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Snelling Considers Leaving GOP 

First it was U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords rocking the political world a year ago with his departure from the increasingly far-right-wing Republican Party. Now Seven Days has learned another prominent Vermont Republican is considering doing likewise.

When asked this week if she would stand for reelection as a Republican, Chittenden County State Sen. Diane Snelling told us she is “reviewing many options.” She said there were a lot of times this past session “when I wasn’t as comfortable as I wanted to be in the [Senate] Republican caucus.”

Consider that her father, the late Richard Snelling, is the only Republican to hold the governor’s office since 1972. And consider that her mother, Barbara Snelling, served as a Republican lieutenant governor and came back from a stroke to serve as a senator. Given that, a party switch to Democrat by Princess Di would be equivalent to a member of the British royal family joining the Irish Republican Army.

But her options also include pulling a Jeezum Jim and becoming an Independent. Princess Di told us she is, in reality, “kind of independent-ish.”

If anyone could pull off a victory in November as an Independent, it would be someone whose last name has been on a Chittenden County ballot since the 1960s. Especially a name that in Vermont political circles is synonymous with “integrity.”

Sen. Diane Snelling, 50, is a Hinesburg artist who paints watercolors. She grew up in the political shadow of her famous parents. She mostly avoided the limelight, until last January when she was appointed to the Senate by Gov. Howard Dean. She replaced her mother, a living legend, who resigned for health reasons. But getting to the Senate chamber wasn’t easy for Barbara’s little girl.

January’s Taliban-dominated Republican county caucus refused to include her among the three names they recommended to the Guv. You see, like her mom, Diane is pro choice and supports civil unions. That makes her a sinner in the eyes of the religious right faction that calls the shots in the Republican county caucus.

The fact is, two years ago the same holier-than-thou gang, led by the notorious Rev. David Stertzbach, trashed Barbara Snelling something awful. It’s a foul wind the Reverend brings to the political arena. And there’s no reason to believe Rev. Sleazebag and his Bible-belters won’t be gunning for Diane Snelling in this fall’s Republican Primary.

What to do?

You see, the Hinesburg redhead has come to enjoy being a state senator. She gets high marks from her colleagues as a thoughtful, intelligent representative. It is, after all, in her blood. The question is, could Diane Snelling get elected running under the Republican label?

State GOP Chairman Joe Acinapura told Seven Days this week that he has talked to Sen. Di “a lot” about her reelection plans.

“She told me she’d keep me in the loop,” said Chairman Jo-Jo. Acinapura said he was aware of the possibility she would have a difficult time getting past the right-wing God Squad in the primary in order to win a spot on the November ballot.

Should Sen. Snelling change her mind about running as a Republican, said Chairman Jo-Jo, “She assured me I would be the first to know.”

Might be a good idea, Jo-Jo, to stay near the phone.

Flip-Flops and Kickoffs — Why couldn’t Doug Racine’s parents have named him Ralph? As it is, a few hundred Vermonters will probably vote for the wrong candidate for governor in November. Let’s see now, is it Douglas Racine or Jim Douglas?

Racine, whose first name, for the sake of clarity, does not appear on his bumper stickers, kicked off his campaign for governor Tuesday before 200 cheering fans gathered outside Burlington High School. The clouds actually parted and the sunlight poured down just as the lunchtime event got underway. Perhaps an omen?

The quiet man, a BHS grad who went on to Princeton and a career as a vice-president at the family car dealership, gave a typical boilerplate speech. He linked himself to everyone from Phil Hoff and George Aiken to Jim Jeffords and Howard Dean. And in an acknowledgment of the three-pointers Republican Jim Douglas has been pouring through the hoop, Racine accused Slim Jim, the State Treasurer, of running a “negative” campaign, “where the goal is to score points and distract Vermonters from their real concerns.”

The Douglas campaign has labeled Racine a flip-flopper and they’ve produced the evidence to back it up. They say Dougie-boy is an old-fashioned tax-and-spend liberal. They say he’s a leopard trying to change his spots in order to get elected.

Fact is, the Quiet Man has indeed flip-flopped on the Circumferential Highway. And that’s not all. Luckily for Racine, there was no TV camera present in the high school lobby after the kick-off speech when a print reporter asked point-blank, “So, would you support a single-payer system?”

What followed was a seven-second pause as Doug Racine’s brain completed a million calculations. He approached the question like Sergio Garcia approached the golf ball. Waggle, waggle, waggle. Our tape recorder was rolling, so we know it was a full seven-second waggle.

Finally Racine blurted out, “No.”

Another flip-flop! Conventional wisdom dictates that voters don’t fancy a flip-flopper in charge. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, Jim Douglas continues to pump out his message on the television airwaves this month. Specifically, the monthlong run of Douglas spots continues on WGOP, er, sorry, WCAX-TV.

Over the past month the Republican gubernatorial candidate has dumped about $30,000 at Ch. 3. Prices are based on audience ratings, which vary from time slot to time slot.

The 30-second campaign spots leading onto the six o’clock news cost $700 a pop. The one Slim Jim placed during the final episode of “Survivor” cost $2500. But the same spot placed on Sunday morning’s “You Can Bore Me” goes for the bargain-basement price of $60. Hey, yours truly tunes in.

But speaking of omens, Seven Days has learned that Jim Douglas’ media consultant is none other than Stephen Smith, a Burlington advertising/marketing guru. Steve’s been a key behind-the-scenes guy in Vermont elections for 20 years. He worked on campaigns for Phil Hoff and Madeleine Kunin, he told us. In fact, every two years since 1986, Mr. Smith worked for a Democrat named Howard Dean. This year, however, Mr. Smith’s placing TV spots for the Republican candidate in the governor’s race. How come?

“Howard Dean was a moderate Democrat,” replied Smith. “Doug Racine is a tax-and-spend liberal. I don’t think he’s the right person for the job.”

Let the games begin!

Deep Throat? — How time flies! This week marks the 30th anniversary of the Watergate break-in, when Richard Nixon’s covert White House Plumbers Squad was captured breaking into the headquarters of the Democratic Party. And this wasn’t their first break-in.

President Nixon, a Repub-lican, won the 1972 race in a landslide. On July 27, 1974, a bipartisan majority of the House Judiciary Committee passed articles of impeachment charging him with obstruction of justice. Twelve days later, Nixon resigned the presidency. The country had had enough of him.

Most will tell you the high crimes President Nixon perpetrated, including his misuse of the FBI and the CIA for political gain, would never have come to light had it not been for the diligence of the Washington Post.

You see, governments lie. It’s a sad fact of life. And Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward and Post editor Ben Bradlee, thank God, dug through the Nixon lies. The White House always denied any connection to or knowledge of the Watergate break-in (intended to adjust electronic bugs placed during a previous illegal entry), spinning the political crime of the age as a “third-rate burglary.”

The probe by the press led to the uncovering of many more crimes by Nixon and his crooked friends that went back before the 1972 election. At the time, American soldiers were dying in Vietnam. Student anti-war protesters were dying in Ohio. “Question authority” was the mantra of a generation. And a “sexual revolution” was sweeping American society.

Before “Deep Throat” became part of history as the moniker of the infamous confidential source who kept Woodward and Bernstein on track, Deep Throat was the title of a mass-marketed porn movie that injected a certain oral sex act into the consciousness of the commonweal.

Since Watergate, many “Deep Throats” have blown the whistle on government lies. God bless them, one and all. Yours truly can’t count the times over the past 20 years we’ve picked up the phone and an unfamiliar voice on the other end began the conversation with, “This is Deep Throat.”

What a thrill!

Governments lie. Republican governments and Democrat governments.

Ben Bradlee recalled during an online Watergate interview this week that following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, President Lyndon Johnson sent Defense Secretary Robert McNamara to South Vietnam to personally get the low-down on what was going on.

Bradlee remembered when McNamara arrived back at Andrews Air Force Base. The secretary got off the plane and told the waiting press that things were “looking up” in South Vietnam, and he was “really encouraged” by what he’d seen there.

Then McNamara hopped on a helicopter and rode to the White House, where he told the President the exact opposite. That things in Vietnam were going to hell in a handbasket. That the generals needed a lot more troops and that the President should send them.

Johnson did, and in the following years 58,000-plus of our countrymen were among the millions killed in Vietnam — civilian and combatant — before the Vietnamese finally kicked us out and took over their own country.

We know that the Secretary of Defense was lying, said Bradlee, because of the Pentagon Papers, the Defense Department’s secret history of the Vietnam War. The Pentagon Papers were leaked to the press by an American patriot, a policy analyst named Daniel Ellsberg. Contained within were the bright shining lies exposing America’s flawed policy in Vietnam. The Pentagon Papers were published under White House threats by The New York Times on June 13, 1971.

Who is there to expose the bright shining lies behind America’s current foreign policy? Thirty years after Watergate, it seems only the names have been changed, and the innocent remain unprotected.

Media Notes — Talented ABC22 reporter and weekend anchor Nicole L’Huillier will be leaving the boob tube at the end of the month. Nicole tells Seven Days she’s “taking a break” from her television career to take a position in the public relations department of the Vermont Teddy Bear Company. Perfect spot for a genuine Vermont teddy bear and Rutland High School grad. Her last show will be June 30th.

Meanwhile, former ABC22 reporter Anya Huneke is back on the box big-time. Ms. Huneke recently opened New England Cable News’ Vermont bureau in Colchester. Anya left WVNY-TV last year when her two-year contract ran out. She was part of the new-kids-on-the-block team brought in by Straightline Communications to reestablish a news presence from scratch. They’re still trying. No one will be surprised if Anya’s regional exposure leads to bigger and better things.

And how about a cheer for The Burlington Free Press!


The new “doctor discipline” law revamping the state’s medical practice board surely would not have happened as quickly without the dogged determination of reporter Stephen Kiernan. He’s racked up a plateful of press awards already, but the best award was watching Gov. Howard Dean sign H.755 into law last Thursday.

Nice work, Mr. Kiernan!

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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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