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On The Campaign Trail 

Susan Sweetser's campaign shows growing pains, while she talks big at the Republican National Convention. Also, the emergence of the latest anti-Bernie bumper stickers: Get B.S. out of D.C.

Bernie Sanders

Published August 14, 1996 at 4:00 a.m.

No, you weren't hearing things. That was the name of Bernie Sanders reverberating over the loudspeakers at the Republican National Convention in San Diego Monday. Quite the honor, eh? Thank you, Susan Sweetser.

"This will be an historic election. Why?" asked Susie Creamcheese from the podium. "Because we have the opportunity to replace the most liberal, most out-of-touch member of Congress, Bernie Sanders!"

Sweetser went on to declare, "I'm a second-generation American. I'm a mom of two daughters. I'm also a teacher and I'm a victim of a brutal crime. But I fought back! In 1990 I founded Survivors of Crime, and in the past year after a battle that lasted over a decade, I passed Vermont's historic Crime Victims Bill of Rights."

Sounds pretty good, huh? Susie Creamcheese's 90 seconds on the San Diego stage betrayed none of the difficulties her campaign is facing back in Vermont. A look at the Vermont side of things reveals signs of trouble in Sweetserville.

First of all, Sweetser's campaign finance director, Jill McDermott, has quit the campaign in a huff. McDermott, formerly the campaign manager and assistant to Burlington Republican mayor Peter Brownell, tells Inside Track she "wasn't happy" working at Sweetser's campaign headquarters in Montpelier. Our sources indicate there was a major rift between McDermott and Sweetser's campaign manager, Darcie Johnston.

"We were sorry to see Jill go, but those things happen," said Sweetser in an interview at the Burlington Airport Saturday as she was departing for the West Coast. "We will have her replaced imminently." Asked about complaints of Johnston's management style, Sweetser replied, "Like any campaign, we're going to have our ups and we're going to have our downs. It's going to take some time for everyone to adjust to one another and to work together, but I'm very pleased with my campaign and I'm very pleased with the team I've put together.

As for the persistent rumors of money troubles, Johnston told Inside Track this week that the campaign has almost $40,000 in the bank. "We will easily make our payroll throughout the campaign," Sweetser insisted.

On another front, Sweetser is the subject of persistent rumors sparked by her appearance on Vermont Public Radio's "Switchboard" program on July 18. The caller was introduced by the host, Bob Kinzel, as "Thomas of South Burlington."

"The President has been attacked by the Republican Party for his, quote unquote, character," said the caller in a tense, emotional voice. "I think what goes around comes around, and I could not consider someone who, while professing to care about victims, victimized a family in Burlington, created havoc for the wife and kids. I'm referring to a relationship 18 to 24 months ago. I think you know what I'm talking about. And that's why I won't be able to vote for you even though I'm a Republican business owner. Okay?"

"Well, thank you very much," answered Sweetser as Kinzel went on to the next caller.

The incident quickly became the behind-the-scenes buzz, and not just in political circles.

Asked about the matter Saturday, Sweetser said she had "no comment," adding, "That's not a fair question."

Yours truly respectfully disagrees. One would have expected an angry denial or rebuttal instead of a "no comment." Asking about charges related to character made on a statewide public radio broadcast is a fair question for a candidate for Congress or even President. After all, the answer is entirely up to the candidate.

P.S. Two years ago it was "Bye-Bye Bernie." Wishful thinking. This week a new bumper sticker appeared at Sweetser campaign headquarters. It reads: "Get B.S. out of D.C." Johnston said she didn't know who produced them. Bernie haters will love 'em.

Debtors Slug It Out — Yes, that was Republican John Carroll on television the other day responding to Democrat Doug Racine's call for campaign spending limits by stating, "If how you run a campaign is a predictor of fiscal responsibility, I think Doug Racine flunks. In his last campaign he spent well over $100,000 and wound up with a $22,000 debt."

Stunning to hear the word "debt" pass through the lips of John Carroll, the most famous debtor in Election '96. Racine's "debt" is personal money he put into his campaign. Carroll's debt — 10 times greater — was money he owed to the Ohio mortgage company that had to take J.C. to court to collect. Of course, in Carroll's case it should be noted the candidate considered his debt a "badge of honor." What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Time to Apologize? — In an August 6 letter, the lawyers who represented the Free Mumia demonstrators say Gov. Howard Dean owes an apology for comments made two weeks ago in which he called the six protesters "hoods," blamed them for vandalism they were never even charged with committing, and blasted Judge Dean Pineles for permitting use of the necessity defense. Michael Cassidy and Stacey Joroff called Ho-Ho's remarks "childish" and "slanderous." Yeah, so what? Ho-Ho's the big cheese and he'll say whatever he wants, facts be damned. Don't expect an apology, folks.

Media Notes — Last week's three-day Montpelier hearing on a worker's comp claim brought by the widow of a former Burlington Free Press territorial sales manager drew the attention of two local TV stations. Peter Fatovidi jumped into the Huntington Gorge in June 1994 after working for the local Gannett paper for three months after he had departed WPTZ-TV. Free Press managers have stated under oath in depositions that the advertising department had a 75 percent turnover rate that year. Fatovich's wife, Jenny Grosvenor, contends his depression was aggravated by on-the-job stress, thus causing his suicide. The hearings will continue in November. No matter what the outcome, expect the losing party to appeal to Superior Court. If the Freeps loses, the price tag will make Paul Teetor's recent settlement look like pocket change.

Our local TV titans are extending the battlefield to the early morning hours. Over at WCAX, Sera Congi kicked off Monday morning with an interview with Bernie Sanders. Congi gets to work at 4:30 a.m. Ouch! Molly Falconer, our favorite Harvard alumnus, will replace Congi on the anchor desk for the Saturday late news.

Reporter Carolyn Roy — a hometown girl who graduated from Champlain College — departed her part-time gig at WCAX last week and became producer of the morning program at WVNY-TV this week. Carolyn was a Ch. 3 intern who stuck around for a year and was just starting to get noticed for her on-camera performance. Ms. Roy's got a future on the box.

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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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