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What If? 

Inside Track

Bernie Sanders

Published October 30, 2002 at 5:00 p.m.

Barring some sort of last-minute miraculous surge, Vermont voters will not be electing either a governor or a lieutenant governor next Tuesday. Sorry, folks. In the end, your ballots won't be worth the paper they're printed on.

With all the media polls showing no candidate close to the required 50 percent, it looks like the votes that will count will be the ones cast in January by the 180 members of the newly elected legislature. Like it or lump it, we all have to live with it. The bloody Constitution says so!

And with no winners in the top two races, there will be plenty of time to debate the "what ifs?" of Campaign 2002 between now and next year.

For example, what if Vermont's legendary Independent U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords had not sat this one out?

Jeezum Jim has been hopping around the country like a rabbit, supporting the U.S. Senate candidacies of Democrats. He's even been to Minnesota to tout the virtues of the late U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone, a gallant liberal.

What if good ol' Jeezum had traveled to his native Vermont to tout the virtues of Democrat Doug Racine, also a gallant liberal? After all, Racine has the backing of our other two guys in Washington -- Sen. Patrick Leahy and Rep. Bernie Sanders.

Hey, every vote counts, especially if it's the one vote that puts the Quiet Man over the 50 percent mark and prevents the GOP from "stealing" the election in January. Why the silent treatment, Jeezum?

Sources say Sen. Jeffords let it be known early he would sit out the race for governor. Jeezum thinks the top three candidates, Republican Jim Douglas, Independent Con Hogan and Doug the Democrat, "are all nice guys." We're told that despite his defection from the Republican Party last year, Jeffords still likes Mr. Douglas. Been friends for 25 years.

We're also told Jeezum considers King Con a friend. And Hogan wears the same "independent" label. While Jeffords doesn't know Racine that well, Doug is a member of the Democratic Party that Jeezum has aligned himself with.

What if Jeezum had endorsed Racine like he endorsed Wellstone?

Another big "what if" relates to the campaign strategy of the Democratic contender. As the race for governor has evolved, it's been clear that Slim Jim the Republican has defined the number one issue and put it on the table for everyone to prattle on and on about. That issue is lost jobs. Mr. Douglas blames it all on Mr. Racine and the Dean administration, continually putting the Quiet Man in a defensive posture.

Racine calls it "scare tactics." He points to recent job growth around the state and is ignored. He points out Vermont currently has the lowest unemployment rate and the highest bond rating in the region and is ignored.

He even points out that Mr. Douglas has announced his closest advisor as governor would be Harlan Sylvester. The very same Harlan Sylvester, senior vice-president at Salomon Smith Barney, who's been Gov. Dean's top economic advisor during a decade tarnished by what Slim Jim now claims was lousy fiscal management. And guess what?

Racine gets ignored.

What if Mr. Racine had defined the top campaign issue instead of allowing Mr. Douglas to do it?

What if Mr. Racine had made George W. Bush the top issue in the race?

After all, it's pretty clear Dubya would dearly like to establish a secure Republican beachhead in Vermont. To pay back Patrick Leahy for blocking his judicial appointments. To pay back Jim Jeffords for stabbing him in the back and knocking the Bush train off the track. To pay back Bernie Sanders for being a constant pain in the butt.

Do you think there's a chance that making campaign issues of President Bush's warmongering, his sleazy corporate connections, his disastrous environmental policies and his desire to take over Vermont would have energized Vermont voters?

What if Racine had highlighted the looming Bush threat instead of "new cost-saving efficiencies" in state government?

Your truly's no political expert, but if next Tuesday's vote was a referendum on George W. Bush installing a puppet government in the Green Mountains, Doug Racine would be drinking champagne Tuesday night.

Predictions! -- No guts, no glory, right? So here we go with our predictions for next Tuesday. The envelope, please.

Governor: Racine, 46 percent. Douglas, 39 percent. Hogan, 11 percent. Badamo, 3 percent. Fringies, 1 percent.

Lite-Governor: Dubie, 36 percent. Shumlin, 35 percent. Pollina, 29 percent.

Senate: Democrats, 18 seats. Republicans, 12 seats.

House: Republicans, 77 seats. Democrats, 69 seats. Progressives, 4 seats.

Legislature Total: Republicans, 89. Democrats, 87. Progs, 4.

Interesting, eh?

Never Say Never -- Spirits were indeed high the other morning on Hospital Hill at the official opening of Vermont's first methadone clinic. "The Chittenden Center," run jointly by the Howard Center for Human Services and Fletcher Allen Health Care, will serve the growing population of young Vermont heroin addicts, estimated to be more than 1000 strong.

The new clinic will provide methadone to a maximum 100 addicts desperate to get a grip on their lives. A daily controlled dose of methadone, said clinic officials, levels out the highs and lows of addiction and allows an addict to function normally, hold a job, be a parent and live crime-free.

As was the case with Wal-Mart, however, Vermont is about the last state in the country to permit methadone treatment. And the reason it took so long comes down to two little words -- Howard Dean.

Gov. Dean has been the #1 opponent of methadone treatment from Day One. He said it would only attract more junkies and destroy the fabric of Ver-mont society. He'd personally seen the dark side of methadone, he told us, in his days as a medical student in the South Bronx in the 1970s.

In the chitchat at Friday's opening, yours truly heard several people recall Dr. Dean's tough words on VPR in 1999. Dean said back then that as long as he was governor there would "never" be a methadone clinic in Vermont. Ho-Ho's got a little more than two months left. Never say never, eh?

Many readers will also recall the empty promise in his inaugural address two years ago when Gov. Dean declared, "I will drive heroin out of Vermont!"

The only thing he's "driven out of Vermont" are the Vermont state troopers on his security detail who spend more time on the roads of Iowa, California, South Carolina and New Hamp-shire than they do Vermont.

Anyway, back to the new methadone clinic. There's plenty of credit to go around on this one. It was a tough fight at the Statehouse, especially since the governor was so passionately opposed.

The point man under the golden dome was State Sen. Jim Leddy (D-Chittenden). Unlike so many others, Leddy refused to ignore Vermont's heroin explosion. He refused to ignore the pain and suffering. And he refused to knuckle under to Howard Dean, the leader of his party. His tenacity deserves a gold star. How did Leddy convince Ho-Ho to see things his way?

"Well, I don't think I convinced the governor," Leddy told Seven Days. "We outvoted him."

In the last year, said Sen. Leddy, the Dean administration "has been very supportive. It's just taken longer than I would have liked to get this off the ground. What happened yesterday is yesterday. We need to pay attention to what I think is a crisis, even an epidemic, in our state. This is a major step."

Ed Colodny, the most popular guy in town, supports the clinic enthusiastically. Today he's the interim CEO at the Mary Fanny. A year ago, while interim president at UVM, Mister Ed publicly supported the establishment of a methadone clinic. Little did he know, he said, that one year later he'd be in charge of the hospital where it's located.

"I hope it's the first of many that will be available to Vermont-ers in other parts of the state," said Colodny, Vermont's go-to guy for crisis management.

What will a methadone clinic do to the community?

"I'll tell you what it would do," said Howard Center director Todd Centybear. "It will reduce crime. It will reduce death. It will reduce the loss of families."

One particular gentleman who quietly attended the opening ceremony has a special interest in crime reduction. David Kirby is the longtime #2 man at the U.S. Attorney's office. Criminal prosecution is his forte, especially drug cases. And recently Wavy Davy learned firsthand what it's like to be a crime victim.

Just a few days earlier, Mr. Kirby said, his Hill Section home had been broken into during the early evening hours. A laptop was stolen. It's a safe bet the burglar was not a computer geek but rather an addict financing his next fix.

Anybody get a great deal on a black-market laptop in the last few days?

The U.S. Attorney's office in Burlington would love to hear from you. Be sure and tell 'em Seven Days sent you.

DeanWatch 2004 -- Word from the Dean for America campaign is that our favorite presidential hopeful is close to signing up a campaign manager for his run for the White House. Unfortunately, Gov. Howard Dean declined Monday to tell Seven Days if he's hiring locally or going with a Beltway veteran, but he said we can expect an announcement shortly. No doubt there has been no shortage of applicants.

As for the recent statewide media poll that showed President Bush well ahead of him in a head-to-head match, you can be assured Ho-Ho isn't losing any sleep over it. Among all the Democratic contenders, Dean noted, only Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts beats Bush in his home state.

Last Sunday, Dean gave a speech at a Victory Fund brunch in Washington, D.C. Monday night he was the star attraction at the Rhode Island Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson dinner.

Tuesday's story in the Providence Journal opened with the line, "Can the governor of Vermont become president of the United States?" The article never answered the question. The Journal did make note, however, of Dean's Rhode Island roots -- he went to high school at St. George's School in Newport.

More stops in New Hamp-shire and Maine are on his agenda for this week, as well as a Burlington appearance to endorse Peter Shumlin for Lite-Gov. And on Saturday Ho-Ho's off to Montreal to tape what he called his "last hurrah" on "The Editors," the PBS panel show aired across Canada and in U.S. border states. It's the program where Ho-Ho honed the TV skills that recently served him well on "Meet the Press" and "Face the Nation." The skills that have established him as America's new kid on the presidential block.

Recently Vermont's A.P. bureau chief, Chris Graff, has made an appearance on "The Editors," too. Did a fine job. And Mr. Graff made it clear to Seven Days he is not harboring presidential aspirations.

Oh, by the way, Gov. Dean told us this week he's finally had a chance to read the Iraq Resolution, or, as the Vermont congressional delegation calls it, the "blank check" that gives Mr. Bush the green light to start a war whenever and wherever he so desires.

Last week, you'll recall, Dean surprised everyone by declining comment. Said he hadn't read it. This week Dean said it's "unlikely" he would have supported it.


One other presidential item of some concern to yours truly: jogging. It's become de rigueur in America for presidents to jog. You see them doing so on TV all the time. But we've never seen our favorite presidential hopeful jog. He hikes and he skates and he skis, but he does not jog. Is America ready for a non-jogger in the White House?

Gov. Dean told Seven Days that he used to jog, but he has bad knees. Curses!

If he wants to win, we told him, he's going to have to jog a little bit. At least enough to provide the necessary video footage for TV news reports.

Ho-Ho said he will consider it.

Hey, anything to help!

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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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