Gregory Dennis: Dems still shortchanging the Progs

Does the Vermont Democratic Party still hate the Vermont Progressive Party?
It appears so, judging by the way it’s holding a stale grudge against candidates who call themselves progressive and run for office as both Democrats and Progressives.
Dave Zuckerman, a Hinesburg organic farmer, ran for lieutenant governor this year as both a D and a P. But the state Democratic apparatus has consistently — even now — withheld its proprietary voter information from his campaign.
Zuckerman, you see, had committed the sin of being in the State Senate as a Progressive.
Somehow Vermont Democrats had no problem lending enthusiastic support to Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. But when Zuckerman had the temerity to run for Lite Gov as a Democrat, he got the cold shoulder from the party.
That didn’t stop Zuckerman from trouncing two other candidates in the Democratic Primary, where he outdistanced both Kesha Ram and the Democratic establishment’s favorite, Speaker of the House Shap Smith.
Zuckerman notes that if elected, he would be the first Vermont farmer in 50 years to sit as lieutenant governor. And while he doesn’t bring it up, he would also be the first one to have a ponytail.
Now Vermont Dems are giving the same inane “you’re not really one of us” treatment to Mari Cordes.
Cordes is a Lincoln resident and one of two Democrats on the ballot in the two-seat Vermont House district that encompasses Bristol, Lincoln Monkton and Starksboro.
Cordes has got to be one of the most energetic and committed people I know. She fits in a lot of activity around her 12-hour shifts as a cardiac nurse. As president of the 2,000-member Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, she has successfully fought for paid sick leave, an end to insurance discrimination against transgendered patients, and increased oversight of for-profit hospital buyouts.
Cordes describes herself as a progressive Democrat, and that’s how she’s run her campaign. But apparently that’s not good enough for the state Democratic Party, which still appears to be allergic to the P Word.
Expect this year’s gubernatorial general election to set spending records.
Democratic nominee Sue Minter is outraising Phil Scott, the stock car drive/construction company executive/lieutenant governor. Minter, a former legislator and state transportation secretary who oversaw the post-Irene recovery, topped Scott by reporting September fundraising totals of about $374,000. That compared to Scott’s tally of about $226,000 for the month. (These figures according to an analysis by political columnist Paul Heintz of Seven Days.)
The big money gorilla in this race, however, is not the candidates. It’s a political action committee bankrolled by the Republican Governors Association. That super PAC has thrown more than $1.2 million into the race on Scott’s behalf. A similar group on the Democratic side has tossed in $381,000 on Minter’s behalf.
For those of you who think there’s little difference between the two parties, take a look at who else is giving money to their campaigns.
Phil Scott is taking corporate contributions. Among his donors have been Monsanto (the huge company fighting the state’s GMO labeling law), AT&T and Big Tobacco, via Altria Client Services.
Minter, who won’t take corporate money, shows support from employee groups and advocates for gun safety and marijuana law reform, among others. Her two most interesting individual donors? Jane Fonda and Danny DeVito, who each tossed in $2,700.
Sen. Patrick Leahy is running for re-election in what will likely be his last campaign. And like all of his most recent re-election efforts, this one figures to be a snoozer.
Republican nominee Scott Milne is the Seinfeld candidate in the race. “Seinfeld” was famously called a show about nothing, and Milne’s campaign so far seems to be about nothing except that he’s not Pat Leahy.
It’s true that everybody thought the same about Milne’s 2014 race against Gov. Peter Shumlin — and Milne nearly won that election. But put that down to the early aggravation about Vermont Health Connect and a surprisingly deep strain of antipathy toward the governor.
Sen. Leahy was stumping in Addison County this past Tuesday, including a midday stop at Carol’s Hungry Mind Café in Middlebury to talk to college students and, presumably, whomever wanted to have a few minutes with the senator.
If exciting Senate races are your cup of tea, you’ll have to look across the Connecticut River to New Hampshire, where incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte is a fight for her political life against a strong Democratic challenger, Gov. Maggie Hassan.
Ayotte has the unenviable task of being a Republican in an increasingly liberal state.
And in a Monday night debate, she blundered into the thicket that is Donald Trump — by saying she thought Trump was a good role model for children.
Hassan jumped all over that one: “Ayotte has tried to have it both ways all cycle with her tortured ‘support but not endorse’ position,” Hassan wrote in a statement. “Tonight she fully embraced the worst of Trump.”
And of course Ayotte then tried to explain it all away by saying she “misspoke.”
The junior senator was already having a hard enough time explaining why she wouldn’t renounce Trump. Now Hassan will pound Ayotte on her inability to figure out how she feels about the Republican presidential nominee in the closing days of the campaign.
Hassan will also be emphasizing Ayotte’s opposition to Planned Parenthood and her dubious environmental credentials after Ayotte said she wanted to “rein in the EPA.”
As for Trump, he’s called Ayotte a “rising star” for the Republican Party.
With Hillary Clinton already leading in Granite State polls, Hassan and Clinton could soon find themselves both settling in to new Washington, D.C., digs.
Patrick Leahy, who’s served Vermont in the Senate since 1975, will be glad to show them around.
Gregory Dennis’s column appears here every other Thursday and is archived on his blog at Email: [email protected]. Twitter: @greengregdennis.

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