Clinton Campaign Draws Small Crowd in Burlington | Off Message

Bernie Sanders
Clinton Campaign Draws Small Crowd in Burlington


Gov. Peter Shumlin, former governor Madeleine Kunin and Clinton staffer Brandon Bantham Monday in Burlington. - PAUL HEINTZ
  • Paul Heintz
  • Gov. Peter Shumlin, former governor Madeleine Kunin and Clinton staffer Brandon Bantham Monday in Burlington.
Not all Vermonters are feelin' the Bern.

Nearly a week after 5,000 people crowded the Burlington waterfront to watch Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) kick off his presidential campaign, roughly 35 gathered across the street Monday night at Main Street Landing to show their support for former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

Lopsided though those numbers may sound, Holly Jones of Shelburne reassured her fellow Clintonites that they were hardly a reflection of Clinton's true support in Vermont.

"There was a lot of talk because he had 5,000 people down there," Jones said. "But I can tell you what: She would get 10,000 people, if not 20 or 30 — and that's the truth!"

Beach Conger of Burlington agreed.

"Cheer for Bernie! Vote for Hillary!" he said. 

The hour-long event, which featured speeches from Gov. Peter Shumlin and former governor Madeleine Kunin, included plenty of talk about the "everyday Americans" to which Clinton and her surrogates have constantly referred this campaign season.

"Hillary Clinton, when she announced her campaign, pledged to be a champion for everyday Americans and that she would work hard to earn every vote," her New Hampshire press secretary, Harrell Kirstein, said before the program began.

But few of those gathered Monday evening in the half-filled room could be considered everyday Vermonters. Rather, many were Democratic muckety-mucks, such as Rep. Tim Jerman (D-Essex Junction), former state senator Hinda Miller, former Shumlin chief of staff Bill Lofy, former Vermont Democratic Party spokesman Ben Sarle and Burlington Democratic Party assistant treasurer Andrew Champagne.

Leading the charge was Brandon Batham, whom the Clinton campaign hired in April to serve as its Vermont "grassroots organizer." The Los Angeles native lives in Marlboro and got his start in Vermont politics last summer working on Sen. Becca Balint's (D-Windham) primary election campaign. He went on to serve as the VDP's southern Vermont field organizer last fall.

Clinton supporters pose for a photo Monday in Burlington. - PAUL HEINTZ
  • Paul Heintz
  • Clinton supporters pose for a photo Monday in Burlington.
After playing two campaign-produced videos on a projector and taking a photo of those gathered for the event — "One, two, three, say, 'Hillary!'" — Batham encouraged audience members to stay involved.

"Take a clipboard. Shoot me an email. I'll send you signup sheets and voter registration forms. Get people plugged in. Get people excited about this campaign," he said. "2008 was great ... because of that. People were electrified going into the polling place. Voting was sexy. We've got to make voting sexy again!"

But even Clinton's top supporters in the state appeared to acknowledge that, at least in Vermont, Sanders may be the sexier candidate.

"I know that many Vermonters are rightly proud of their almost-native son," Kunin said, adding that she's "glad that Bernie is running, because his ideas are important." 

Shumlin said much the same.

"We all know in Vermont that we love Bernie. Bernie is a friend and an extraordinary voice for Vermont. I'm proud that he's running for president. I think it's a proud moment for Vermont, and as governor Kunin said, he's going to raise issues that are really important to this campaign," Shumlin said, adding that he is also friends with the latest entrant into the Democratic primary, former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley.

"But the question for us at this time is very simple," Shumlin continued. "Who of the candidates running for president has the ability to hit the ground running and can continue to lift up the economy for the American people that have been fighting and struggling to get a fair shot at a good wage and a good life for themselves and their families? And it is Hillary Clinton."