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Election 2012

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" »

August 15, 2013

In VY Loss, Sorrell Sees Political Redemption — and Jabs Donovan

Sorrell announceMoved on from last summer's Democratic primary for attorney general?

Bill Sorrell hasn't.

After a federal appellate court ruled against the state Wednesday in its bid to shut down the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, we reached out to Attorney General Sorrell for comment. His office, with the help of outside counsel, argued the case.

In a voicemail message in response to our call, Sorrell said he was "disappointed" that the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a lower court judge that the state improperly considered radiological safety when it tried to close the plant. 

But Sorrell clearly wanted to focus on the positive.

In the same decision, the court reversed an earlier finding that the state violated Vermont Yankee owner Entergy Corp.'s constitutional rights by demanding lower energy prices. The court's reversal means that Vermont won't have to pay Entergy's considerable — and rapidly growing — legal bills.

That's a signficant victory, at least in Sorrell's eyes.

"We're very happy we didn't violate Entergy's constitutional rights, so consequently we're not on the hook for something in excess — and potentially well in excess — of $5 million of attorneys' fees for them," Sorrell said in the message.

And then the AG said something surprising: "For those who questioned the wisdom of taking the appeal to the 2nd Circuit, that was a great decision because we saved millions of dollars on the constitutional issues."

To whom was Sorrell referring?

Continue reading "In VY Loss, Sorrell Sees Political Redemption — and Jabs Donovan" »

January 24, 2013

Democratic Campaign Aides Win State Government Promotions

After steering Democrats to victory last fall, two top campaign aides have found new jobs in state government.

Gov. Peter Shumlin's chief fundraiser, Erika Wolffing, was promoted last week to deputy commissioner of the Department of Labor.

Wolffing previously served as principal assistant to Labor Commissioner Annie Noonan until June 2012, when she left for Shumlin's reelection campaign. In her political role, she helped the governor raise $1.24 million to win a second term.

Wolffing earned $63,000 a year when she returned to the DOL two days after Election Day, according to Shumlin spokeswoman Sue Allen. Though Wolffing was promoted last week, her new salary is still being negotiated.

The deputy commissioner position has been vacant since Valeri Rickert left the Department of Labor in November 2011, Allen said. Rickert earned a salary of $83,000.

Vermont Democratic Party field director Ryan McLaren also recently returned to state government. McLaren worked as a temporary administrative assistant and then "private secretary" in the governor's office in 2011 before leaving to join the party in August 2011, Allen said. At the VDP, McLaren was tasked with identifying and turning out voters for Shumlin and the entire Democratic field.

Continue reading "Democratic Campaign Aides Win State Government Promotions" »

January 15, 2013

This One Time at Military Band Camp: Norwich to Play for POTUS


Norwich University Regimental Band
Norwich University Regimental Band

This just in: the Norwich University Regimental Band will perform in the 57th presidential inauguration parade in Washingon, D.C., on Monday, January 21.

The band was chosen from a field of 2800 applicants, with one group from each state in the Union selected to appear in the parade. This is the seventh time the private military academy's band — the oldest collegiate band in the country, BTW — has been invited to appear in the inauguration parade, having previously garnered invites for the inaugurations of JFK, Nixon, Carter, Reagan and both Bushes.

Seven Days has discovered a copy of what we believe to be the band's audition tape. Well done, cadets. 


January 08, 2013

Democratic Operatives MacLean, Emerson and Charyk Land New Gigs

Alex.MacLeanTwo months after election day, three Democratic operatives have landed new gigs in and out of Vermont politics.

Alex MacLean (pictured at right), a veteran staffer and two-time campaign manager for Gov. Peter Shumlin, was hired Monday by Jay Peak owners Bill Stenger and Ariel Quiros to serve as a project manager for their proposed $600 million Northeast Kingdom Development Initiative.

The Peacham native says she'll be charged with directing community relations and recruiting foreign investors for the ambitious project, which includes expansions at Jay Peak and Burke Mountain Resort; the development of a convention center, window factory and biotechnology campus in Newport; and an expansion of the Newport State Airport in Coventry.

Continue reading "Democratic Operatives MacLean, Emerson and Charyk Land New Gigs" »

December 22, 2012

Morning Read: Sanders, Shumlin Make The Nation's "Most Valuable Progressive" List

MorningreadIt's not quite Time Magazine's person-of-the-year, but two Vermont pols made the cut this week in The Nation's "Most Valuable Progressive Honor Roll."

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a longtime darling of the lefty political rag, won the magazine's top honor, "Most Valuable Progressive." Citing Ol' Bernardo's fights against cutting entitlement programs and the Postal Service, Washington correspondent John Nichols writes:

"Sanders has broken the boundaries of conventional politics. By refusing to bend to the compromises and spin of Washington, he has made himself the conscience of the fiscal cliff fight."

Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin, meanwhile, took home the mag's "Most Valuable Governor" award.

Continue reading "Morning Read: Sanders, Shumlin Make The Nation's "Most Valuable Progressive" List" »

December 20, 2012

Where Do Your Lawmakers Stand on Gun Rights?

DSC04514While reporting a column on Vermont's gun politics earlier this week, I asked Gov. Peter Shumlin's campaign manager, Alex MacLean, for a copy of the National Rifle Association questionnaire he filled out this fall while seeking the group's endorsement.

Apparently, MacLean didn't keep one.

But given Shumlin's 92 percent rating by the group, it ain't hard to figure out how the pro-gun gov filled it out.

Yesterday, we got our hands on a blank copy of the 25-question survey distributed to Vermont state lawmakers in July (it's posted below). The comprehensive questionnaire touches on everything from safety locks to the expired assault weapons ban to the so-called "gun show loophole." The phrasing of several of the questions is, shall we say, loaded.

Here's an example:

10. In 1994, Congress imposed a ten-year ban on the manufacture, for sale to private individuals, of various semi-automatic firearms it termed "assault weapons," and of ammunition magazines capable of holding more than ten rounds of ammunition, which primarily affected handguns designed for self-defense. Congress' subsequent study of the ban, as well as state and local law enforcement agency reports, showed that contrary to the ban's supporters' claims, the guns and magazines had never been used in more than about 1-2% of violent crime. Since the ban expired in 2004, the numbers of these firearms and magazines owned have risen to all-time highs and violent crime has fallen to a 35-year low. Would you support state legislation restricting the possession, ownership, purchase, sale, and/or transfer of semi-automatic firearms and/or limits on the capacity of magazines designed for self-defense?

So how did your lawmakers answer?

Continue reading "Where Do Your Lawmakers Stand on Gun Rights?" »

November 29, 2012

Lawyers Spar Over Presidential Candidate's $50 Million Libel Suit Against St. Mike's Student Journalists

HaywoodJohn D. Haywood caught a flight from North Carolina to Burlington on Wednesday to tell a judge why St. Michael's College should pay him $50 million in a libel lawsuit aimed at student journalists.

Haywood (pictured) ran for president of the United States as a Democrat in the New Hampshire primary this year and blames a profile of him written by St. Mike's students for sinking his White House dreams. (Click here for background on the case.)

Students in Professor David Mindich's "Media and American Politics" class have been profiling lesser-known presidential candidates in every election since 2004, with the goal of giving voice to all candidates. Haywood complained that students grossly misrepresented his positions in the article, published on a college website 10 days before last January's primary, and says the errors cost him the race against President Obama. Haywood received just 432 votes, meaning he lost to Obama by a ratio of 115 to 1.

"Anyone who read their profile wouldn't touch my website with a 10-foot pole," Haywood told U.S. Magistrate Judge John Conroy on Wednesday. "Things they said about my positions are so extreme, so ridiculous."

Continue reading "Lawyers Spar Over Presidential Candidate's $50 Million Libel Suit Against St. Mike's Student Journalists" »

November 20, 2012

Cost Per Vote: Which Chittenden County Candidates Got the Biggest Bang for Their Bucks?

Tim AsheThe top vote-getter in the Chittenden County state Senate race also finished near the front of the 14-candidate field in terms of cost effectiveness of individual campaign expenditures. Democrat-Progressive Tim Ashe was elected to a third term with 37,357 votes on reported spending of $10,250 — which works out to 27 cents per vote.

Ginny LyonsDemocrat Ginny Lyons was the No. 2 finisher in the race for six available seats, corralling 34,957 votes. But she was No. 1 in bang for buck. In winning a seventh term, Lyons spent only $5668, according to a November 15 campaign report — or 16 cents per vote.

Patrick Brown didn't gain entree to the charmed circle of six, but among candidates filing campaign finance reports, Brown stretched his money further than anyone in the race except Lyons. The Burlington-based civil rights activist and restaurant owner received 12,217 votes and spent $2150 — a productive investment of 18 cents per vote.

ZuckermanThe bottom — or least cost-effective — spot is occupied by Robert Letovsky, a St. Michael's College business professor running as an Independent. He spent $15,402 and got 8321 votes, which earned him an 11th place finish and cost him $1.85 per vote.

Votes also proved an expensive commodity for David Zuckerman, a Hinesburg farmer and former state representative. The Progressive-Democrat did win a Senate seat, finishing fourth (behind Ashe, Lyons and Democrat Sally Fox). But Zuckerman's return ticket to Montpelier cost him $1.04 per vote. He reported expenditures of $33,550 — by far the most of any candidate who filed on November 15.

Continue reading "Cost Per Vote: Which Chittenden County Candidates Got the Biggest Bang for Their Bucks?" »

November 12, 2012

The Week Ahead: November 12-18, 2012

The Week AheadHere's what's happening in Vermont news and politics this week. Got a newsworthy event for the calendar? Email us by Friday to submit.

Monday, November 12

  • At 10:45 a.m., newly re-elected U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) holds a press conference at his Burlington office to talk "budget deficits" and the fiscal cliff — the main issue facing the lame duck Congress.
  • At 11 a.m., Champlain College will celebrate Veterans Day by dedicating a new campus memorial to members of the military, past and present, who attended the school. Newly re-elected Gov. Peter Shumlin and former guv Jim Douglas will speak, as will Provost Robin Abramson, Brigadier General Steven Cray, and Digital and Computer Forensics Assistant prof Cristian Balan, an Afghanistan War veteran.
  • At noon, Vermont Public Radio's "Vermont Edition" hosts Vermont Law School professor Greg Johnson and lawyer and Vermont Freedom To Marry founder Susan Murray to discuss what's next for the same-sex marriage rights movement. Listen live.
  • At 2 p.m., newly re-elected U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) meets the press at his Burlington office to talk about the farm bill and the fiscal cliff. And how Washington should totally just act more polite. Like Vermonters.

Continue reading "The Week Ahead: November 12-18, 2012" »

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