The Vermont Democratic Party finally has a new executive director.
After months of interviewing candidates from within Vermont and around the country, the party settled on Robert Dempsey.
Dempsey comes to Vermont from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee where he last served as the Midwest Candidate Services Director. In that capacity, he worked with more than two dozen candidates running for Congress in 2008, and helped Democrats oust seven Republicans across 12 states.
A Buffalo, NY native, Dempsey spent much of his early political career in neighboring Ohio.
In the 2004 election cycle, he was the political director for Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH). Kaptur is approaching her 30th year in Congress from a district whose largest city is Toledo. A fierce critic of the Iraq War, she once claimed Osama bin Laden and his band of followers were “nontraditional” and “atypical” revolutionaries — you know, just like the infamous Green Mountain Boys during the Revolutionary War. Yeah, but Ethan Allen and his ilk were on our side.
Dempsey has also served as the political director for the Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus, and helped candidates get elected who eventually turned Ohio from "red" to "blue" in a matter of several election cycles. Democrats hope he can oversee an operation to do the same in the Vermont governor's race.
"That's exactly what the charge will be – to protect the majorities in the chambers and possibly expand them, and elect a Democratic governor," said Dempsey.
Party officials say his winning campaign experience is why they hired him.
“We have enjoyed many electoral successes over the past few years,” said Judy Bevans, Vermont's Democratic Party chairwoman, “and we believe Robert will continue in that winning tradition on behalf of Vermont Democrats.”
That's no small task. Vermonters like their incumbents and need a pretty good reason to toss them out. Incumbent losses are uncommon in statewide offices, and a rarity among governors.
Still, Dempsey looks forward to the challenge — his first day in the party's Montpelier digs was last Tuesday,just as the Legislature was in a breakneck pace to adjourn.
"We have a Republican governor in a state that went two to one for President Obama," notes Dempsey. "That indicates to me there is a great desire for Democratic leadership in the state, and you can see that given the strong majorities in the House and Senate."
Fast learner, eh?