As volunteers gathered in courthouses throughout Vermont to recount the more than 76,000 ballots cast in the Democratic primary for governor, the five Democratic candidates wound down a two-day tour of the state.
Four of the five Democrats spilled out of a Leprechaun model RV just after noon on Wednesday and made the walk up the sidewalk to the Statehouse.
Matt Dunne had joined the tour earlier in the morning for stops in Brattleboro and White River Junction, but had to return to work for Google.
Sens. Doug Racine, Susan Bartlett and presumptive primary winner Peter Shumlin were joined by Secretary of State Deb Markowitz on the Statehouse steps.
The four jumped aboard the RV about two blocks away in order to make a joint appearance before a throng of about 50 people — many of them state employees. Racine had sauntered up solo just minutes before the RV appeared and had to walk back to the rendezvous point at the Montpelier post office.
One person's unity is another person's photo op, eh?
Earlier in the day, the Republican candidate, Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, ended a "marathon" tour of the state. Crisscrossing Vermont nonstop for 26.2 hours, Dubie hit much of the state, including workers getting off second and third shifts.
Maybe he can keep up this 26.2 theme and make his next press conference at least 26.2 minutes long. That would be a vast improvement, considering he provided a scant 12 minutes to the media to ask him questions about his 10-point economic plan. That's slightly more than a minute per talking point! How exhausting.
Dubie pulled into the Pit Stop Diner at about 9:30 in the morning, greeted by about 35 supporters (many of them hungry for breakfast). He even dashed through a tape marking the "finish line."
"Lieutenant governor, you need a shave," declared Thom Lauzon, Barre's mayor, upon greeting Dubie.
"This tour was all about people who work hard for their money and how we're going to demonstrate that we're going to work hard for their vote," said Dubie. "This tour was also about service, and we're going to serve those who work hard for their money."
Don't all candidates have to work hard for their votes? If you're still trying to prove that with less than two months to go ... well, I said it already in this week's column.
Dubie then reiterated his 10-point economic plan, highlights that include cutting taxes, the size of state government and government red tape in order to lower the tax burden on Vermonters and "maintain our commitment to the most vulnerable."
At their press conference, the Four Democrats of The Unity (as opposed to the Apocalypse) assailed Dubie's economic plan.
Markowitz boiled his economic plan down to "Dubie = Deficits" a reference to Gov. Jim Douglas' election-winning slogan "Jim = Jobs." Jobs that somehow never materialized under his watch as governor.
"Cutting taxes for the wealthy and hoping the benefits will trickle down didn't work for Reagan and it's not going to work now," added Racine. "Democrats have an economic vision that benefits all Vermonters, not just a few."
Bartlett noted that each of the Democrats running for office have had to craft budgets — many of them for all of state government. "Vermont doesn't need a governor who needs a learner's permit when it comes to budgeting," she quipped.
Shumlin reiterated his plan to get Vermont's economy moving: enact single-payer health care; increase access to early childhood education; improve Vermont's tax structure for families and businesses; improve worker retraining, and deploy broadband throughout the state.
"It's what they don't do or haven't done. Give us the chance and we'll get it done," said Shumlin.
Today also marked the start of a new independent political group, Green Mountain Future, which has launched a television ad criticizing Dubie's support for keeping Vermont Yankee open beyond its scheduled closing date of 2012.
Green Mountain Future, a 527 lobbying group, is being staffed in Vermont by Drew Hudson, a former staffer at the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, and was Democrat Gaye Symington's field director during her 2008 campaign for governor. Hudson has also worked for MoveOn.org.
He told Seven Days that the Democratic Governors Association was a "critical partner" in helping the 527 group get off the ground. "But they are not the only folks involved in it by any stretch," said Hudson.
"This has been an idea long in the making, and Vermont Yankee isn't the only issue," he said. "We'll be talking about the economy and other issues that Vermonters want to hear about."
Because the group is a 527 and not a PAC, it doesn't have to file a fundraising report until mid-October.
The Republican Governors Association has already launched a political action committee — Green Mountain Prosperity — and cut a television ad promoting Dubie's economic vision for the state. The ad was narrated by incumbent Gov. Douglas.
They've also launched a website — Vision for Vermont — which, oddly enough, is the same title as Shumlin's economic plan. Zoinks!
Dubie's campaign slammed the Green Mountain Future ad, calling it a "negative" attack on the lite gov. I guess by "negative" they mean mentioning Dubie by name and quoting articles explaining his thoughts on Vermont Yankee.
My guess is, the Democrats and GOP are just warming up when it comes to "negative" ads.
Yesterday, the state GOP issued a lengthy email outlining a list of purported ethical lapses by Shumlin, including several detailed in "Fair Game" and in Seven Days.
“Instead of talking about his ideas, or lack thereof, for fixing Vermont’s economy, Peter Shumlin and his team would rather spend thousands of dollars attacking Brian Dubie," said Dubie's campaign manager Corry Bliss.
The Dubie campaign said Shumlin had promised only a day earlier to run a positive campaign.
“Obviously Peter Shumlin’s team is desperate to distract voters from the latest ethical cloud hanging over his head,” Bliss said. “Between his questionable ethics and his long record of raising taxes and voting against the interests of small businesses, Peter Shumlin’s team wants to talk about anything else and has to resort to negative ads.”