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Taliban in Retreat!

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The big buzz ’round Chittenden County this week is all about the political demise of the local Taliban led by Rev. David Stertzbach of Williston’s Trinity Baptist Church.

Two years ago, the Bob Jones University-trained clergyman led a right-wing, homophobic, gutter-level coup that dominated the GOP State Senate primary. The Bible-thumpers almost took down Republican icon Barbara Snelling in the primary because she didn’t share their bigoted views of gay people.

As the filing deadline passed at 5 p.m. on Monday, it became apparent Rev. Stertzbach is not fielding a similar slate of fire-and-brimstone candidates this time. Fact is, civil unions simply aren’t an issue in Vermont anymore.

Sources say Stertzbach’s Richmond, Virginia, money man, Mike McHugh, pitched local Republicans with promises of lots of campaign cash if they’d agree to back an effort to take out Barbara’s daughter, Sen. Diane Snelling. Diane was appointed by Gov. Dean to replace Barbara, who resigned last January for health reasons. Princess Di was appointed over the strong objections of Stertzbach’s religious right.

But surprisingly, McHugh, once the leader of anti-abortion protests at local women’s health clinics, got no takers this time.

“It’s a wonderful day in the neighborhood,” said Republican National Committeeman Skip Vallee the morning after the filing deadline. “Not one Stertzbag candidate!” he noted gleefully. “I am thrilled with the moderate nature of our balanced ticket.”


Senator Jogbra?— The Skipster may be thrilled with the GOP Chittenden County six-member State Senate slate, but one big one, as they say, did get away — Hinda Miller of Burlington.

Hinda was a co-founder of Jogbra in 1977. She and Lisa Lindahl did with breast support what Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield did with ice cream — became rich and successful. Hinda eventually sold the company to Playtex. In the 1990s, Ms. Miller became the first woman chairman of the board of the local Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce (LCRCC).

As for her political education, Hinda told Seven Days that she had been “groomed” by Wayne Roberts, president of LCRCC, a.k.a. Wayne’s World. Wayne, who once worked in the Reagan White House, is not known for grooming Democrats.

“She’s a nice lady,” said Mr. Roberts. “I think it’s wonderful Hinda’s in the race.” There’ll be no endorsement, he said, since the chamber does not endorse candidates.

Hinda told yours truly that, politically, she’s always been “an independent.” As a former costume designer, she said, she tried on both “costumes” — Republican and Democrat — and chose the Democrat one.

“I decided to go with the Democratic Party,” said Hinda, “because I will be with people who are like me.” She said she shares Democratic viewpoints on “social justice” and “being inclusive.”

“I love Republicans,” added Miller, “but I can’t, in my soul, go along with the social injustices that have been happening.”

But, make no mistake, Hinda is also about business and the role business plays in creating good jobs. (Her next-door neighbor in Burlington’s exclusive Hill section is shopping-center developer Ernie Pomerleau. There goes the neighborhood, right, Ernie?)

“Business has to dance with the environment,” said Miller. “We have to dance together. It’s the only dance we have.”

Ms. Miller is also a yoga instructor. As a “yogini,” she told us, “I go deep inside myself.”

And if she’s elected in November, that could be a big plus for the 2003 Vermont Senate. Don’t be surprised if a Sen. Miller leads the body in stretching and breathing exercises. It would fit right in just after the morning devotional exercises.

Sure can’t hurt.

P.S. And if Republican State Senate hopeful Yves Bradley of Burlington also makes the cut in November, the Vermont Senate will be a much cleaner, sweeter-smelling chamber, too. Yves owns and operates The Body Shop on the Church Street Marketplace.

Sen. Soap?


Wedding Bells!!! — Congratulations to TV news star Ruth Dwyer upon her July 4 marriage to Granite State businessman Tom Kent. The former Republican gubernatorial candidate and current ABC22 investigative reporter told Seven Days she tied the knot in Lyme, New Hampshire. Ruth said she’ll keep the “Dwyer” name for TV purposes, but will be known as Ruth Kent in all other matters.

Ruth told yours truly her new husband deals in “imported Russian lumber and has a few oil wells in Louisiana.”

Cool.

He’s also a widower with three daughters and, believe it or not, said Ruth, they didn’t start dating until June. Like Ruth, her new husband likes to step on it.

Mr. Kent, you see, was the star “victim” of Mrs. Dwyer’s two-part “Hard Look at Work Zones” series that aired in mid-May. According to Ruth’s exclusive report, Tom had been ticketed for speeding in an Interstate work zone where, as you know, fines are doubled. He was clocked at 76 mph in his red Mustang convertible — 26 mph over the speed limit.

According to Mrs. Dwyer’s report, Mr. Kent fought the ticket. He obtained the road project’s plans and presented evidence showing he was not within the one-mile “legal work zone” when he was pinched. The judge agreed, and Kent ended up paying just a $165 fine.

Pretty smart guy, eh, Ruth?

“He was dumb enough to marry me,” she countered.

Mazel tov!


Vermont Jockey Club Update — The ponies return to Saratoga Springs, New York, next week for the summer racing season and there may well be a horse with Vermont connections making a big splash.

The horse in question is a 3-year-old filly named Bold World, and she’s owned by Burling-ton’s Amy Tarrant, owner of Hardacre Farm LLC. Amy’s also the grande dame of Fairholt, the $3.5 million mansion surrounded by the Burlington Country Club.

On Saturday at the Calder Race Course in Miami, Florida, Bold World blew out some very stiff competition in her biggest race to date, the six-furlong, $250,000 Azalea Breeders’ Cup Stakes. Amy’s lightning-fast filly won by 8 1/2 lengths and set the stakes record! It was Bold World’s sixth victory in her last seven starts.

Said jockey Calvin Borel to the Daily Racing Form, “She felt like a bomb under me.”

Word is, Bold World and a few of Amy’s other ponies are heading for the Saratoga meet. Bold World is pointed toward the Saratoga Test Stakes on July 27.

This is big-time horse racing. Remember, bet with your head, not over it.


DeanWatch 2004 — The good press just keeps on coming for our favorite presidential hopeful. On Friday the Washington Post jumped David Broder’s syndicated column on Gov. Howard Dean’s presidential aspirations off the front page. And Sunday’s New York Times Magazine gave him a big splash with a full-page Q&A alongside a giant picture of our beloved Ho-Ho. Best question?

Q. Describe your worst day on the trail so far.

A. The worst one was when I got to Greek Day in Boston thinking I was giving a speech, but all the speeches were to be given in Greek.

On Monday, Congressman Bernie Sanders took note of Dr. Dean’s switcheroo on U.S. trade policy. At a press conference at his Burlington office, Ol’ Bernardo highlighted the nation’s loss of two million manufacturing jobs in the last four years. Bernie blames free-trade agreements such as NAFTA. He said more and more members of Congress are waking up to the reality that corporations are moving their manufacturing jobs to China and Mexico and Vietnam by the truckload. And he delighted in reading aloud from Broder’s column that Howard Dean is waking up, too:

“In fact, Dean has shifted some positions — and espoused some special-interest causes,” wrote Broder. “A supporter of the North American Free Trade Agreement and ‘fast track’ trade negotiating authority when Bill Clinton was president, he now tells groups — including union members — that he would not vote to give similar negotiating power to Bush without enforceable guarantees of workers’ rights and environmental standards.”

“Better late than never,” said Sanders.

One thing Ho-Ho won’t budge on, however, is his decision not to criticize President Bush’s performance in the “War on Terror.” Wonder if that was the recent good advice Dean got from Bill Clinton?

This week our governor’s been in Nebraska and Iowa. Having a ball as the new kid on the presidential block, bragging about his A-rating from the National Rifle Association to the folks on the prairies.


Governor’s Race — The Vermont Progressive Party gubernatorial primary got a little more interesting this week with the surprise entry of mischief-maker Peter Diamond-stone of Brattleboro. Peter usually runs for Congress on the Liberty Union ticket every two years because of his antipathy for Bernie Sanders, a former Liberty Union comrade from the good old days.

But this time Mr. Diamond-stone has decided to make his biennial splash in the new Progressive Party pool. That sets up a primary with Michael Badamo, the candidate Prog insiders have been ignoring. Nor do they want anything to so with Diamondstone. Yuck!

It’s not easy being a major party in a democracy, is it?


Early Winter Release — The biography of the U.S. senator who single-handedly put an end to the omnipotence of the George W. Bush White House is due on bookstore shelves by Christmas. Unlike his earlier slim volume, My Declaration of Independence, Jim Jeffords’ biography will require more than one visit to the outhouse to complete — it’s 400 pages long. Two top-notch Vermont writers worked on the project with Jeezum Jim.

Yvonne Daley made her mark at the Rutland Herald and now teaches at San Francisco State University. Howard Coffin is an acclaimed Vermont Civil War writer.

An Independent Man, published by Simon & Schuster, tells it all, according to Ms. Daley, from Jim’s childhood in Rutland on up through the layers of Vermont politics and on to his unique and “quirky” life in Washington, D.C.

Jeffords, she said, unexpectedly coughed up some intriguing documents relating to President Ronald Reagan and the “October Surprise.” It became a juicy separate chapter, she said. And there are a few more surprises.

Bet you didn’t know Ol’ Jeezum came within a whisker of getting killed in the Jonestown Massacre. True story.

Back in 1978, Rep. Jeffords of Vermont was best buddies with Rep. Leo Ryan of California. They started on the Hill together in the first post-Watergate class elected in 1974.

Rep. Ryan was heading to the jungle of Northwest Guyana on a fact-finding mission to determine just what former Bay-area preacher Jim Jones was up to. There were allegations that members of Rev. Jones’ People’s Temple were being held against their will and even tortured. Ryan invited his pal Jeezum Jim along because he wanted a lawyer on the trip.

Jeffords was all set to depart when a staffer asked, “What does this have to do with Vermont?”

Good question.

Jeffords unpacked, and Ryan and his delegation were gunned down on the grass runway a couple days later as they tried to leave with People’s Temple defectors. Rev. Jones then led 912 of his followers — men, women and children — in a mass suicide. Death by Kool-Aid.

Since then, the question, “What has this got to do with Vermont?” has become a pretty good measuring stick for Mr. Jeffords.


Media Notes — The Ch. 3 news team is down to just one Kristin. The blonde is staying, but the redhead is leaving.

Reporter Kristin Kelly, a Massachusetts native, is moving onward and upward to New England Cable News in Boston. Ms. Kelly’s been at Ch. 3 for six years and won kudos this winter for her top-notch Statehouse coverage. Very classy dame. She’ll be missed.

Kristin Carlson remains on board as the station’s environmental reporter.

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