A HOT PRIMARY
by Joyce Marcel
August 20, 2010
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- Last week in this column I studied the Democratic primary candidates for governor and decided, in the end, to support Peter Shumlin. (Which, according to my e-mail, pleased his mother and ticked off Matt Dunne.)
This week, I'd like to look at the rest of the Democratic ballot. Here in Windham County, the big contest is for Shumlin's vacated Senate seat.
Yes, I know that there are two seats and three people running. But Jeanette White has already been a Windham County Senator for eight years. She's the chair of the Government Operations Committee. She's been a solid, accessible, humble and delightful representative. Why replace her?
This leaves one of the most head-scratching races we've ever seen. In one corner we have Toby Young, who served five terms in the Vermont House from 1981 to 1990. For six years she chaired the House Health and Welfare Committee. She was a major player in turning the Dr. Dynasaur program, which provides health care for kids, into law. She justifiably calls it one of the first steps in taking Vermont to a single-payer health care system.
She currently chairs the Westminster Selectboard. She's been on many town and state boards as well as the boards of the New England Youth Theater and the Council on Aging. She's been deeply involved in her community and on the state level for many years.
In any rational year, she'd be the perfect candidate.
But this is not a rational year. Because in the other corner is the world-renowned Peter Galbraith.
Where do you start with Galbraith? In 2009, Galbraith blew the whistle on the corruption of the Afghanistan government and, especially, of it's leader, Hamid Karzai. By publicly calling the 2009 elections what they were - a fraud - he got fired from his job as the United Nations' Deputy Special Representative in Afghanistan.
Since American soldiers are dying in Afghanistan in a screwed up war to protect Karzai's government, this makes Galbraith something of an American hero.
When the WikiLeaks came out last month, Galbraith knowledgeably analyzed the data in the British paper The Guardian instead of wasting time huffing and puffing over whether the information should have been released at all.
He's a best-selling author, commentator and diplomat. In 1979, on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he uncovered and helped stop Saddam Hussein's genocide against the Kurds. In 1993, he was the first U.S. Ambassador to Croatia and negotiated the peace agreement that ended the Croatian War.
I could go on detailing Galbraith's distinguished career, but it begs the question of why this man wants to be a Senator from Windham County. (He almost declared for governor two years ago, but withdrew.)
I've asked him this question on several occasions, and he assures me it is because he loves Vermont (he grew up here and lives in Townshend now), he wants to serve and he thinks he can do a good job.
He's also writing a book, running an international business and there's something about an oil field in Kurdistan that I can't pretend to understand, but he's intellectually acute, straight-talking, well connected and fearless. What more do we want?
About the other races on the ballot, I've been able to glean a little from newspapers, radio and a few on-the-fly meetings. For what it's worth, I offer my impressions:
For Lieutenant Governor, Christopher A. Bray is running against Steve Howard. Both currently serve in the Legislature.
When Bray walked down Main Street during the last Gallery Walk, I listened to him campaign and thought his ideas about Vermont's pressing issues were almost insultingly simplistic. Since we pay the lieutenant governor $63,690 for what is basically a part-time job, we should be able to get more for our money. Howard is a grassroots organizer who keeps getting elected in a conservative district in Rutland and he's openly gay. I think I might give him a try.
For Secretary of State, a critically important job, Jim Condos is running against Charles Merriman.
During their debate on Vermont Public Radio a few weeks ago, both of them were intelligent and respectful of the office. But I had the impression that Merriman was what they call an "underminer." No matter what the topic was or how polite he was on the surface, he kept slipping in disguised insults and digs at Condos. I don't think the excellent staff at the Secretary of State's office should have to deal with this kind of a manager.
For Auditor of Accounts, former auditor Edward Flanagan is running against Doug Hoffer, one of the most astute public policy analysts in the state. The winner will take on current auditor Tom Salmon, who started as a Democrat and switched to the Republican side a few years ago.
Hoffer has already taken on Salmon for holding on to a study of the Vermont Yankee decommissioning fund that was requested by state legislators three years ago. Hoffer also audited Flannagan and Salmon's campaign filings and pointed out where they didn't add up. He sounds like the kind of gadfly we need keeping an eye on our shrinking state budget.
So now it's up to us. If you're a Vermonter, get out and vote!
Joyce Marcel (joycemarcel.com) is a journalist and columnist. You can reach her at email@example.com.