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Johns for America!

Inside Track


Published July 7, 2004 at 4:00 p.m.

Democrat John Kerry made it official Tuesday: Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina -- the cutest, sexiest, smartest Democrat since Bill Clinton -- will be Long John Serious' designated running mate.

Two Johns will be standing side by side, hoping to steer America back on course. The Plumbers' Union must be thrilled, eh?

Edwards' selection also comes as the official death knell for the national political aspirations of Vermont's newest national star, Howard Dean.

Let's face it. The chances of Kerry picking another New Englander for the ticket were between slim and none. Nonetheless, Dean Diehards had been mounting a petition drive to get Ho-Ho's vice-presidential candidacy before the delegates at the upcoming Boston Tea Party. Let's hope they handle reality well. More about Dr. Dean later.

Y'all know, Johnny Vice President actually has a pretty significant Vermont connection. It's evidenced by the fact that he was U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy's top pick.

Leahy, you see, took a fatherly shine to Young John back in 1998. Since St. Patrick had no serious Republican opposition that year (just like this year), he directed campaign contributors to the North Carolina senate race. There, Republican Sen. Jesse Helm's clone, Sen. Lauch Faircloth, was being challenged by an articulate young lawyer from humble beginnings who'd won a courthouse reputation for standing up for the little guy.

Edwards defeated Faircloth. And he had been a U.S. senator for just a few weeks when Sen. Leahy not only recruited him for the Judiciary Committee but tapped him to serve on the three-member Democratic panel that would handle depositions in the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

Leahy and Edwards sat side by side in the presidential suite of the Mayflower Hotel when Monica Lewinsky was deposed by Republican lawyers.

Ah, the good old days when presidential sins were strictly sexual!

Leahy told Seven Days he chose Edwards over more senior Democrats because of his courtroom experience. St. Patrick may be a lawyer, but he hadn't taken a deposition since his state's attorney days 30 years previous. He needed legal talent, and Edwards topped the list.

We'll never forget the first time we met John Edwards in Vermont. It was the Democrat Party fall dinner back in 2001. We were already closely following Howard Dean's "secret" presidential quest. Many thought we had a screw loose.

At the time Edwards, unlike Dean, was already on everyone's presidential futures list.

St. Patrick joked that night that he didn't know which ticket sounded better "Dean-Edwards or "Edwards-Dean."

At least the ever-prescient Leahy got it half right, eh?

Ho-Ho dropped by the dinner at the Capitol Plaza just as folks were finishing the main course. He never mixed it up with the out-of-state visitor. Couldn't help but get the feeling Dean was there that night to send John Edwards a message.

Ho-Ho was introduced first and gave a preview of the new and improved Howard Dean that folks in Iowa would be seeing a year later. Let's just say Dean wowed 'em! It was a shot fired across Edwards' bow.

When Edwards' turn came, the North Carolinian read from a prepared text. Boring would be too kind a word to describe Johnny Handsome's speech that night.

In the hallway afterwards, yours truly and Tracy Schmaler of the Vermont Press Bureau cornered Sen. Edwards as Godfather Leahy stood guard close by.

At the time, November 2001, Vermont was all alone when it came to marriage rights for same-sex couples. The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling was years away.

Edwards was asked his position on gay marriage.

We quickly learned that it was not a topic he was used to dealing with back home.

"Y'all got to understand," said Sen. Handsome with a gasp that quickly turned into a smile, "I come from North Carolina."

"And he supports Vermont civil unions!" declared St. Patrick as he swiftly put his arm around Edwards' shoulder and steered his protege down the hall and out of harm's way.

P.S. Tracy Schmaler is today the press secretary for the Senate Judiciary Committee on which Leahy and Edwards serve. Small world, eh?

And, Seven Days has learned, on that November night history could have taken a turn for the worse.

According to informed sources, Edwards' flight out of Barre in a one-engine plane almost turned into a disaster. In flight, the pilot realized one of the rear doors was ajar. We're told he asked Edwards to crawl back and try to close it. The aircraft made an emergency landing at a small strip in upstate New York.

The same sources also say Edwards' staff was soon calling Leahy's staff asking "what the hell was up" with this pumped-up Howard Dean guy who stole the show on that cold and rainy November night.

This Just In!

-- According to a reliable source, Republican State Sen. John Bloomer Jr. of Rutland has told friends he will not seek reelection. The Senate GOP leader is a class act.

GOP State Chair Jim Barnett told Seven Days he was not aware of Bloomer's decision.

Not hard to picture Attorney Bloomer wearing judicial robes in the not too distant future, eh, Guv?

As Seven Days was going to press, Bloomer called to confirm his departure from the Vermont Senate.

Speaking of Ho-Ho

-- Dr. Dean's Democracy for America office in South Burlington put out a statement Tuesday morning following the announcement of John Kerry's choice for veep:

"John Edwards is a smart choice for John Kerry. A Kerry-Edwards ticket will bring energy, commitment and a new vision for America. I will be working hard over the next few months to get them both elected."

A "smart choice" by Kerry, eh? Is that all you can say, Ho-Ho? Nothing about the Tar Heel's personal expertise, talent or record that makes him eminently qualified to lead our nation?

Dean was traveling to the West Coast Tuesday to raise cash for his personal political organization and could not be reached for comment. So we talked with his newest spokesman, Laura Gross, formerly with NPR.

We wondered why Ho-Ho's statement on Edwards' selection offered so little in the way of comment on the person selected.

"I think you're nit-picking," said Gross.


Dean's three sentences, after all, are more about Kerry and Dean himself, than about Edwards.

Sore-loser syndrome?

Perhaps. But, if anything, the last year has shown us that if Howard Dean ran the country the way he ran his $50 million flash-in-the-pan presidential campaign, the country would be in pretty dire straights.

Anyway, check out the latest on Ho-Ho in a fine piece by Meryl Gordon in the July 17 issue of New York Magazine ( In it, Dean names the top three "sleazebag reporters" he encountered on the campaign trail. And, on request, Ho-Ho also gives Chicago Cubs fans a rendition of the infamous Dean Scream.

What a guy, eh?

This Friday, Dean steps back into the national spotlight with a head-to-head debate with Ralph Nader at the National Press Club in Washington. VPR is carrying it live at 2 p.m.

Yours truly's betting on Nader.

Surprise us, Ho-Ho.


-- In a case of "don't count your chickens before they're hatched," Progressive Steve Hingtgen is still not a lock for the November ballot. The Burlington Progressive is running for lieutenant governor. And he's chosen the public-financing route that once worked so well for Prog star Anthony Pollina.

Under Vermont's public-financing law, Hingtgen must raise $17,500 from 750 qualified contributors by July 19. No contribution can be larger than $50. If he qualifies, the state will contribute the difference between what he's raised and $100,000.

The problem is, Hingtgen ain't there yet.

"It's a nail-biter," he told Seven Days Tuesday. He declined to give an exact dollar figure, but his website ( indicates Steve's only a little past the half-way point.

The Progressive also indicated that if he doesn't make the goal, he may withdraw from the race. That would be music to the ears of Democrats Cheryl Rivers and Jan Backus.

Backus and Rivers are facing off in the Democratic Primary. Incumbent Brian Dubie is seeking his second win in three tries. Doobie-Doo always gets about 41 percent of the vote. After all, he is a Republican running in the most liberal state in the nation.

Four years ago, in the Doob-ster's first try, 41 percent wasn't good enough. But in 2002, Tony the Prog was in the race, fueled by the free money of the public-financing law he'd helped write. Pollina's 25 percent held Democrat Peter Shumlin to 32 percent and Doobie-Doobie-Doo slid home safe with 41.

Steve the Prog told Seven Days he hasn't made a "final decision" on staying in the race if he fails to meet the $17,500 target. After all, he may raise enough dough in the waning days, especially if Dubie supporters get the word out that Steve needs quick cash or else their horse has a race.

"I do believe strongly in the public-financing law," said Hingtgen. He acknowledged the law "sets a hard requirement. The reason," he explained, is that it's "intentionally designed" to make a candidate seeking public financing "demonstrate strong support, and I really need that support."

Media Notes

-- The latest Nielsen ratings show both local TV news stations slugging it out for audience share. In the Metro Plattsburgh/Burlington market, Hearst-Argyle's WPTZ (NBC) News is on top with a 39 percent share of the six o'clock audience compared to locally owned WCAX's (CBS) 30 percent share.

But extend that to the much larger Designated Market Area (DMA) that includes all of Vermont and a piece of New Hampshire, and Ch. 3 is tops with 31 percent compared to Ch. 5's 25 percent share.

It's closer at 11 o'clock, where Ch. 5 again takes the Metro, and with help from sister station WNNE in White River, ties WCAX in the tri-state DMA.

With numbers like that, both station's news operations should have a pretty nice cash flow.

WVNY (ABC) is getting the same tiny audience for "The Simpsons" at 6 that it got when it had a local news effort. Incident-ally, former ABC 22 reporter Kelly Reardon is starting to blossom on WPTZ. She looks a lot more relaxed than she did on Ch. 22. Very well-trained lady: Princeton, Columbia Journalism and the London School of Economics. You knew it was only a matter of time.

Who wins on local late-night TV?

Well, Jay Leno beats David Letterman in the Metro. But they're in a dead heat in the DMA.

And what about national news?

NBC's Tom Brokaw gets the largest Metro audience at 6:30 p.m. with the Ch. 5 news lead-in. CBS's Dan Rather is a close second at 7 p.m. ABC's Peter Jennings, our favorite, is surprisingly a very distant third, no doubt due in part to the fact that he's preceded by "The Simpsons."

Home for the Chief?

-- Last September Mayor Peter Clavelle chose Tom Tremblay over Steve Wark to be the Queen City's new chief of police. Both men were unquestionably qualified, but only one, Tom Terrific, agreed to comply with the requirement that city department heads live in the city that pays them. Under the rules, the new chief has one year to make the adjustment.

A check with Chief Tremblay this week indicates he still lives in Essex. With October 1 marking the end of his first year, Tremblay told Seven Days he currently has no immediate plans to move to Burlington.

"I said that I would move if it remained a requirement for employment," said the Chief. "I have been given until October to make a decision on residency. I have three months to make a decision."

Since Tremblay serves at the pleasure of the mayor, we asked Mayor Moonie about the chief's out-of-town residency.

"I am not a fan of the residency requirement," said Mayor Clavelle. "We ought to encourage all city employees to live in Burlington, but to require it poses some challenges."

If Chief Tom requests a waiver from the residency rule, Clavelle told Seven Days he will support it.

"Ultimately," said da mayor, "it's up to the City Council."

Sounds like Burlington's police chief will not be moving to Burlington, eh?

Sounds like another one of those rules that was made to be broken.

Freeps Flag Update

-- Regrettably, as we've reported the past two weeks, Vermont's largest newspaper, The Burlington Free Press, has for quite some time demonstrated a total lack of respect for the Stars and Stripes.

A positively filthy, brown, black and blue American flag has long flown atop the Gannett-chain paper's College Street flagpole night and day, rain or shine for as long as we remember.

And it gets worse. At night, the Freeps' American flag has not been illuminated, as the National Flag Foundation says it should (

And it gets worse.

When President George W. Bush ordered all American flags to fly at half-mast for one month in honor of the death of former President Ronald Reagan, the local daily reported it as news but made absolutely no effort whatsoever to comply.

But apparently people in high places at The Burlington Free Press are reading Seven Days. You see, last Thursday, after our second mention of the newspaper's shameful disregard of the American flag, Publisher/President James Carey sprang into action.

A brand-new flag suddenly appeared on the Freeps' flagpole. And get this, for the first time since Reagan died, it was flying at half-staff!

Better three weeks late than never, eh?

Unfortunately, Carey's leaving his new flag flying at night without the proper illumination. Probably would cut into the profit margin if he paid for a light?

These things take time, eh?