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The Quiet Man 

That was the name of the classic 1952 John Ford film shot in the west of Ireland, starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. It’s also a name that fits the current favorite horse in the 2002 Gubernatorial Stakes — Doug Racine.

The three-term Democratic lieutenant governor has quietly been working for this moment for more than 20 years. (So quietly, we’ve never been able to come up with a nickname that fits. Let’s see, there was Silent Cal… how about Silent Doug?)

In this week’s “Monday Briefing,” the insider political sheet posted on the Web site of the “pro-business” Wilson & White lobbying firm, www.wilsonwhite.com, Silent Doug gets what in politics is known as a “Lewinsky.”

No kidding.

Partner David Wilson, a special guy, passed away last year, but the firm is stronger than ever this year, with 28 clients on their Statehouse dance card. Now that’s a mighty sweet revenue stream. The firm is the pharmaceutical industry’s front line special ops unit under Montpecu-liar’s golden dome, and so far the troops have earned their combat pay.

Wilson & White also represents RJ Reynolds Tobacco, Health South, Verizon, Middlebury College, WCAX-TV, General Electric, Cigna Insurance and Vermont Funeral Directors. Nice combination: Big Tobacco, Health South and funeral directors. Kind of cradle-to-grave coverage, eh?

Anyway, the current Wilson & White piece on Mr. Racine should be copied and distributed far and wide by his campaign staff.

“State House regulars have observed a significant difference in Racine,” it begins. Oh, really?

Since his sound thrashing of Republican John Carroll in his first successful campaign for Lieutenant Governor in 1996, Racine has worked hard, but quietly, on a number of issues. Despite the fact that Racine has virtually crisscrossed the state nonstop, six days a week for the past five years, he has rarely been the subject of significant statewide attention by the media. There are a number of reasons for this.

First, Racine would rather discuss the intricacies of early childhood education with a group of parents and teachers than glad-hand a mob of people at a Fourth of July parade. He is a reserved person by nature, and he cares more about substance than retail politics.

The piece goes on to describe Silent Doug as “anything but a quote machine.” He’s not one to get in a “war of words” in the press.

He is much more likely to resolve disputes quietly. Racine is the guy who has made a statewide political career out of civility and his ability to build consensus. There is not a lot of bombast in him.

Amazing! Here you have the hired-gun Statehouse lobbying firm that shills for the two biggest black hats on the corporate stage — Big Drug and Big Tobacco. And they’re laying a big wet Lewinsky on the white-hat Democratic candidate who loathes the tobacco and pharmaceutical drug industries. What’s up, gang?

The “Monday Briefing” is not signed. So we put on our thinking cap.

Which member of the Wilson & White blue-chip stable would write something about tree-hugging Silent Doug that reads like a campaign commercial?

Who else but the slick up-and-comer who managed Silent Doug’s “sound thrashing” of John Carroll in 1996 — Christopher Rice?

Bingo!

Mr. Rice told Seven Days he is, indeed, the author of the stirring Racine tribute. He explained that the “Monday Briefing” is written primarily for the firm’s clients to read. Different members of the firm write on different areas of specialty. Obviously, Doug Racine is Rice’s specialty.

Hope it doesn’t throw water on the firm’s success lobbying Jim Douglas supporters under the golden dome.

More Doug — The clock’s ticking, and we’ll all know shortly what Progressive Party headliner Anthony Pollina decides to run for: governor or lieutenant governor.

Honestly, yours truly gets asked at least three times a day, “What will Pollina do?”

And at least three times a day we reply, “Anthony Pollina is not a stupid person.”

Not yet, anyway.

If Tony the Prog runs for governor, Racine immediately ceases to be the 2-1 favorite. The odds change. And a Republican horse, be it Jim Douglas or King Con Hogan, drops from an 8-1 longshot to the 2-1 favorite.

That’s because Pollina will draw enough of a following in November to deny Racine an outright majority. We won’t have a winner until the new Legislature is seated in January 2003. Vermont’s next governor will be chosen by secret ballot.

Make no mistake, Republicans will be absolutely, positively overjoyed if Tony the Prog goes for the Big One. So will Burlington’s Prog Mayor Peter Clavelle, who would immediately announce for Lite-Gov.

The other thing a Pollina gubernatorial candidacy will do is pour rat poison into the water supply the Vermont left drinks from. If Tony does to Doug what Ralph Nader did to Al Gore, the bad blood between Democrats and Progressives will last for years. That’s something else the Republican Party will appreciate.

In the latest Racine fundraising letter, there’s a line from former Democrat Gov. Phil Hoff that surely is meant for Pollina’s ears.

Prince Philip, the man who broke the Republican stranglehold on the Green Mountains in 1962, says “Doug Racine is the most progressive candidate for governor in the last 40 years.”

Hey, Tony, you hear that?

Doug Racine is and always has been a true-blue liberal Democrat. He’s quite proud of it. He wears Act 60, civil unions, environmental protection as badges of honor. He fought for campaign finance reform, and backed up his words by accepting public financing in the last election. In fact, Silent Doug was the only statewide candidate in the nation to run a publicly financed campaign in 2000 and win!

In a front-page article in the current issue of Out In The Mountains, Doug promises leaders of Vermont’s gay political lobby that a Racine administration will work to wipe out homophobia and appoint gays and lesbians to positions of influence and authority.

Racine makes it clear that he does not consider his support for their equal rights to be “a liability.”

To back up his commitment, Racine points to his support for equal marriage rights back in the days before the Baker decision, those olden days when Howard Dean was so uncomfortable he wouldn’t say one word about same-sex marriage.

“I came out months before the Supreme Court ruling on Baker v. Vermont,” says Racine, “and made it clear that I don’t have a problem with gay marriage.”

He may be a quiet man, but he’s got a very strong backbone.

DeanWatch 2004 — Not bad. Our favorite presidential hopeful reported to the Federal Election Commission that his start-up political action committee has raised $111,317. Gov. Dean started his Fund for a Healthy America in November. Breaking the $100,000 threshold is admirable.

Of course, his opponents in the 2004 presidential sweepstakes raked in much, much more, but they’ve had PACs in place for some time. For example, Sen. Tom Daschle’s Dashpac reported raising $1.5 million last year. And Sen. John Kerry has $3 million in his U.S. Senate campaign kitty. He’s even been raising money over the phone in Vermont. And Kerry will be able to roll over his campaign surplus into his run for the White House.

As for travels, the Guv’s official “Weekly Public Appearance Schedule” was blank for this Wednesday. So was the schedule of out-of-state trips posted on his PAC’s Web site.

So yours truly was surprised to read in Monday morning’s “Political Note” on the ABC network’s Web site that our beloved governor will be campaigning Wednesday for a New Hampshire Executive Council candidate. Sneaky Dean strikes again?

We contacted Dean’s distinguished political lieutenant, Kate O’Connor, on Monday. What’s up Kate?

Ms. O’Connor promptly e-mailed back Dean’s full Wednesday travel schedule. She explained the trip hadn’t been posted “because we just received the details today.”

Ho-Ho will visit a senior center in Manchester, tour a construction site in Londonderry, a reception at a Manchester law firm and a house party that evening. Ostensibly, our favorite presidential hopeful will be doing all this on behalf of the candidacy of someone named John Kacavas.

Hey, have a nice day, Guv!

Dr. Dean also got a mention in a New York Times story Monday on North Carolina Sen. John Edwards’ weekend in New Hampshire. (Edwards is the “cute” one.)

Church & State Update — Vermont’s gift from Bob Jones University is once again on the attack in his crusade to impose the laws of his God on all Vermonters. Y’all goin’ to hell!

Rev. David Stertzbach, pastor of Williston’s Bible-belting Trinity Baptist Church, is on the warpath with a fresh fundraising letter trashing, of all people, Republican House Speaker Walter Freed!

Hey, buddy, Walt’s our favorite Dorset petroleum millionaire. Back off!

The mullah’s pitch for moolah comes under the letterhead of the “Vermont Defense of Marriage Committee.” It’s all fire and brimstone aimed at poor “spineless” Walter Freed.

The fundamentalist political leader of Chittenden County’s Religious Right wants an immediate repeal of civil unions. Nothing less. It’s God’s will, fer crissakes!

“The bad news,” writes Stertzbach, “is that it is going to be an uphill fight because of House Speaker Walter Freed. Count on Speaker Freed to use all his powers of leadership to pressure Senate Republicans to join his sellout to the radical homosexual lobby.”

The leader of the local Taliban also whacks House Judiciary Chair Peg Flory for slipping through a “political gimmick” last year in the form of “reciprocal partnerships.” (Wally even broke a tie vote to ram it through.)

The fact is, Princess Peg’s reciprocal partners bill was dead on arrival in the Senate.

With his own words, Stertzbach proves his extremism. His gospel is brimming with bigotry, hate and greed. “Love,” to Stertzbach, is just a four-letter word.

His last page is a petition addressed to himself that begins:

“I want to stand with you to fight against ‘hate crime’ laws or any laws that normalize homosexuality or promote the punishment of those who view homosexuality as a sin.”

Folks, this stuff is pure hate mail worthy of the Taliban. Just imagine a Stertzbach administration running Vermont? He’s trying.

Not only did the preacher of bigotry take out Republican State Sen. Peter Brownell in the primary, he also denied Skip Vallee a seat at the senate table. Gasoline Vallee is Vermont’s Republican National Committeeman and was George W. Bush’s Vermont finance chair.

Asked to comment on the fundamentalist leader’s attack on the Freedmeister, Vallee told Seven Days, “The Vermont Republican Party, I believe, is the party of Aiken, Stafford and Snelling. I’m not going to let the Rev. Stertz-bach take that away.”

We’ll see.

P.S. Did you catch the arrest this week of the scripture-quoting fundamentalist preacher in eastern Vermont? Like Stertzbach, Rev. Joe Rinaldi condemned civil unions. Following a six-month state police investigation, Pastor Rinaldi of the Newbury Bible Church was charged with five counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child. He was also the principal of the Newbury Christian School.

God’s will, eh?

Tip of the Week — For everything you want to know about the current Champion lands controversy check out www.vtce.org — that’s Vermonters for a Clean Environment. Click the “What’s New” box. All the relevant Champion documents and much, much more. You be the judge.

Thank you, Annette Smith.

Quote of the Week — Sen. Jim Jeffords was pushing an extension of the American school year before the National Press Club Friday. He noted there are powerful opponents. Asked who they were, Jeezum Jim named the Chamber of Commerce.

“That’s where their slave labor comes from during the summer,” said the Independent Vermonter.

C’mon Jeezum, don’t hold back. Say what you really think.

Media Notes — Not much room left to review Ruth Dwyer’s debut on WVNY-TV News last week. Perhaps the less said the better. Isn’t there anyone out there with something positive to say about her performance? If you missed the first two parts, the scripts are on WVNY’s brand new Web site: www.abc22.com. We’ll deal with it next week.

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About The Author

Peter Freyne

Peter Freyne

Bio:
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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