If so, chances are you’ve heard of Annette Smith, the no-nonsense director of the grassroots organization Vermonters for a Clean Environment. Smith has made a name for herself advocating on behalf of local communities fighting unwanted development, and now her supporters hope that Smith’s name recognition will come in handy in an upstart write-in campaign in the August 28 primaries. They’re urging Vermonters to vote for Annette Smith of Danby as the Progressive Party’s candidate for governor — not so much because they love Smith as because they hate the other guy.
“Too often we’re all in a position of holding our noses and voting for whoever we think might not be as bad as the other guy or girl,” says Stephanie Kaplan, a Calais environmental lawyer organizing the write-in campaign. She says it’s an attempt “to let people who are dissatisfied with Shumlin know that there’s something they can do in the primary election.”
Why the disdain for Gov. Peter Shumlin? Kaplan says she and her cohort are fed up with Shumlin’s “cozy” relationship with big corporations in Vermont, singling out his support for wind developments, the F-35 beddown, smart meters and the Green Mountain Power/CVPS merger as particular points of concern.
Party chair Martha Abbott of Underhill has the Progs’ formal endorsement, which she won at the quarterly state committee meeting last weekend. But Morgan Daybell, the executive director of the Progressive Party, isn’t complaining about the write-in campaign — far from it.
“It’s nice to have a contested primary because it gives people a reason to vote in our primary,” says Daybell.
Smith says that she’s not involved in the campaign in the least. In fact, when Seven Days called and explained that we were “hoping to talk to [her] about the write-in campaign,” Smith responded, “Well, I’m happy to talk about my work.”
The plan arose first as a way to voice dissatisfaction with Shumlin — and Smith, Kaplan says, seemed like a natural person to nominate in the process. “She really would make a great governor,” Kaplan says, though she admits the write-in campaign is more about jumpstarting a discussion than running in earnest.
“If she doesn’t win, fine, we’ve made a statement,” says Kaplan. “If she does win, great. Then … we can have some public discussion.”