September 23, 2004


Douglas on the Stump for GOP: Dems: Governor's Intervention In Legislative Races Won't Work (John P. Gregg, 9/23/04, Valley News)

As Republican Gov. Jim Douglas and Democratic challenger Peter Clavelle debate and campaign throughout Vermont, scores of local candidates are also reaching out to voters in a behind-the-headlines battle for control of the state legislature.

Dozens of Democratic House candidates are traveling dirt roads and knocking on remote houses to meet, and even register, potential voters.

Meanwhile, for the first time in a generation, Republicans have an incumbent governor working to boost their legislative campaigns with local appearances and grip-and-grin photos gracing their brochures and Web sites.

At issue, officials in both parties said, is whether Republicans can maintain their narrow control of the House and Democrats can add a seat in the Senate, giving them enough to override a veto in that chamber.

Some races may come down to whether political alliances, or simply an engaging personality, will be foremost in voters' minds.

“A Republican majority in the House, I think, is very important to the state's future, and I want to be as supportive as possible,” Douglas said Monday in a telephone interview. “There are some districts where I certainly want to spend (more) time with the candidates.”

Douglas campaigned with a slew of Republican candidates throughout Vermont during a 12-day campaign swing last month, and plans more appearances in the weeks ahead, sandwiched between a series of debates with Clavelle.

But House Democratic Leader Gaye Symington of Jericho said her party fielded candidates in all but 14 districts around Vermont, part of a grass-roots effort to win back the 150-member House.

Republicans held 74 seats, while Democrats had 69, Progressives four and independents three this past session, and Symington said her party wants the legislature to “be more assertive” on issues ranging from health care to transportation funding. [...]

“Governor Douglas is liked on both sides of the political fence, and I find myself aligned with him on most policy issues, so it is helping a lot,” Kimbell said. The last Vermont Republican governor to hold office during an election year was Richard Snelling in 1984. (Snelling also was elected in 1990, but died in 1991 shortly after retaking the office, where he was succeeded by Democrat Howard Dean.)

Douglas also campaigned with several other Upper Valley Republicans last month, including former state Rep. Gary Richardson of Perkinsville, who is hoping to win a rematch against state Rep. Ernest Shand, D-Weathersfield. Shand defeated Richardson by just 34 votes two years ago.

Richardson said he received a two-sentence endorsement from Douglas this week to include in his campaign brochure -- it starts with “I need Gary back in Montpelier” -- along with a photo of the pair.

“Those kinds of things help,” Richardson said.

And David Ainsworth, a dairy farmer and town and school moderator in Royalton, campaigned with Douglas last month in South Royalton, meeting local voters and merchants.

“That's one of the reasons I want to run is to try and help the governor maintain a majority in at least one of the chambers,” said Ainsworth, who is challenging first-term state Rep. Rosemary McLaughlin, a Democrat.

Republicans squandered a big opportunity in Vermont in 1994, when they could easily have taken out Bernie Sanders with just a modicum of effort from the national party and some of the NRA ads that were so effective that year--as was he only held on to win by three points. But the state has gradually gone Republican anyway, thanks to the Democrat's embrace of civil unions, property taxes and a much despised environmental permit system. With a popular incumbent governor and the president having a shot at carrying the state you'd think the party would make an effort this time when there's a chance to control both houses of the state legislature, defeat Representative Sanders and make Pat Leahy sweat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 23, 2004 8:10 PM

Republicans in VT will have difficulty winning elections until they start taking winning seriously. Running nutjob transexuals and universally loathed unctious millionaire carpetbaggers for national office isn't the way to do it. I'll hold my nose and vote for Jack McMullen, but he doesn't stand a snowball's chance against Leaky Leahy. You're right that a little more support from the national party (instead of being written off as a vast liberal wasteland) would be nice too. And Jim Douglas may be a Republican, but he's a cuddly-wuddly friendly Republican. I know when my super-liberal friends like him, he's not doing something right. But I'll vote for him to because who else am I going to vote for? Peter-freaking-Clavelle? Hardy Macia? Yeah right.

Posted by: Governor Breck at September 23, 2004 10:41 PM

"F#&* You Leahy."

-Dick Cheney

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at September 23, 2004 11:09 PM

Man, that was *awesome!* I was so happy Dick Cheney said that and even happier that he refused to apologize for it. I've wanted to say that to Leahy for years.

Posted by: Governor Breck at September 24, 2004 7:29 AM