It’s not Pope, but the name of His Eminence, Vermont’s Pious J. Leahy, popped up on the Veep radar screen the other day when CNN pundit Bob Novak of the Chicago Sun-Times mentioned Sen. Patrick J. Leahy and “vice president” in the same breath.
“Very good source told me,” said Novak the crusty conservative, “that the Democrats are looking very seriously at Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont.” Mr. Novak noted the fact little Vermont has just three measly electoral votes and they’re already counted in the Democrat column as far as November goes. “But Leahy is a very distinguished senator” said Bob. “He’s former Intelligence Committee chairman. He’s expert in many areas. Certainly wouldn’t hurt the ticket.”
And he’s follically challenged, too.
Also singing St. Patrick’s praises this week is Gov. Howard Dean. Ho-Ho’s already been mentioned as a possible running mate for the Big Stiff, Al Gore. And just a couple years ago, Dr. Dean had his sights set on the top of the ticket. But Ho-Ho said months ago, when his name was in play for Veep possibilities, that the Big Stiff doesn’t have to worry about New England in the fall. Instead, Dean suggested then, the wise choice for Mr. Gore would be a running mate from the Midwest, like Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana.
Apparently, Dr. Dean has done an about-face in his astute strategic thinking. “Certainly I would be foolish if I weren’t promoting my home-state senator,” said the good doctor Tuesday.
Asked to list what St. Patrick brings to the national ticket, Dean replied, “I think integrity. A history of being able to understand how the Senate works and how to get things done in the Senate. And a national reputation,” said Ho-Ho, “particularly in the areas of the judiciary and agriculture.”
Agriculture? Oh, yeah, the committee chairmanship Leahy happily gave up to focus on more meaty matters.
But the Guy left out the key item on Patrick Leahy’s resume that’s responsible — mote than any other — for this vice presidential talk. Sen. Leahy is a Roman Catholic. In fact, George W. Bush is also checking out a couple of potential running mates of the Catholic persuasion, among them Gov. Frank Keating of Oklahoma and Gov. Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania.
Plus, Leahy is practically an ethnic “transsexual.” He could do wonders to attract any fallen away Reagan Democrats of the Irish-American persuasion and lock in the Notre Dame fan dub. And don’t forget, Pious J. is pure olive-oil Italian on his mother’s side. He’s always had a gift for making people offers they can’t refuse.
As the Leahy balloon fills with air this week, Republicans are surely preparing weapons to pop it. Expect a reminder of the little leak on Leahy’s record for slipping NBC an Intelligence Committee report prior to its public release over a decade ago. By the time the GOP mud machine gets done with him, Leahy will resemble a KGB spy. After all, from the get-go, Sen. Leahy wanted to send poor little Elian Gonzales back to Communist Cuba faster than Federal Express.
One plus for Pat is the fact that he could be on the national ticket in November without risking his Senate seat. It isn’t up again until 2004 (can’t wait for the rematch with Fred Tuttle, eh?). A Gore-Leahy victory would be like a big dose of Ex-Lax for Vermont’s political constipation. Gov. Dean could slip right into Leahy’s Senate seat and, for the first time in almost 10 years, let someone else’s buns park in the passenger seat of the governor’s MC Yukon. The chain reaction would be positively electric! Just imagine all the balls in play.
State Senate Sweepstakes — Needless to say, Republicans are salivating over their prospects to retake the majority in the Vermont Senate as several veteran Democrats are not seeking reelection to the Gang of 30. Sen. Jan Backus is running for the U.S. Senate. Liz Ready wants to be state auditor. And last week, Jeb Spaulding announced he’s calling it quits after 16 years in Dome.
In Chittenden County, Seven Days has learned that Skip Vallee has decided to throw his hat into the ring. Vallee, 40, was considering a bid for lieutenant governor, but now has settled on a state senate shot. Skippy’s quite the successful businessman, owns R.L. Vallee fuels, the Maplefields mini-mart chain and more. Gasoline Vallee was a star hockey player at BFA St. Albans under Coach Bill Beaney, who’s currently becoming a legend at Middlebury College. Skip says he’s always remembered the Beaney axiom “You make up with hustle for all your mistakes.” Vallee the hustler went on to captain the hockey team at Williams College — he played right wing, naturally.
Also on the GOP’s Chittenden County state senate dance card are incumbent Sen. Peter Brownell, Barbara Snelling and, sources say, Otto Engleberth, of construction company fame. And, we’re told, a couple of former GOP state senate all-stars are thinking of trying a comeback. However, Dennis Delaney said Tuesday he’s not interested.
Is that a “no?” we asked.
“It’s as close to ‘no’ as you can get,” he replied.
Hey, there’s always Susan Sweetser of Essex Junction, right?
Travel Spotlight — The People’s Republic of Burlington hit the national big-time once again Sunday in the travel section of The New York Times. Every week there’s a “What’s Doing in?” page. All the great big cities of the world get featured, but rarely a great small city like Burlington, Vermont. This time of year, with weekly “festivals” and tourists up the yin-yang, Burlap feels more like a theme park than a real city. The eyes of countless tens of thousands will be caught by the Times article. Thousands of them will come. No wonder you can’t find an apartment in this town any more.
The writer, food critic Marian Burros, led with a Rudyard Kipling reference to our sunsets. It highlighted recommended things to do, places to eat and bedrooms in which to sleep. Naturally, Shelburne Farms was picked for tourists who wish to “sleep like a Gilded Age Millionaire.” At the Willard Street Inn, one might “sleep like a bank president.”
The Waystation didn’t get a mention.
On the food side, Smokejacks, The Village Pump House, Myer’s Bagel Bakery, Rì Rà and Scrumptious received plugs. Scrumptious is Barbara Cook’s fresh and understated, one-of-a-kind little bakery/cafe in the heart of the Old North End. “Bold American food” is what Ms. Burros said it offers.
But talk about the ups and downs of life. On Sunday, Ms. Cook, who cooks up only the very best, received notice in the prestigious New York Times. Monday morning, she took an awful spill on the cellar stairs at work and sustained the fracture of several ribs. You just don’t realize how much ribs count until you crack ‘em. In an instant, Barbara went from a taste of pie in the sky to a taste of life at Fletcher Allen. Life’s little surprises sometimes hurt.
Best wishes, Barbara, for a “scrumptious” recovery.
Dingleberry Omissions — The feature story on prominent Vermonters who are Middlebury College alumni in the Free Press the other day had two glaring omissions from the Vermont media scene: Stephen Kiernan and Paula Routly. Ms. Routly is a co-founder/publisher/editor of the distinguished little weekly presently in your mitts — or on your screen. Mr. Kiernan is the editorial page editor of The Burlington Free Press.
By the way, last week in Phoenix, at the annual meeting of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, Paula the Publisher was elected to the AAN executive board. The “alternative” weeklies coast-to-coast have taken off in the last two decades. They became successful by offering quality, content and hipness you can’t find in most of the daily newspapers. Now, media giants like Times-Mirror Inc. are taking notice and the monster media chains are moving in. The days of an “alternative” alternative press can’t be far off.
Marching Season Update — What a glorious day it was Saturday for the Dairy Festival parade in Enosburg Falls. And most of the usual suspects were present and marching. The road from St. Albans to Enosburg Falls was tastefully lined with Jim Jeffords lawns signs. This year, Jeezum Jim’s got a matching pair. One sign gives his campaign Web site — www.jimjeffords2000.com. The other is a cute sketch of two cows saying, “Thanks, Jim.” Moo-moo, yourself.
Cows are god in Franklin County and the bovine religion has been passed down through the generations, from the original Irish immigrants of the pre-Famine days in the 1830s. The offspring of Ryans and Howrigans and Manahans and Branons sport the faces of the Emerald Isle in the lush green fields of Franklin County. And you better believe they appreciate what Jim Jeffords has done to keep the Northeast Dairy Compact alive.
Though raised in Rutland, Jeffords’ roots are in Enosburg Falls, where his grandparents lived. And while the other politicians on hand walked the parade route, Jeezum Jim stood waving atop the flatbed alongside Harold Howrigan, president of the Sr. Albans Coop, Vermont’s Don Corleone of Cows.
But the compact’s future is far from rosy. It’ll expire October 1, 2001. “The biggest test we’ve had yet is going to be next year,” said Jeezum. “The enemy is mobilizing and it’s going to be the toughest possible contest.”
And who is the enemy?
One big enemy is the giant processor, Suiza, which has been gobbling up regional processing plants of late. Apparently, competition is the hapless victim of prosperity, in dairy and across the business spectrum. “And unfortunately,” said Jeffords, “the biggest milk processor, Suiza, is home-towned in Texas. And I know the President-to-be, George Bush, did not seem to understand the importance of the dairy compact when he came up here. So we’ve got a lot of changing-of-minds to do in that respect. It’s going to be a huge fight.”
Sounds like another good reason not to vote, for Dubbaya.
As for the march, Progressive Anthony Pollina was a new man. His shyness in Vergennes a week earlier had completely worn off. Anthony the Outgoing worked the sidelines like a pro, handing out his campaign literature to folks who appeared mystified as to who he was. Got to start somewhere. St. Anthony was the only gubernatorial candidate marching. No Ruth Dwyer — friends from Chicago in town, we’re told. No Bill Meub — attending a secretary’s wedding, we’re told. No Howard Dean, either, though he did show up earlier to shake hands before dashing off to a 10 a.m. track meet in St. Albans to watch his daughter run. He refuted any suggestion he was ducking the route to avoid potential catcalls over the new you-know-what law.
Congressman Bernie Sanders marched solo, carrying his baseball cap and sliding it from hand to hand as he changed waving hands. No Mrs. Sanders in sight. “Where’s Jane?” we inquired.
“She’s home sleeping,” replied Ol’ Bernardo, “and that’s off the record!”
Jeez, Bernie, relax. Sleeping is not a crime.
Burlap Election Update — Burlington’s March election seems so long ago — you’ll recall that was the election in which many of the Queen City’s loudest mouths were confidently forecasting a Progressive Dunkirk over the downtown supermarket issue.
It never happened.
The leader of that uprising was Bradi Baker, who ran for a Ward 2 city council seat as a Democrat. ‘Course, Bradi had a certain flair for attracting attention. In addition to her Shaw’s Supermarket support, Bradi also achieved notoriety for running for a city council seat in a ward she did not reside in. (At least Jack McMullen, the 1998 GOP U.S. Senate carpetbagger from Massachusetts, lived in Vermont during the race, and still does.) Anyway, voters took care of it and reeleeted the incumbent Progressive, Bill Stahl.
But Bradi had another little problem that brought her notoriety — three pending criminal charges over at the Palace of Justice on Cherry Street. Over the Christmas holidays, Ms. Baker had been arrested for domestic assault and unlawful mischief. Her pending legal problems, however, did not prevent her from deciding to run for office. That’s moxie!
According to court records, Ms. Baker cut a deal with prosecutors under which she pled “no contest” to one count of unlawful mischief, and the state dropped the domestic assault charge. Bradi received a three- to six-month suspended sentence, must perform 40 hours of community service and receive anger-management counseling. Case closed.
By the way, anger-management counseling certainly appears to be a growing business these days. Pisses you off, doesn’t it? Why don’t they teach it in elementary school, dammit?
Media Notes — Freeps managing editor Candy Page is on vacation this week, but the word is she’ll return to the ranks of the frontline scribes, writing stories out of Montpelier that put a “human face” on Vermont. ‘Bout time for some new faces.