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September 24, 2012

Endorsing Shumlin, Barre's Republican Mayor Spanks Brock

DSC04272So here's the thing about endorsement press conferences: They're usually totes boring — but there's always potential. What's the potential? That some zany mayor from Barre might go off-script and tell us how he really feels.

That's what happened Monday morning when the mayors of seven Vermont cities gathered on the steps of the Statehouse to endorse Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin's bid for a second term. That Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger (who worked for Shumlin in the '90s) and Montpelier Mayor John Hollar (a prominent Democratic lobbyist) support the gov's reelect ain't no thang.

But then there's Barre Mayor Thom Lauzon, an outspoken Republican who said during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign that Shumlin's corrections plan would put, um, murderers and rapists on the streets. But who then hinted to Seven Days this May that he might endorse Shumlin this time around. But who then, with his wife, gave Shumlin's opponent, Sen. Randy Brock (R-Franklin), a $4000 campaign contribution. But who then organized Monday's mayoral endorsement-a-thon.

Which made us reporters go all, like, what's the deal with that, bro?

"Listen, one thing you can always count on me to do is tell you the truth," Lauzon began.

And then he told us the truth.

"Received a call from [Brock campaign treasurer] Mark Snelling. Mark said, 'Republicans are very disappointed that you endorsed the governor.' And I said, 'Yeah I understand that, Mark.' And he said, 'I'm very disappointed.' And I said, 'Mark, I absolutely understand that.' And he said, 'If you could send — it was actually $4000 — and he said if you can send $4000, you're off the hook.' So I did."

At which point, the assembled mayors and reporters and the governor looked around at one another and issued hearty guffaws.

"Well, I'm sorry," Lauzon said, cracking up a bit himself. "I mean, it's not as exciting as you would like, but that's the story."

To which a somewhat surprised reporter stammered out the following hard-hitting question: "Wait, so, uh, you gave it because Mark was mad at you?"

"No, I gave it because Mark asked me to," Lauzon said.

"Okay," the reporter continued, "But it doesn't — it never signaled any support for Randy Brock."

"No, I mean, quite frankly, I mean, that is a race, I mean, when I met with high-ranking Republicans almost a year ago now, quite frankly, I thought the Vermont Republicans should have taken a pass on the governor's race. I thought the governor was doing a great job. I thought we should be concentrating in other areas. I thought we should be concentrating in the Senate and the House. I think Randy is absolutely a fine man, but I think, quite frankly, this was an ill-advised campaign. People are going to spend a lot of money to try to replace a leader who doesn't need to be replaced."

Oh, snap. That is just brutal.

When Shumlin finally had a chance to get a word in edgewise, he was ready with the quip: "Hey, by the way, I know where I'm making my next fundraising call."

Photo by Paul Heintz

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