, but it's pretty lame that three days after the election, the Vermont Secretary of State's web site is still only showing the results from 212 of 275 precincts. Sounds like Sec. of State Jim Condos is hoping to remedy that by requiring town clerks to report results on election night. But, I mean, come on. Props go to the Associated Press' impressive election night apparatus, which reported the results of all but 13 precincts by midnight — and all but one by noon on Wednesday. Runner-up props go to WCAX for quickly reporting the AP's results.
  • Aspiring State's Attorneys — One contest that never quite got off the ground was the behind-the-scenes race to replace Donovan as Chittenden County State's Attorney — a choice that would have ultimately been up to Gov. Peter Shumlin. A plum political post for up-and-coming Burlington-area lawyers, this job has been held by such folks as Sen. Patrick Leahy and Sorrell himself. There could still be an opening in two years if Donovan makes another bid for AG. At that point, his four-year term will be expiring and he'll have to make a choice between running for reelection — or not.
  • Ed Adrian — The boisterous Burlington City Councilor seemed to be on an upward trajectory when he announced his candidacy for state senate last spring. But after dropping out of the race a month before the primary — and still somehow grabbing 3615 votes — Adrian announced Thursday that he's also resigning from the city council a quarter of the way through his term. Is Ed Burlington's own Sarah Palin?

August 30, 2012

Vermont is the Most Liberal State in the Union — When It Comes to Reading


That Vermont is among the most liberal places in the United States is not exactly a revelation. But a fun little project from reveals a new slice of political leanings in the Green Mountains.

With the helpful disclaimer "Just remember, books aren't votes," the Internet's leading purveyor of books and other stuff created its own red state-blue state map, based on the books its customers bought in the past 30 days (e.g. Barack Obama's The Audacity of Hope is a "blue" book, while Mitt Romney's memoir Turnaround is a "red" book). Crunching the numbers, Amazon found that 58 percent of book purchases in Vermont come down on the liberal side. That's the highest percentage of any state in America, although Washington DC beats Vermont — a whopping 67 percent of the books purchased there are considered "blue."

Vermont is in pretty rare company as a "blue" state on this map. Just four states plus the District of Columbia purchase more liberal books than conservative ones on Amazon, while 45 states prefer right-leaning books. (California comes down smack in the middle with a 50-50 split.) Overall, 57 percent of political books sold on Amazon are considered conservative.

Another fun stat: the most conservative state, Mississippi, is more "red" than Vermont or D.C. are "blue" — there, 73 percent of the books sold lean right. Bet Bill McKibben won't pay a visit there on his next book tour.

After the jump, find out what Amazon says are Vermont's top-selling "blue" and "red" books.

Continue reading "Vermont is the Most Liberal State in the Union — When It Comes to Reading" »

Super PAC Hits Super PAC for Super PAC-ing


Updated below with comment from Bob Stannard

Demonstrating an apparent dearth of self-awareness, a Vermont-based "super-PAC" whose creation opened the door for super PACs to operate in Vermont released a statement Thursday decrying the influence of an out-of-state super PAC in Tuesday's primary election — and using the situation to justify its own existence.

Got it? Didn't think so. Let me take you back.

Six weeks ago, a liberal advocacy group called Vermont Priorities announced it was launching Vermont's first home-grown super PAC, allowing it to raise and spend unlimited funds on state elections. Why? Because the folks behind it — Vermont Priorities chairman Bob Stannard (pictured) and the group's consultant, KSE's Todd Bailey — were greatly a-feared that big, bad out-of-state super PACs would get all up in Vermont's otherwise pure elections.

By starting their own, way more awesome super PAC, Stannard and Bailey reasoned, they'd be ready to do battle with Karl Rove and the dreaded Koch brothers when those dudes inevitably came to town. Meanwhile, without all those pesky campaign finance restrictions, Vermont Priorities would able to raise and spend as much as they liked to elect their fellow liberals to office!

Continue reading "Super PAC Hits Super PAC for Super PAC-ing" »

20 Years After Clinton-Gore, a Burlington Artist Reflects On His Iconic T-Shirt Design

Curefortheblues-1While Republicans from around the country gather in Tampa this week, a Burlington designer is looking back on his small but significant contribution to a different presidential campaign.

In the summer of 1992, Doug Dunbebin was a graphic artist living in Beltsville, Md. when he came up with a design and slogan for the Clinton-Gore ticket that would soon catch fire and become one of the iconic images of the 1992 and 1996 presidential campaigns.

In June 1992, then-candidate Clinton appeared on the "Arsenio Hall Show" and ripped out a bluesy version of Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel" on his tenor saxophone. It was a seminal moment in Clinton's political career — as Hall remarked afterward, "It's good to see a Democrat blow something other than an election" — and earned him new found respect and support among young and minority voters.


Within weeks, Dunbebin, then 30, created an electric-blue-on-black illustration (above) of Clinton blowing his sax, below the slogan, "The Cure for the Blues."  He printed the design on a few dozen T-shirts and gave them to friends from the National Organization for Women, who were heading to New York City's Madison Square Garden for the Democratic National Convention in mid-July.

Continue reading "20 Years After Clinton-Gore, a Burlington Artist Reflects On His Iconic T-Shirt Design" »

Burlington City Councilor Ed Adrian to Resign

Ed AdrianBurlington City Councilor Ed Adrian (D-Ward 1) is resigning effective September 30. He informed fellow councilors in an email this morning.

Did he do it to spend more time with his family? Adrian tells Seven Days that he's stepping down for a "combination of reasons."

"There's no great revelation there," he says. "I just think the Senate race actually brought some clarity to me and the path I need to choose right now, and it's not one of volunteer political service. It's just the fact that [council service] is a great consumer of time that puts pressure on everything.

"I know that sounds nebulous," he added.

Continue reading "Burlington City Councilor Ed Adrian to Resign" »

August 29, 2012

After Primary Cliffhanger, Sorrell Pivots to Republican Opponent

DSC04153After a late-night cliffhanger of a primary, Democratic Attorney General Bill Sorrell on Tuesday launched the next phase of his bid to keep his job: a general election fight against Republican businessman Jack McMullen.

"I do have a tough race and it's going to be so great to not have it be a primary, because there are very real differences between myself and my Republican opponent," Sorrell told a rowdy crowd of Democrats at a party unity rally staged at Burlington's Main Street Landing.

"For one, I'm admitted to the bar and can practice law in the courts of this state and he can't. He's wealthy; I'm not. He thinks we should drop the Vermont Yankee — the Entergy — appeal. There's no way we're going to do that," Sorrell said. "He thinks our food labeling laws are bad for business. I think they're good for consumers, and I'm going to uphold and enforce those laws."

Sorrell's pivot to the general election came just an hour and a half after Democratic challenger T.J. Donovan conceded to Sorrell by phone, admitting that he'd narrowly lost a rare, intra-party fight against the 15-year incumbent.

The race was too close to call when the candidates went to bed Tuesday night. At that time, Sorrell held a slim, 619-vote lead over Donovan, with the Associated Press still waiting for 13 of 258 precincts to report unofficial results. But as the numbers kept trickling in Wednesday morning, Sorrell held — and even expanded — his lead. As of this writing, Sorrell was up 21,102 to 20,408 — a difference of 694 votes — with just one precinct outstanding, the AP reported. Official, certified results may not be available until next Tuesday, according to Secretary of State Jim Condos.

Continue reading "After Primary Cliffhanger, Sorrell Pivots to Republican Opponent" »

Results from Vermont's Other Big Primary Match-Ups

The attorney general race is getting most of the attention on the morning after Vermont's 2012 primary, but as Paul Heintz wrote about in his Fair Game column on August 8, there were plenty of other interesting races dotting the state's voting landscape. Here's a roundup of some other notable results:

Governor - Progressive

First, the statewide races: Martha Abbott was the only announced candidate for governor in the Progressive Party primary, and it was expected that she would drop out of the race so as not to siphon away too many left-wing votes from Gov. Peter Shumlin. But some of Shumlin's most vehement detractors mounted a write-in campaign to nominate activist Annette Smith for the Progs.

It appears that the Smith supporters couldn't defeat Abbott for the nomination. Abbott unofficially held a 40-vote lead over the write-ins with 75 percent of precincts reporting, and it's not clear how many of those write-ins were for Smith. The Burlington Free Press reports that official results won't come until next week.

Continue reading "Results from Vermont's Other Big Primary Match-Ups" »

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