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As Goes Massachusetts, So Goes Vermont?


Published January 21, 2010 at 4:06 p.m.

Does Republican Scott Brown's U.S. Senate victory Tuesday bode well for Republicans in another liberal New England state like Vermont?

Republicans say — of course. Brown's victory over Democrat Martha Coakley means that senate seat will be held by the GOP for the first time in almost 40 years.

"Last night's victory has shown that momentum is on our side," wrote Steve Larrabee, state GOP chairman, in an email fundraising pitch to donors.

Republican Len Britton, who is challenging U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), said Brown's victory is good news for his fledgling campaign. Leahy also faces a Democratic challenger, Daniel Freilich.

Britton sent his campaign manager, Dan Riley, to Massachusetts to help with last-minute get-out-the-vote efforts.

“Massachusetts voters are sending a true statesman to Washington to represent them. Scott ran a positive, issue-based campaign, worked endlessly, and will thankfully be the 41st vote to stop the healthcare plan Washington is trying to cram down Americans' throats," said Britton. "His race was about policy, for the people, and will be heard across the country for years to come."

Britton is currently on a “Citizen Legislator Listening Tour” campaigning around Vermont.

"I think people are tired of what they see as an entrenched political class," said Britton. If elected, he said he would only serve two terms.

But he's up against one of the most powerful Democrats in the country — and someone who has enjoyed deep, bipartisan support in election years.

Leahy, first elected in 1974, brings home millions of dollars in federal “pork” and is the third longest-serving Democrat in the U.S. Senate. He chairs the judiciary committee and is the second most senior Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Carolyn Dwyer, Leahy's campaign manager, said not too much should be read into the Massachusetts election tea leaves.

"All politics is local, and Vermonters are well aware that Vermont is not Massachusetts," said Dwyer. "Senator Leahy has never taken any election for granted, and this election is no different. He enjoys strong support in Vermont because he has always been there for Vermonters when they have needed him, from businesses looking to expand to farmers who need a helping hand. His record of service for Vermont speaks for itself."

Britton said his campaign is refusing any money from political action committees. His campaign headquarters will be based in Rutland.

While Leahy's camp may not feel too threatened by the loss of Coakley in Massachusetts, state Democrats are taking no chances.

"This defeat serves as a wake-up call to all Democrats," wrote state party chairwoman Judy Bevans in a fundraising pitch to Vermont Democrats. "If we want real change, we need to work twice as hard to achieve it."

At his weekly press conference, Republican Gov. Jim Douglas, who is chairman of the National Governor's Association, said the GOP victory on Tuesday bodes well for his party this fall — especially his chosen successor Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie.

"I think it bodes well for the party for the rest of the year," said Douglas. The Massachusetts victory, following on the heels of gubernatorial wins in Virginia and New Jersey, "puts the wind at our back."

Douglas believes Brown's victory was, in part, a referendum on Pres. Barack Obama, but also expressed a frustration voters have with "one-party" rule.

"One-party domination is not good, whether it is in Washington or Montpelier," said Douglas.