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Vermont Republicans Hanging On? 

Inside Track

Bernie Sanders

Published October 18, 2006 at 4:00 p.m.

Not a good year to be a Republican, eh?

In general, no, but there are exceptions. The general strategy appears to be one of laying low - like the suddenly sinking gasoline prices, which 47 percent of Americans believe is nothing but an election ploy by the Bush White House.

Well, if you were them, the Bush-Cheney team, wouldn't you do it? If you were Big Oil and you just took in the greatest annual profit in recorded human history, wouldn't you show a timely gesture of generosity and wisdom? After all, holding power is an honorable cause, isn't it?

The facts are that last year Exxon-Mobil alone took in $371 billion - that's billion, with a "b". The oil giant's reported profit for the year was $36 billion. That's the largest annual profit any company has ever reported.

The entire gross product of the great state of Vermont is $23 billion. Yet we heard not a peep in Congress about a windfall profits tax. Mes amis, that scene is going to change on November 7, and Big Oil and the Republican Party know it. Right now for the Rs, both national and local, it's all about reducing the Election 2006 damage. What's a few weeks of lower gasoline prices if it preserves the Empire?

It's 20 days until the votes are counted. The tension mounts. One can feel it in the air - the looming showdown with destiny. Getting the good ol' USA back on track! So many we meet around Burlap have expressed their silent fear that the bad guys - these worst of the worst - will hold onto power and we'll have them running America into the ground, unrestrained for another two years.

Our reliable Washington sources tell us this week that the Democrats will definitely take back the House of Representatives and are looking "real good" in the Senate.

We've already declared Vermont's open U.S. Senate seat going to Independent Rep. Bernie Sanders in a landslide. His Republican opponent Rich Tyrant, er, Tarrant, is a man of few words and a whole lot of money. Too bad it couldn't have been put to more productive use, eh?

At the lively Brattleboro debate between Tarrant and Sanders last week, Moderator Sabina Haskell gave Mr. Tyrant three minutes for a closing statement. He said everything he had to say in 90 seconds. A man of few words. Very strange. Sabina had to cut Bernie off after four minutes.

As Freeps old-timer Sam Hemingway reported on Saturday, Richie Rich is on track to make the record books for spending more money per vote received than any politician in U.S. history!

Way to go, Richie - shelling out more than $25 per vote will make you No.1 in at least one category!



Bad Timing - No question Marvelous Martha Rainville would have been a bigger threat to Ol' Bernardo than Rich Tyrant, who's turned into no threat at all. Yours truly was watching TV with the sound down the other day when the bright and beautiful Rainville Lake Champlain ad came on, the one where she's walking and talking by the lakefront in Burlington's New North End, and paddling, too! Without the sound and political verbiage, it looked like a Claritin commercial. My air passages were opening!

Rainville Press Secretary Brendan McKenna called that particular ad, which is getting wide play, "a great confluence of the message on the environment."

It was produced by Paul Curcio of Stevens Reed Curcio & Potholm. Check them out at It's all about what they call "the Politics of Persuasion." And it works.

Just ask Democrat John Kerry.

The same firm created the Swift Boat ads that smeared Vietnam vet John Kerry, but McKenna noted that Curcio had "absolutely nothing" to do with that project.

"We hired Paul Curcio for his work, and he had no part in the Swift Boat ads," he said.

Cool. Great ad. But with unexpected difficulties arising on matters stretching from plagiarism to porn, this one appears to be slipping away from Rainville.

One could almost see it in her eyes Monday as she appeared with former New Jersey Governor and EPA chief Christie Todd Whitman at Champlain College. This dynamic duo of "women on the right" attracted as many journalists as it did students - all of nine!

Democrat polls are showing Peter Welch with a double-digit lead. It's been growing. However, Democrats are not believing their polls as gospel, kicking back and taking it easy to the finish line. Make no mistake, the Dems appreciate and respect Rainville's talents. Democratic U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy tried to recruit her, but Ronald Reagan and Jim Douglas got in the way.

Her leadership skills are indeed impressive. After all, as an aircraft maintenance officer, Rainville has always commanded males. As she told the students, when she was growing up, "My sisters called me bossy."

Never heard anyone call Peter Welch "bossy," have ya?


GOP Victories in Vermont - Despite the enormous anti-Bush feeling in the Green Mountains, it looks at the moment like Republican Gov. Jim Douglas and Republican Lt. Governor Brian Dubie will both slide into the winner's circle on November 7.

But this is Vermont, right? How will they do it?

Gov. Douglas will do it by keeping as low a profile as he can, with as few open-ended press conferences and as many photo-op/ ribbon-cuttings as possible on his schedule. The only statewide TV debate he has to worry about will be next Wednesday, October 25, on WPTZ - you know, the TV station with its headquarters parked over in Plattsburgh, New York. "Vermont's Own," WCAX Ch. 3, is taking a pass on the Vermont Guv's race. Any veteran Republican will tell you that the less people see of Democrat Scudder Parker looking smart and out-dueling Jimbo on key isues, the better, eh?

But, ironically, Douglas is also getting help from Scudder. It's Parker's first statewide race, and it shows. His campaign team - very nice folks - are, like the state, also rather green. Parker's strategy also seems at times to rely on keeping a low profile, mediawise, while meeting with Vermonters in small groups.

To have a shot in this one, we'd suggest, Parker needed to be much more in Douglas' face. He needed to use "free" media, the stuff the mainstream press, including WCAX, simply could not avoid. He needed to be the Scud Missile that worked. Lord knows there are enough soft spots in the Jim Douglas façade to attack, eh?

Gov. Scissorhands' negatives are in the 40 percent-plus range. But the voters in the middle, the ones Scudder needs to get to switch, just don't know him well enough. They'd love to hear more about him and hear more from him. And they'd wish he'd crack a smile in his TV ad.

Yours truly knew it was over for Parker when this week began without a press conference on the Democratic challenger's schedule. If there's anything Gov. Douglas does not want to do at the moment, it's respond to incoming charges questioning his performance and policies, from wind energy to wilderness protection and his cozy relationship with certain special interests.

Plus, neither Parker nor his campaign responded to Commerce Sec. Kevin Dorn's letter in Seven Days last week in which Dorn accused Parker of "inaccuracies" in statements about funding for housing.

Instead, we got a call from Progressive State Rep. David Zuckerman of Burlington, who was shocked and angry that Dorn "was taking credit for work that neither he nor the Douglas administration has anything to do with."

In fact, said Dave the Prog, the Douglas administration has over the last four years proposed million-dollar budget cuts for housing-conservation programs. It's been the Dems and Progs under the Golden Dome who've put the money in the budget.

The Douglas administration, said Zuckerman, "makes statements but doesn't back them up."

P.S. On deadline Tuesday afternoon, we got word that Scudder's doing a housing presser Wednesday. Too little, too late?


Dubie Plays Defense - Over in the Lite-Gov race, the three major party candidates - Incumbent Republican Brian Dubie, Democrat Matt Dunne and Progressive Marvin Malek, went at it on "The Mark Johnson Show" Tuesday morning on WDEV. Or rather, Dunne and Dubie went at it.

Sen. Dunne questioned how much work Doobie-Doo, the airline pilot and Army Reserve officer, actually puts in on the State of Vermont clock. Dunne promised he would do more than take a paycheck year-round for a part-time job. He'd make Lite-Gov a full-time job!

Things got pretty testy.

Dunne's the thirtysomething state senator from eastern Vermont who's already shown promise as a twentysomething House member who then became the top gun at AmeriCorps-VISTA in Washington.

Despite the uphill odds, Dunne's giving it everything he's got, in every moment he has to spare. His campaign put out a release an hour after the WDEV debate declaring, "Dunne Emerges Victorious in Debate."

Unfortunately for Dunne, the ol' Doobster ain't showing up for many of them. Democrat Dunne has asked for 11 public debates with the incumbent. He's only getting five.

Well, if you were in Brian Dubie's shoes, wouldn't you do the same thing?

Got to admire the "no quit" in Young Dunne. And we've learned the Democrat will announce today, as Seven Days hits the streets, that he's won the Vermont Troopers' Foundation endorsement, which Republican Dubie had in 2004. Said Trooper Union President Sgt. Mike O'Neil, "Dunne's support for law-enforcement issues and the Vermont Troopers' Foundation" made them switch horses.

Interesting. But likely too little, too late, eh?


Auditor's Race - Not catching any signs that incumbent Republican Randy Brock has a problem. It's always nice for a Republican to have a Democrat and a Progressive on the ballot, and Tom Salmon and Martha Abbott are filling that bill.

Salmon, son of former governor and University of Vermont President (and Saratoga Racetrack aficionado) Tom Salmon, has an interesting TV ad. He stands in front of a a painted, one-dimensional bookcase shade.

Why would a statewide candidate for an office whose responsibility is to ensure the state budget is spent the way it's supposed to use a flimsy fake bookcase in his campaign commercial?


Leg Man Down - Not an easy year to be a Republican, that's all there is to it. Burlington State Rep. Kurt Wright is recovering from a serious leg injury sustained on the Burlington Bike Path behind Pleasant Avenue six weeks ago. (That's why we haven't seen him!)

Kurt told "Inside Track" he touched wheels with a fellow biker (whom he declined to identify) and went down hard.

Wright sustained a "severe bone contusion," but no structural damage. It's kept him from doing something he loves to do: campaign door-to-door in his New North End district.

"I can't totally bend it," said the Queen City's only Republican legislator. "Physical therapists," he added, "really do great work."

Even without the door-to-door, Rep. Wright and incumbent district-mate Bill Aswad, an 85-year-old Democrat, appear heavy favorites to win another two years of wintertime fun under Montpeculiar's Golden Dome.


Media Notes I - Tonight, Wednesday, October 18, is the night, and at 7 p.m. we'd suggest the place to be is Borders Books in Burlington. Why?

To catch one of America's all-time top-shelf political cartoonists - Jeff Danziger. The former Vermont school teacher, who now haunts Hell's Kitchen on Manhattan's West Side, will present a digital slide show and sign copies of his new book, Blood, Debt and Fears: Cartoons of the First Half of the Last Half of the Bush Administration.

Danziger in the flesh!



Media Notes II - The new "Freyne Land" Blog turns two months old this week and it's become an absolute blast. Just ask WCAX-TV's veteran news director and news reader Marselis Parsons. And don't tell me you're too old to get on the Internet.

Thanks to "Freyne Land," we had ample room to criticize "Vermont's Own" for its decision not to air a story about Martha Rainville's campaign plagiarism on the day the story broke, when everyone jumped on it. Our blog coverage apparently upset Parsons and he stewed about it for a week. Then he fired off a letter to one of Seven Days' distinguished female co-publishers reaming out yours truly.

It opened, "Peter Freyne fairly criticized us for not running the Martha Rainville aide plagiarism story last Monday, October second. It was a mistake not to run that story on that day and the responsibility is mine."

But it went downhill from there as Parsons accused us of lying for suggesting Reporter Anson Tebbetts didn't "file" a Rainville plagiarism story on Monday. Parsons claims he did, but it got missed at 6 and, would you believe, also missed at 11?

How often does that happen at award-winning WGOP, er, WCAX-TV? Misplacing the top news story of the day? The question "Why?" remains unanswered.

Read it all - "Marselis Parson Unglued" - at http://www.7dblogs/freyneland. The blog has also been able to inspire a few Ch. 3 viewers to contact the station about its decision not to broadcast a gubernatorial debate. Several have. Hey, just trying to be helpful. Bring folks together.

Look, yours truly likes the old-fashioned stuff like telephones connected to wires and tape recorders that actually use recording tape. But, this Internet thing?

Our bet is, it's here to stay and blogdom, here we come!

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

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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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