Over the next few weeks, we'll be launching a few regular features here on Seven Days' brand-spanking-new politics blog, Off Message. Today, we're debuting The Scoreboard, a weekly reckoning of winners and losers in Vermont politics and news.
We're aiming to avoid the completely obvious. For instance, you won't find Attorney General Bill Sorrell in the winner column this week — or Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan in the loser column. Instead, using a very scientific — but super secret — formula, we'll bring you a less-predictable list of the people, organizations and ideas we think are up and down in this week's news cycle.
Care to make a nomination? E-mail us by the end of the day Thursday with your ideas. We promise to keep your suggestions to ourselves.
Now, to The Scoreboard, for the week of August 31.
Assistant Attorneys General — Bill Sorrell is undoubtedly pretty stoked that he held on to his job for another two years, but so too are his top deputies in the Vermont Attorney General's office. We don't know how many lawyers would've had to update their resumes if Donovan had defeated the incumbent, but you can bet a bunch of J.D.s were cracking open bottles of champagne on the third floor of the Pavilion Wednesday morning.
Vermont Television Stations — Sure, out-of-state "super PACs" might be bad for democracy, but they're great for Vermont's television stations. Absent the intervention of the pro-Sorrell Committee for Justice and Fairness into the AG's race, it's unlikely a down-ballot, August primary would've featured TV ads. But by plunking down at least $145,000 on 30-second spots — and then watching their candidate cling to victory by the narrowest of margins — the group showed that TV can make the difference in a tight race. And that's good news for the ad reps over at WCAX, WPTZ and FOX 44.
Ryan Emerson — Donovan may have lost his bid for AG, but his campaign ran a remarkable get-out-the-vote effort in the closing days of the race. Behind it? Newbury native and Donovan campaign manager Ryan Emerson. By all accounts, the former Chittenden County field director for Gov. Peter Shumlin's 2010 primary campaign did a bang-up job running the Donovan operation. His services will surely be in demand in future statewide races.
Labor — For the second election cycle in a row, the candidate backed by organized labor fell short. Two years ago, it was gubernatorial candidate Doug Racine; this time it was Donovan. Sure, you could argue that the unions got both candidates close to the finish line, but close ain't winning. And given labor's tough talk about the incumbent AG, the unions better hope they don't end up going head-to-head with Sorrell in the next two years.
Aspiring State's Attorneys — One contest that never quite got off the ground was the behind-the-scenes race to replace Donovan as Chittenden County State's Attorney — a choice that would have ultimately been up to Gov. Peter Shumlin. A plum political post for up-and-coming Burlington-area lawyers, this job has been held by such folks as Sen. Patrick Leahy and Sorrell himself. There could still be an opening in two years if Donovan makes another bid for AG. At that point, his four-year term will be expiring and he'll have to make a choice between running for reelection — or not.