At present, it looks like Burlington Mayor Peter Clavelle will cruise to victory on March 4 without a worthy opponent. Last month Mayor Moonie locked up both the Progressive Party and Demo-cratic Party endorsements.
But Seven Days has learned that Republican spinmeister extraordinaire Rep. Kurt Wright came within a whisker of signing up a leading Democrat to jump into the race as an Independent. And what a scheme it was!
Wright, the only Burlington Republican in the House, told Seven Days that he hatched the scheme while listening to Clavelle on a local radio show last month.
"He sounded smug," said Wright, "like his re-election was a done deal."
Wright, who manages Kerry's Kwik Stop on St. Paul Street, said he realized the "smartest" strategy for the GOP was to "stay out of the race," since the Rs would just go out and get "beat up."
It was obvious to Kwik Stop Kurt that the only way to defeat Clavelle was to encourage a Democrat to run as an Inde-pendent, with the notion that Progressive Pete had unfairly swiped the Democratic endorsement from Democrat Andy Montroll.
Kwik Stop drew up a list of possible candidates. He told yours truly that Bill Keogh, a city councilor and state rep, as well as former city councilor Maurice Mahoney, turned him down. But his third choice, City Councilor Ian Carleton (Ward 1) did not.
"I'd noticed," said Wright, "that Ian had the spark to tussle with the mayor." Carleton's an attorney at Hoff Curtis. Holding up his thumb and forefinger so they were almost touching, Wright said, "Ian was ready to go."
Wright told Carleton he would make sure there was no Republican candidate to split the vote. And he promised to work hard to get out the ABC (Anybody But Clavelle) vote in his home turf, the city's New North End.
Things were looking real good. But then, said Wright, two things happened that thwarted his plan.
One was Republican Councilor Kevin Curley's indecision about entering the race.
"We had a candidate who was thinking about running. He had to decide on his own time frame. I can understand that," said Kwik Stop, "but in terms of this, it had to come together quickly." Once word got out to Clavelle, he said, pressure would be brought to bear on Carleton.
Everything was unfolding according to plan. At last week's Burlington GOP caucus, the decision was made not to run a candidate for mayor. Wright had delivered. But suddenly, Carleton got cold feet.
Wright said that outgoing Democratic Gov. Howard Dean weighed in. Dean told Carleton to drop it. It would not be good for the Democratic Party and it would not be good for Carleton's career.
Carleton confirmed the scheme, but denied he was as close to running as Kwik Stop indicated. He told yours truly that in the days following Clavelle's victory at the December Democratic Caucus, many people had called him, including Republicans and disgruntled Democrats, urging him to run.
"There were so many moving parts to this," said Carleton, "and the moving parts were not coming together." He said he "was not going to go off half-cocked."
Carleton also noted he is the Chitten-den County Democratic Chairman. "Obviously," he said, "I had to take my position in the party seriously."
But Carleton declined to say if Gov. Dean had discouraged him from running. One source told us that Dean had promised to personally line up the Burlington business community behind Clavelle if Carleton entered the race.
The almost-candidate told yours truly this week that Progressive Pete "won the Democratic endorsement fair and square."
But winning that endorsement, he said, should prevent the mayor from endorsing city council candidates in wards where a Democrat and a Progressive are running head to head. It would be the "noble" thing to do, said Carleton the Democrat.
"As I've done in the past," said Mayor Clavelle, "I will be supporting Democrats, Independents and Progressives." He said he'll personally sit down with the council candidates before deciding. Asked about Carleton's suggestion that he avoid races pitting Democrats against Progressives, Mayor Moonie said he hadn't come to a "final conclusion on that."
But Democratic State Auditor Elizabeth Ready has. Chainsaw Liz is already supporting Progressive Carina Driscoll, who's running in Ward 3. The problem is, Carina is running against Democrat Gail Compton. Ready told yours truly this week that she wasn't aware there was a fellow Democrat in the race, but she said she would continue to support Driscoll.
Compton, a single mother raising five boys, said she had coffee with Clavelle Tuesday morning.
"It went well," she said. "He's in a tough position. If he supports either candidate, he'll make the other party angry. He should stay neutral."
As for Chainsaw Liz's endorsement of her Prog opponent, Compton said she was "surprised someone as politically astute as Ms. Ready" would support a candidate of a different party "without knowing who was running."
Freed Sets the Tone! -- It's all in the numbers, folks. First, the Senate:
19 -- the number of Democrats in the Vermont Senate.
11 -- the number of Republicans in the Vermont Senate.
11 -- the number of standing committees in the Senate.
8 -- the number of committees that will be chaired by a Democrat.
3 -- the number of committees that will be chaired by a Republican.
Next, let's look at the House:
74 -- the number of Repub-licans in the Vermont House.
68 -- the number of Demo-crats in the Vermont House.
14 -- the number of standing committees in the Vermont House.
14 -- the number of committees that will be chaired by a Republican.
0 -- the number of committees that will be chaired by a Democrat.
The "Black Friday" release of Republican House Speaker Walter Freed's committee assignments even shocked some Republicans. One GOP senator used the term "nasty" to portray the Duke of Dorset's decision to deny Democrats a single chairmanship in the evenly divided House.
So was the decision by Freed, our favorite millionaire petroleum/tobacco dealer, to dump talented and experienced senior Democrats like Margaret Hummel of Underhill, Alice Miller of Shaftsbury and Sonny Audette of South Burlington onto the Fish, Wildlife & Water Resources Committee.
Audette and Rep. Bill Aswad of Burlington were booted off the Transportation Committee. But transportation issues are their area of personal expertise. Aswad will sit on Education this biennium.
Aswad's resume includes four decades of service on city and county planning panels. Audette retired as South Burlington's public works director. Between them they've got about 70 years of transportation experience.
These two guys know more about roads and bridges than you can possibly imagine. Unfor-tunately for them, they also realize the value of bike paths and commuter rail. That's probably why Speaker Freed yanked them.
"After Black Friday," said Aswad, "any thought of a cooperative House working together is gone."
Audette agreed 100 percent.
"I just had a heart attack," said Sonny. "That was nothing compared to what this was."
"All that experience down the drain," lamented Aswad.
"All over petty politics," echoed Audette.
Nice going, Walt!
Deanwatch 2004 -- Our favorite presidential hopeful finally showed up on the Republican radar screen. On Friday the Republican National Committee posted a full frontal assault on Howard Dean on its official Web site, http://www.rnc.org. Check it out!
What you'll find is a nasty attack on Ho-Ho for following the law. Dean signed and supports Vermont's civil-union law that extends the legal benefits of marriage to same-sex couples. For him it's a matter of equal rights for all Americans. Equal rights, though, has long been a Republican taboo. Just ask U.S. Sen. Trent Lott.
And Dr. Dean supports the law that says women, not fundamentalist preachers, judges or Republican talk-show blow-hards, have the right to control their own bodies. The RNC also completely distorted Dean's position on universal health care.
Let's face it. It's no surprise the Republican Party would attack Dean on issues that fire up the party's base of gay-bashing, religious fanatics. Attacks like this one will only get Dean elected.
Meanwhile, Seven Days has learned that Ho-Ho is having a little difficulty getting on the radar screen of his beloved alma mater. Last week yours truly visited the Web site of Yale Univer-sity, where Dean graduated in 1971.
To say Yale's Web site reflects a pompous institutional attitude would be an understatement. In fact, Yale has a page that lists almost 300 "Yale Notables." Both President George W. Bush and his dad are listed. So are Bill and Hillary Clinton, who went to Yale Law School, as did TV preacher Pat Robertson. There's Meryl Streep, the actress, and Brian Dowling, the football player, as well as U.S. senators and governors. But there ain't no mention of the longest-serving governor in modern Vermont history and current presidential candidate, Howard Dean!
We contacted the Yale Office of Public Affairs to inquire why. The next day we received an e-mail from Tom Violante, the assistant director for institutional issues:
"We're always pleased when people inform us of another notable Yale alumnus or alumna who has been left off one of the lists that are compiled from time to time. With so many distinguished alumni, it's difficult to keep track of everyone who makes a mark and we appreciate the help from the field.
"We passed along the governor's name to the compiler of this particular list, and it should be on the Web page soon."
As of Tuesday, Dean still hadn't joined the other "notables."
Job Switch for Justice Morse? -- According to a reputable Montpelier source, Associate Justice James Morse is about to leave the Vermont Supreme Court for a position in the new Douglas administration.
Morse has been a judge since 1981. In 1988, Gov. Made-leine Kunin appointed him to the Supremes.
Chances of the 62-year-old New York City native and Dartmouth grad ever making chief justice are between slim and none. That's because current Chief Justice Jeff Amestoy appears to have many years of service ahead of him.
Asked about a Morse appointment, Douglas' press secretary Jason Briggs replied, "I have absolutely no idea. I haven't heard anything."
Reached at his Charlotte home Tuesday afternoon, Justice Morse would neither confirm nor deny the story.
"I can't really talk about it," said Morse.
A Chat With Louise -- Monday we had the opportunity to ask the new chairman of the board at Fletcher Allen Health Care a couple of questions. We wanted to know if recently departed hospital executives Thad Krupka and David Demers received golden parachutes like former CEO Bill Boettcher did.
"They did not get a deal like Boettcher," replied Louise McCarren of Charlotte. "They didn't get any severance," she said.
We asked, "Do you know the specifics of the arrangements?"
"I do in principle," said McCarren. "They got some salary extension."
We'd heard they received a year's pay. Is that correct?
"Well, it's salary extension," she replied. I don't know all the details, but basically when they get another job, it stops."
"Salary extension." Has a nice ring to it, eh?
Incidentally, one of the new trustees, Elizabeth Robert of Vermont Teddy Bear, was McCarren's campaign manager when she ran for lieutenant governor in 1990. McCarren lost the Republican primary to Michael Bernhardt, who then lost the general election to Howard Dean.
And, McCarren said, she's "looking forward" to working with the task force recently set up by Congressman Bernie Sanders to open up Vermont's largest hospital to public scrutiny and restructure its governance. In fact, Louise reminded us of her part in the 1981 drama in which Ol' Bernardo won the Burlington mayor's race.
"How did Bernie get elected to be mayor?" she asked.
"He got 10 more votes than the other guy," we answered.
"What allowed Bernie to do that?"
"Dickie Bove," we replied. Bove ran as an independent and took about 1500 votes from incumbent Gordie Paquette. Sanders won by 10 votes with 40.1 percent.
"No," said Ms. McCarren. "Bernie Sanders showed up at my house at three in the morning because my husband was a superior court judge. He impounded all the ballots."
Louise's husband, Ed Amidon, subsequently left the bench. He currently serves in the Vermont House. Sounds like the fact that Ed did his judicial duty makes Louise feel a little ownership of Bernie's political success.