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Dunne on the Attack 

Inside Track

There's no quit in Democrat Matt Dunne. The state senator from Hartland isn't letting incumbent Republican Brian Dubie get away with a game strategy taken from basketball hard court - running out the clock with a four-corner stall!

Sunday evening, Dunne and Progressive Lite-Gov candidate Marvin Malek were up in Craftsbury Common for a candidates' debate. As usual, Dubie didn't show. Less said the better this year if you're wearing a GOP jersey, eh? Perfectly understandable.

Monday morning Young Dunne was joined by former Lt. Gov. Doug Racine for a creative little media event in the Statehouse's main hallway. The dynamic duo stood by the open door to the Lite-Gov's ceremonial office - Racine's old one and the new one Dunne has his eye on. The leaf-peeper tourists had no idea what was cooking.

Young Dunne the Democrat, whose biggest deficit is low name recognition, is after Doobie-Doo the Republican on several fronts, including his debate-ducking and his annual Lite-Gov work load compared to annual Lite-Gov salary.

"Dubie ran against me when I was the incumbent lieutenant governor in 2000," said Racine, "and we didn't have a hard time finding him for debates. He was happy to debate me as an incumbent."

Lt. Gov. Racine, who lost the governor's race to Jim Douglas in 2002, told reporters in the hallway, "I think it looks like he's hiding, to me, and that's disappointing. Brian has his points of view and he should be willing to talk about them."

Dubie, meanwhile, says he's agreed to five candidate debates this year. But Dunne says Dubie prerecorded one, and canceled out of a League of Women Voters debate in Burlington "48 hours ahead of time. We're still not sure why."

Dunne told "Inside Track" he had "made the case that it was a lot closer to his house [Essex Junction] than it was to mine [Hartland]. It's very frustrating," said the rookie statewide contender.

Dubie told "Inside Track" on Tuesday, "The people of Vermont are pretty smart. If they like the sort of work that I've done, then put me in for another two years. If you think my opponent's promises have more value, with all due respect, go for it."

Why so few debates?

"We're doing five. Wow!" said Dubie. "That's a lot."And he recalled that when he challenged Lt. Gov. Racine in 2000, Ol' Dougie could only make three debates.

And what about hours on the job?

"The fact is," said Captain Doobie-Doo, "when I ran for lieutenant governor, I always said I was going to continue my work, which I've done for 17 years as an airline pilot. I've been in Air Force Reserves for almost 30 years. I've been clear that, just like Howard Dean, who practiced medicine, and Doug Racine, who sold cars, I'm going to continue my work that I've done for my entire life."

Is it fair of Young Dunne to raise the work issue?

"I've talked to Sen. Dick Mazza [a veteran Democrat from Colchester], and he's got a pretty good assessment of what the people of Vermont think," said Ol' Brian. "And Sen. Mazza says that dog's not going to hunt."

We shall see.

Our sources say that, unlike his ticket-mate Gov. Jim Douglas, Lt. Gov. Dubie's positives are only in the mid-40s. Anything under 50 percent is not a good number for an incumbent. It's a long shot, but clearly, Matt Dunne has no "quit" in his gas tank.


Bush-Rainville Team - Just got a call from "Mary," a 75-year-old Burlington mother of eight and grandma of many more, who tells me she's a regular "Inside Track" reader. She called me up out of the blue because, she said, "she's so sick of watching [President] Bush on the TV." Grandma Mary said she had to turn it off! She's been an "Inside Track" reader for years and just wanted someone to talk to.

God bless her!

Grandma Mary is not alone. The Big World, the one that includes the United States of America, has been a rather scary place of late, both overseas and onshore. There's just something about a bleak, dark future for an America that's run on the principles of deceit and incompetence.

The national network TV news is even showing a disturbing uptick in violent, horrible, multiple-slayings-of-strangers-type crimes. Blended in with the nightly TV bloodbath from Iraq, network news has become unwatchable for many of us these days.

Two months ago, yours truly was almost too scared to speak up about how crucial it is for the party in power to get the heave-ho from U.S. voters on November 7. The former Saratoga gambler in me didn't want to jinx it. Shh!

Well, that conversation has been happening with a great deal more frequency around these parts lately. Folks are getting up the courage to express in words just how important it is to get a Democrat majority in January, in at least one house of Congress. Some have expressed fear of ballot-box fixing in key congressional districts, and an unusually high number of ballot challenges by Republican Party officials.

Let's face it. The Grand Old Party is fighting for its political survival. Losing power and their congressional posts may also mean loss of personal privilege for some of the more egregious lawbreakers in the GOP bunch - despite Speaker of the House-to-be Nancy Pelosi's weekend pledge not to pursue impeachment proceedings in the next Congress.

Then, in a desperate reversal of position, our beloved President George W. Bush told ABC's George Stephanopoulos Sunday that he's never told the American people we've got to "stay the course" in Iraq.

"Well, listen, we've never been 'stay the course, George,'" said our president. "We have been: 'We will complete our mission, we will do our job and help achieve the goal,' but we're constantly adjusting the tactics, constantly."

Especially the public-relations tactics, eh, George? Weapons of mass destruction - or was it merely distraction?

And then, on Monday morning, White House counselor Dan Bartlett told CBS News, "It's never been a stay-the-course strategy."

Within hours the Think think tank posted a half-dozen direct quotes from White House transcripts of President George W. Bush saying exactly that. The earliest was December 15, 2003:

"We will stay the course until the job is done, Steve. And the temptation is to try to get the president or somebody to put a timetable on the definition of getting the job done. We're just going to stay the course," repeated the president.

The most recent "stay the course" utterance was less than two months ago. Does this Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Rice crowd truly consider the American people to be that stupid?

Don't answer that.

Here in Vermont, the radical, last-minute, pre-election course change in the Bush administration's failed Iraq war strategy hit home as Republican congressional candidate Martha Rainville appeared Tuesday on "The Mark Johnson Show" on WDEV radio. Republican Rainville and Democratic State Sen. Peter Welch are squaring off in the race to fill Bernie Sanders' seat.

We've seen more of Marvelous Martha in the last five months than in all previous recorded history, and every time we've seen her she's not only worn a different outfit, she's had a different political rap.

Back in July, Candidate Rainville was not convinced that "global warming" was scientific "fact" - as opposed to left-wing science "fiction." Today it's new gospel, and Martha is suddenly an anti-global-warming cheerleader. Fits in with her "I love nature" TV spot, eh?

And just a few weeks ago, Marvelous Martha had a radically different take on Iraq. The former Vermont National Guard adjutant general, a rising political star courted by both major parties, was telling anyone who would listen that the real problem with Iraq was, the American people just weren't getting all the "good news" about the progress underway there.

Hello? Test one-two. Test?

"Just last week," said her Democrat opponent Peter Welch, "my eyes started popping out of my head when she started talking about how we were continuing our remarkable progress in Iraq. She was more upbeat about Iraq than Cheney!"

Marvelous Martha's Iraq War position has apparently undergone a 180-degree course change. Candidate Rainville referred to the war in Iraq as a "debacle." Johnson was so shocked and dumbfounded by Rainville's new word choice that he repeatedly asked her to explain herself.

"Debacle," said Marvelous Martha, is how she would describe "the current situation." It was definitely her chosen buzz word for the day, using it at least six times on the program when referring to what history will remember as the Bush administration's disastrous and dishonest Iraq War.

One reason the war is a "debacle," Candidate Rainville explained, is because "it has been used to shape all the political campaigns this year."

"It's been used," she added, "to detract the attention of the American people from other important issues."

The Iraqi government, said this faithful George W. Bush supporter, has to "take control of its future." And we Americans, she said, "have to start redeploying our troops for many reasons."

"Debacle," eh? That was a pretty quick change of position. Well, when nothing works - not even lowering gasoline prices a dollar or more nationwide - one must make some radical policy changes. But will it fly with Vermont voters?

As Peter Welch put it, "debacle" is a new word for his Repub-lican opponent to use. "It's also," he said, "about three-and-a-half years late."

Yes, indeed.


Poll Numbers? - Hoping we get some closing polls from our major Vermont media outlets in the last two weeks before the election. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Remember 2002, when The Burlington Free Press had Democrat Doug Racine up 10 points over Jim Douglas in the governor's race? Remember who won?

With that in mind, our sources in Sanderista Heaven tell "Inside Track" that a weekend Sanders campaign poll shows Ol' Bernardo widening his enormous lead over his obnoxious, uninformed Republican opponent Rich Tarrant, the self-funder.

The numbers we get from the weekend show Bernie Sanders climbing up to 68 percent and Tarrant dropping down to 25 percent. Yours truly has always said, the only thing in doubt is whether Sanders, Vermont's fiery, straight-talking and beloved Independent, breaks 70 percent with his senatorial landslide. In fact, just Monday, we got a call from a D.C. reporter who was coming up to interview Vermont's next U.S. senator on Tuesday.

America, fasten your seat belt!

That same weekend poll showed Democrat Welch 10 points ahead of Republican Rainville -50-40 percent. Turning into a tree-hugging antiwar protester might not be enough to close that gap for Martha . . . this year. Make no mistake, Democrats are very impressed by Rainville's positives. In a different year, without the Bush White House "debacle" dragging down the entire GOP ticket, Marvelous Martha would be nose-to-nose to the finish line and everyone knows it.


Martha vs. Randy - With less than a fortnight to go, the state auditor's race is getting interesting. Veteran Progressive Martha Abbott is on the radio with $7000 worth of very funny ads. "Abbott for Auditor" - or is it "Rabbit for Governor?"

The ads began airing this week. If you don't do the car thing much, go to her website: to listen.

The other "Martha" on the 2006 Vermont statewide ballot - one who's been there on and off since the 1970s - describes her radio campaign as "my attempt to break through the political noise of the bigger races. We're all bombarded."

Breaking through that "noise," she says, requires humor. Martha's got some to give.

On a more serious side, Abbott, the Progressive candidate who's facing Democrat Thomas M. Salmon CPA and incumbent Republican Randy Brock, tells "Inside Track" she's planning a Wednesday Montpelier presser to raise some questions about how much time Auditor Brock puts in on the job. She has requested, and received, copies of Brock's work calendar for the past two years and has been reviewing it.

Stay tuned.

As for her sense of how the race is going, Abbott told us, "If I was a brand-name party, I would win!"

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About The Author

Peter Freyne

Peter Freyne

Peter Freyne, 1949-2009, wrote the weekly political column "Inside Track," which originated in the Vanguard Press in the mid 1980s; he brought it to Seven Days in 1995. He retired it shortly before his death in January, 2009. We all miss him.


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