Every Friday here at Off Message headquarters, we bring you the week's winners and losers in Vermont politics and news. After scouring the state for conventional wisdom, we run it through our sophisticated, proprietary algorithm, shake it up and add a few ounces of Heady Topper. Then we splatter it upon the internets.
Now, without further ado, we bring you The Scoreboard, for the week of Sept. 14.
Wendy Wilton and Vince Illuzzi — It's impossible to overstate the importance of the $70,000 investment Vermonters First has made in Wilton's and Illuzzi's state treasurer and auditor campaigns. High-turnout election (thanks to a presidential race) + unknown, down-ticket candidates = importance of television ad buys. Runner-up: Tayt Brooks, the founder of the new, conservative Super PAC, and now the most popular Republican in Vermont.
Patrick Leahy, Bill Stenger and Vermont's EB-5 industry — It hasn't gotten much attention yet in Vermont, but a 3-year extension of the soon-to-expire EB-5 investor program passed by the U.S. House yesterday is a big deal for the state (the Senate passed it in August, so it now goes to President Obama's desk). Jay Peak owner Bill Stenger has relied on the program — which lets foreign nationals trade cash for visas — to build his Northeast Kingdom principality. EB-5's biggest congressional backer? Vermont's own Sen. Leahy.
Miro Weinberger — After a bumpy start, Burlington's mayor seems to be learning how to manage his cantankerous city council. Hizzoner secured the passage of a trio of ballot items Monday night — in part by cultivating independent Councilor Karen Paul and Republican Vince Dober early on in the process. While the Prog caucus made plenty of noise, they eventually fell in line — leaving only perennial naysayer Paul Decelles to vote no. Runner up: Burlington stoners, who this week got a waterfront medicinal pot dispensary and a legalization ballot initiative.
Vermont Public Radio — Sure, U.S. Marijuana Party candidate Cris Ericson may be calling it a "hate crime" that she wasn't invited to the party (um, what?!), but the first gubernatorial debate of the season was a big success. Co-moderators Jane Lindholm and Bob Kinzel skipped over boring opening statements and dove right into the story of the day: Gov. Peter Shumlin's FEMA funding announcement. Their tough follow-up Qs kept the squirmy politicians from squirming too much.
Randy Brock — The Republican gubernatorial nominee didn't exactly make the most of the week his opponent finally (officially) threw his hat into the ring. Brock's ill-timed health care plan roll-out gave Shumlin a chance to bash it during his campaign announcement — and to draw Brock into a spat over community rating, which Shumlin camaign manager Alex MacLean called "a discussion we welcome." As we argued earlier this week, Brock turned in a sub-par debate performance and failed to make hay out of one of the biggest setbacks of Shumlin's tenure: his inability to immediately secure the FEMA funding his administration has been counting on. Lastly, Brock didn't exactly look gubernatorial when he crashed the gov's Waterbury press conference Wednesday.
The state budget — Shumlin's announcement that he'll move forward with $170 million in construction projects to replace state buildings damaged by Tropical Storm Irene is good for Waterbury, which has been feeling the pain since the Waterbury State Office Complex was flooded. But it's bad news for state coffers, which won't be replenished any time soon by the roughly $100 million the Shumlin administration is hoping FEMA will provide.
Democracy — We know we've spilled plenty of ink in The Scoreboard on the Progressive gubernatorial primary, but it's worth dwelling on. While the recount was still in progress as we wrote this, early figures indicate Annette Smith picked up 11 votes in Rutland County and somehow lost 51 votes in Orleans County. Seems the latter discrepancy stems from a transcription error coming out of Westfield. Pardon our misplaced faith in democracy, but shouldn't every vote count — and be counted accurately?
Jack McMullen — We'll cut McMullen a break for conflating horses and snowboards in Andy Bromage's profile of the Republican AG candidate this week. The real problem was his listless, lethargic debate performance against incumbent Bill Sorrell Friday morning on WDEV's The Mark Johnson Show. It almost made us miss the manic, Red Bull-powered performances of a certain dispatched Democratic AG candidate. Runner up: Sorrell himself, for losing out on the AFL-CIO's endorsement to Progressive candidate Ed Stanak. If Stanak can show he's serious, perhaps he'll become a viable alternative to McMullen for Sorrell-haters.