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A Vermont Left?


Published November 4, 2008 at 1:49 p.m.

By Kevin J. Kelley

"Fair Game" readers know Shay Totten has lately been touching on that tricky political dynamic between Progressive and Democrats in Vermont — namely whether the two parties will ever agree to work together and unite the left in the state.

This morning, a number of voters who are supporting either Democrat Gaye Symington or Independent Anthony Pollina in the governor's race said they're open to the possibility of a Dem-Prog coalition.

Alexandra Townsend, who cast her ballot Edmunds Elementary, said she voted for Symington, but would favor a move to run a single, cross-endorsed candidate in a race where the presence of both a Prog and a Dem could result in victory for a Republican.

A Pollina voter, Gwen Pokalo, agreed it would be "a good idea to join forces." Talking outside Ward 3 polling place at the Lawrence Barnes School, Pokalo noted that "a lot of ideas are shared by the two parties." While describing herself as a Progressive, Pokalo added that "the whole third-party thing is scary to me. Third parties typically don't get voted in."

State Rep. Jason Lorber, a Democrat, also favors formation of a Dem-Prog coalition. "I got into politics – and most people I know got into politics – not because of parties but because of issues," Lorber said in the Barnes parking lot this morning.

Lorber noted that he's "definitely" supporting Tim Ashe, a State Senate candidate who's making a pioneering run with endorsements from both the Democrats and Progressives.

Ashe himself says the Dem-Prog fusion approach he's touting has gotten "a tremendous reception" from Chittenden County residents. Speaking by phone from a polling place in Essex, Ashe said that if he's elected today, he'll focus on issues but will also "immediately begin thinking about creating leadership" for a movement toward a Dem-Prog coalition.

"If I win, it will clearly show that people are willing to support bridging the divide," Ashe said. "Not everyone will agree on how that should be done, though."

And is he confident of winning one of the six Senate seats for Chittenden County? "No one who isn't an incumbent can be confident about how a race like this plays out," he said.

Photo by Matthew Thorsen.