Who needs to listen to the gubernatorial debates? The crucial differences between Vermont's top candidates — Democratic Peter Shumlin (pictured at left) and Republican Brian Dubie (pictured below right) — will be on display in two weekends, when the politicians vie for the title of "best grocery bagger who also happens to be running for Vermont's top office." Viewers will get to see if one or both keep cool under pressure, and more importantly, who has the best spatial skills.
Assuming neither one chickens out, the candidates' "bag off" will take place on Saturday, September 25, at 1 p.m. as part of the Vermont Grocers' Association annual convention. It immediately follows the real "best bagger" competition, which allows professionals in the field to show off their chops.
According to VGA President Jim Harrison, the idea of the competition is to inject a little good-natured humor into an otherwise serious campaign: "Vermont is a small state, and we can get along and have fun along the way," he suggests.
Dubie and Shumlin will be presented with the same mix of grocery items — likely including eggs, bread, a few perishables and a bunch of boxes and cans — and will need to pack them up in reusable bags. Just like the real competitors, who are hoping to win a shot at going to nationals, they will be judged on numerous criteria — speed, how well the bags are packed, and "how well they do in terms of their personalities and friendliness," Harrison says.
Jim Condos (D) and Jason Gibbs (R), the major-party candidates running for Secretary of State, will be judging, along with State Senator Dick Mazza (D) of Colchester. Harrison doesn't think the double dose of Democrat judges will tip the scales in Shumlin's favor. Why? Because Mazza, who is himself a grocer, will be able to put partisanship aside and judge purely on skill. "He can be objective and nonbiased," Harrison says of the Colchester businessman.
A hint for the competitors: This is one situation in which putting all of your eggs in one basket is probably best.