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Bernie Sanders

Son of a Paint Salesman

Sanders starts spending real money on TV ads, doing a bio piece produced on film not video.


Published October 2, 1996 at 4:00 a.m.

Congressman Bernie Sanders is due to hit the television airwaves with his first campaign spot Wednesday evening on the Bern's favorite television station — WGOP, sorry, WCAX-TV. Sanders spent $900 to buy the minute right before Marselis Parsons and the Ch. 3 News begins. The commercial, shot on film instead of video to give it a classier look, paints Ol' Bernardo as a "Man of the People" — surprise, surprise!

The 60-second spot contains scenes of Sanders strolling along Church Street as well as up at Groovy-UV amongst admiring students, and at work in Washington as chair of the Progressive Caucus. There's also a quick look back at the good old days when he was mayor of Burlington. Bernie's touted as a guy who "took on developers" and "fought for property-tax reform." In Washington he "led the fight on the minimum wage" and was "one of strongest opponents of the Gingrich agenda." There's even a picture of him and President Bill Clinton together in the White House. How sweet.

In the finale Sanders is described as "the son of a paint salesman who's become one of America's most powerful independent voices for working people."

There's not a mention about Susan Sweetser. Essentially it's a positive image enhancer-type spot. According to the public file at WGOP-TV (where everyone appears delighted to take Ol' Bernardo's money), the spot will air three times this week right before the six o'clock news and twice right before Letterman. Total cost: $3,500.

Now, with Ol' Bernardo on the box, the attention turns to Susie Creamcheese. She's back on the air this week with what her spokesman describes as a "biographical" spot. No mention of Sanders. But things will likely change and the question is, will Fidel Castro make a cameo appearance in future spots? Can't wait.

By the way, the folks in TV Land aren't jumping for joy over this election. No one expects Clinton or Bob Dole to pump any money into Vermont — they say Dole's already written it off. And, gosh and golly, our gubernatorial race is a real barn-burner. Not! Ho-Ho can save his money for his U.S. Senate bid down the line. Lite-gov hopeful Doug Racine has already run his door-to-door campaigning spot. A yawner. Carroll should have one out soon. But those two guys don't have big bucks to spend on television. Sanders versus Sweetser is the big banana as far as TV advertising goes.

"Big Boys" in Town — For the last six years, 29-year-old Erik Smulson has been the official spokesman for U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords. But Monday morning the Washington, D.C., native and Georgetown grad became the official spokesman for Republican Congressional Candidate Susan Sweetser. Said Smulson: "It was a personal decision for me."

Smulson — whom we got to know two years ago during the lively Jeffords-Backus Senate race — replaces Andrea Zentz, who resigned as Sweetser's press secretary two weeks ago on principle. Smulson's appointment to Susie Creamcheese's campaign staff raised a red flag with Independent Congressman Bernie Sanders, who told reporters last week it made him "uncomfortable" to know that Jeezum Jim, one of his colleagues in Vermont's tiny three-man congressional delegation, was working to defeat him.

"You know, we're big boys and this is politics," Smulson told Inside Track when asked about any hard feelings among the Vermont congressional delegation. "The political circles in Vermont are not as vast as they might be in a bigger state."

Alas! Poor little Vermont — a talentless backwater state requiring expertise from beyond its borders. Thank god Jeezum Jim is willing to share his stable.

Smulson said he's effectively terminated as far as his job as Jeffords' press secretary goes. No pay, no benefits. "I'm having no contact with Senator Jeffords from this point on," Smulson said. "It's very important to keep those lines drawn. But this is a personal decision for me. This is not a concerted effort by Sen. Jeffords."

Whew! That's a relief.

Regardless of how things come out for Sweetser on election day, Smulson assured Inside Track he will return to Washington and his job with Jim Jeffords, pronto.

Delaney UpdateDennis Delaney is alive and well following his defeat in the Republican lite-governor primary. "I wanted to try and see if I could do a statewide race," said Delaney. "I didn't win, but we had a good campaign and we did well." That is, if you call losing 2-1 doing well. To this day Dennis the Menace hasn't called John Carroll to congratulate him. Delaney said that he expressed congratulations and best wishes to J.C. when Ch. 3 showed up at his house on primary night. Dennis has taken the semester off from St. Mike's and has season tickets for Navy football at Annapolis, where his son is a midshipman.

He'll be back.

Radar Sighting — Inside Track's political early warning radar screen has been picking up a new blip on the Vermont scope of late. At first it was too faint a reading to make a positive identification, but now the signal is getting stronger, and this UFO has been identified. It belongs to Mr. IDX himself: Richard Tarrant. Richie's got more money than God and recently bought the palace in the middle of the Burlington Country Club from the Society of St. Edmund. Tarrant's radar blip is still on the outer edges of the scope, but insiders are painting him as a guy who would like to be called Senator Tarrant, as in U.S. Senator. The next opening is in 1998 when St. Patrick's up for reelection.


Busted! — Sunday night's congressional debate on Vermont ETV was lively, informative and entertaining. Democrat Jack Long had the best line, saying there's one thing Rush Limbaugh's said that he agrees with: "We as Americans all owe Ronald Reagan a debt which we will never be able to repay."

Still, it was not a pretty sight seeing Liberty Union candidate Peter Diamondstone getting arrested trying to enter the House chamber. Will he sue Vermont ETV? we asked.

"You bet your sweet ass," he replied.

Media Notes — Ch. 5 reached all the way out to the Rocky Mountains to find a replacement on the morning anchor desk for Stephanie Gorin, who's jumped to the Fox station in Albany. Lori Rothman, a USC grad and Los Angeles native, had been working at a station in Grand Junction, Colorado. Bon chance!

On the video-free radio waves, WDEV news director Bobby Kyle departed this week for a marketing job at Bolton Valley. Yep, snow's coming. Next to step up to the hallowed microphones of Ken Squires' Radio Vermont News operation in Waterbury will be ... the envelope, please!

Andrea Zentz. Talk about landing on your feet.