Internal strife continues to dog Vermont GOP as party struggles to find candidates for governor’s race

Phil Scott and Jack Lindley confer before the start of the Vermont GOP state committee convention. Photo by Alicia Freese

Phil Scott and Jack Lindley confer before the start of the Vermont GOP state committee convention. Photo by Alicia Freese

In a year in which the Vermont GOP faces yet another uphill election cycle, prominent Republicans in the party are divided.

The dissension between factions is not over ideology. It is a struggle for control of the message, strategy and competing priorities at a time when the party is underfunded, under resourced and finding it difficult to field candidates in many races.

The filing deadline for candidates is 10 days away, and the Vermont Republicans do not yet have a challenger for Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin, nor have they found candidates for statewide offices.

David Sunderland, chair of the Vermont Republican Party, says the party has faced a “recruiting challenge.” “It’s difficult for people to commit to run in downticket races against better known, well-funded Democratic incumbents,” Sunderland said.

In addition, there have been internal disagreements over who should run for governor, whether a gubernatorial primary is in the best interests of the party and whether the party should be investing in bids for House and Senate seats instead of statewide races.

A Republican gubernatorial primary is now looking more definite. Scott Milne, the owner of a successful travel agency, has told the press he is exploring a run, and on Friday Milne said on “The Mark Johnson Show” that he will run if Randy Brock, the former state auditor and state senator who challenged Shumlin in the last election, gets into the race.

Over the weekend, Brock said a primary would not be “a factor that would dictate my decision.” Brock has been mulling a second bid for governor for some months now and says he will make an announcement one way or the other very soon.

Randy Brock said that Shumlin's investigation into possible criminal activity by a state trooper isn't a large enough step in what he says is a "systemic" over-spending on overtime in Vermont. VTD Photo/Taylor Dobbs

Randy Brock said that Shumlin’s investigation into possible criminal activity by a state trooper isn’t a large enough step in what he says is a “systemic” over-spending on overtime in Vermont. VTD Photo/Taylor Dobbs

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, the only Republican who holds statewide office, wants a primary because he says it would stir public interest in issues Republicans care about — namely the economy, taxes and jobs. Scott says he supports investments in local races this election cycle in order to effect “incremental” change.” He’d like to gain a dozen new Republicans in the House and three in the Senate.

Party stalwarts question whether Milne is a serious candidate because he has no name recognition and little political experience. They say a primary could hurt already challenging fundraising efforts by forcing candidates to spend money early, which would leave them depleted in the run-up to the general election and undermine support from the Republican Governors Association, which bankrolled the party during the 2012 election cycle. They also say the party needs a credible candidate in the top slot if it wants to draw voters to the polls.

Sunderland says there is a downside and an upside to a primary. “The downside is it forces candidates to expend campaign money and energy ahead of the general election and could leave them with less to utilize in the general election,” Sunderland said. “On the upside, we would have a respectful and civil issue oriented primary if it comes to that. It does get issues out to voters, candidates talk and voters form ideas in the process.”

Meanwhile, Shumlin is awash in cash (he has $1 million in the kitty and the support of many in the business community who have traditionally supported Republicans). The Vermont Democratic Party is also well-funded and has a ready-made slate of incumbents for five of the six statewide races and a supermajority of incumbent House and Senate members, most of whom won’t have to try too hard to get re-elected.

Scott Milne is president of Milne Travel American Express. Courtesy photo

Scott Milne is president of Milne Travel American Express. Courtesy photo

Jack Lindley, the former chair of the Vermont Republican Party, says he believes a GOP candidate has a shot at the ring this time, if the party can work out its differences and fully back Brock.

“I just get a sense that the people of Vermont are looking for an alternative to Shumlin, and it’s not going to be a particularly heavy turnout,” Lindley says.

In a year without a presidential or senatorial race, turnout during the general election will be light and Lindley says that means Republicans have a “more than even chance that we’ve got a fight.”

But in order to take advantage of that propitious situation, the GOP has to rally together, Lindley says. Right now, he says, there are “a lot of things hanging in the air.” He questions what Scott Milne is up to and what the chair of the Republican party wants.

“Where are all the pieces of the campaign? Nobody seems to know right now,” Lindley says. “It’s confusing.”

“There are too many moving parts, and they have to be sorted out quickly or else Republicans will have someone from Windham County running (for governor), I guess,” Lindley said. That someone is Emily Peyton, a candidate in the Republican primary who espouses an amalgam of libertarian views and has not been endorsed by the party.

At the center of the controversy is an underlying frustration with Lt. Gov. Phil Scott who refuses to “step up,” according to Lindley and others, and run against Shumlin, or even criticize the governor for what they see as obvious failures, including the failed health care exchange rollout. They say the lieutenant governor may be putting Milne up as a stalking horse candidate to undermine Brock.

“I think a game’s being played, and I don’t understand these games,” Lindley said. “Politics in Vermont has been a pretty good operation, and it’s fallen on bad times. We have a supermajority [of Democrats] and an inability to solve the problems of the state. It’s pretty sad when GMO labeling is the biggest problem the Legislature has to pass legislation on.”

Scott says he isn’t willing to change who he is to satisfy members of the party. He isn’t ready to run for governor and may never be. In the meantime, he believes it’s important to serve on the governor’s Cabinet. “That’s just my DNA, my makeup,” Scott said. “I like to look for solutions, I like to work together to make Vermont a better state.”

The internal party strife, he says, isn’t as much of struggle as “what it might appear.” He sees it as a healthy disagreement over the party’s priorities. Scott wants to “change things up” with a bigger Republican presence at the Statehouse.

“My message has been clear about what I think is important for the state,” Scott said. “I talk about affordability a lot. I think we need to address that and try to grow the economy. The balance is important. We need to try and offer a different viewpoint and have enough numbers in order to be efficient. I think it’s more about priorities than it is about ideology. As Republicans we need to figure out what we do agree on and put it at the top of the list.”

Scott who is friends with Milne (they attended school together in Barre), says a primary would benefit Milne, give Brock a chance to reintroduce himself to voters and strengthen press coverage of the Republican debates. (Scott would “stay out of it” and endorse the winner.)

As to whether a primary would alienate donors and the RGA, Scott said, “I may not be in the know as to how all that works. I just think from a party standpoint, from an electability standpoint, that having a little bit of extra time to talk about issues and having coverage from the media would be helpful.”

He points to the 2010 Democratic primary, in which five candidates for governor sparred for about six months. “They certainly gained a lot of attention and momentum at the time,” Scott said.

This time around, Scott said, Brock will have to try a different way of campaigning that is “conducive to getting enough votes.”

“I don’t know what that is,” Scott said. “I look at things maybe a little differently. If I was in a different arena, and I wasn’t successful, I would have to look at why and be honest with myself and try something different. If Randy is running the same campaign he ran before, he may get the same results.

“I’m sure in Randy’s mind he’s probably gone over it a thousand times what he could do differently,” Scott said. “He’s looked at that and figured out ways to do it differently he’s probably going to take a look at and be ready with when the time comes.”

Anne Galloway

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43 Comments on "Internal strife continues to dog Vermont GOP as party struggles to find candidates for governor’s race"

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Janice Prindle
2 years 1 month ago
Their problem is that they don’t see that for we ordinary Vermonters, it IS about ideology–otherwise known as justice. We are tired of wealthy businessmen promising a better economy while embracing the same anti-democratic (note the small D) policies that privilege wealth over earned income, blame poverty on the poor, turn basic and turn essential human services like health care and education into corporate opportunities for profit. Their failure to see the significance fie Vermonters of the GMO labeling law, or what is even more important, the vote for a constitutional convention to overturn the Citizens United ruling and level… Read more »
2 years 1 month ago

Your are right Janice… if the Vermont Republicans expect to get anywhere, they might start rethinking some of their ideological truisms that many of the leadership seem to hold as sacrosanct and are used to oppose virtually all progressive legislation that will actually benefit most people.

As far as the national GOP goes at this point, fuggedtaboutit!

Wendy wilton
2 years 1 month ago
Janice, take a look at those who contributed to Shumin’s $1 million war chest and the Democratic Party. It’s a virtual who’s who of VT wealth and millionaires, including the power brokers of Burlington. Why? Obviously, they are expecting something in return and many have been handsomely rewarded for their patronage. David Blittersdorf, CEO of NRG a solar power millionaire contributed $28,000 to Shumlin and the VT Democrats. In return he got favorable legislation which allows for solar developments, unabated, with enhanced energy revenues paid by ALL ratepayers and huge tax credits to shelter his wealth. That’s just one example.… Read more »
John Greenberg
2 years 1 month ago

Lenore Broughton??

Wendy wilton
2 years 1 month ago

Really? One person vs. HUNDREDS of cronies with immense wealth contributing to Shumlin and the VT Democratic Party? No contest.

Peter Liston
2 years 1 month ago

Yea. Let’s pull up Jim Douglas’s old campaign finance reports. Tell me that he didn’t get the majority of his campaign money from monied interests.

Wendy wilton
2 years 1 month ago

Show me one like Blittersdorf.

Peter Liston
2 years 1 month ago

There are many.

Craig Sim of CREDIT SUISSE FIRST BOSTON

Michael Guite of Vermont Telephone.

Larson Rand

MYLAN LABORATORIES INC

Entergy Louisiana

This is all public record …

Real Estate PACs, Development PACs, Telecom PACs, Wall Street PACs …

Seriously, you think that the monied interests didn’t contribute to Jim Douglas as much as they’re giving to Shumlin? Wake up!

2 years 1 month ago
What I, Emily Peyton represent is more than an “amalgam of libertarian views”, I hold progressive views achieved with frugality. Agricultural Hemp for renewable purposes, constitutional adherence, Taxpayers Public Bank to make our tax money work double time for us and our local banks, zero-waste policies, health clinics that allow doctors freedom to practice healing . But most of all I represent money out of politics, pure grassroots. I have the word from street, from the farm, from the people, they know where VT and FED government is corrupt, and I represent a new integration of the people’s voice in… Read more »
Janice Prindle
2 years 1 month ago
Emily, We could agree on the hemp and the public bank. But the real crisis in this country– three decades of transferring our nation’s wealth from the workers to the one percent, and the parallel transfer of power — is not going to be solved by “frugality.” Libertarian values operating through the Republican Party created this disaster and will not solve it. Vermonters, and and Americans as a whole, do not have a problem with the idea if a social contract. We want one. And “strict adherence to the Constitution” is a concept that assumes this document is written as… Read more »
Jonathan Willson
2 years 1 month ago

You should check out “Capital in the 21st Century” by Thomas Piketty. The transfer of wealth is more of a natural phenomenon than policy choice. The post World War years offered a brief reprieve, but it is far more typical to see high disparities, especially in recessions where capital has become scarce.

David Bresett
2 years 1 month ago

The recession is money made by the power elite. It’s not rocket science, it’s fraud, right out there in the open and if people turn away from it, well.
As far as Shumlin is concerned, he’s about as much a Democrat as Ronald Reagan was. He’s not in office for the Vermont people, he’s in it for the business and to pad his own pocket.

2 years 1 month ago
Labels, they mean nothing. IN the end everyone deserves wants and needs clean water, air, food, enough money to live with each other without fighting, and encouragement to be creative and to learn. I am not running for Governor to be involved with the system as it is. I am running to pivot the political system towards an integrated democratic economy. The talk in these comments is all about me bad, you good, as if money is the only power that counts. WE as people have more power than money, we have the power of fearless agape love. Money does… Read more »
Walter Carpenter
2 years 1 month ago

“turn basic and turn essential human services like health care and education into corporate opportunities for profit. ”

Well said, Janice.

Rodger Hoover
2 years 1 month ago
Jack Lindley has apparently been kidnapped by aliens at recently. Shumlin will romp over any candidate they put up and Phil Scott knows this well. Vermont is not going to turn Shumlin away until he does something really stupid himself or moves on. Hell, we kept JimmyDouglas around for way too long and he was an Republican-but a Vermont R not one of these “hey lets bring South Carolina ideas to Vermont” Republicans. Trying to move Vermont to the right is a failed political philosophy from the starting point. Phil Scott gets elected because he is moderate. Carrying Rutland county… Read more »
Wendy wilton
2 years 1 month ago
You doth protest too much, Roger. I think Mr. Shumlin is vulnerable on many fronts, and you know it. A moderate Republican like Phil Scott or Randy Brock could challenge Shumlin given his drop from a 60% vote in 2012 to a 49% approval this winter. And that 49% was polled before the second child died under DCF supervision and BCBC seeks a nearly 10% increase in health care premiums in Shumlin’s messed up exchange. State employees are starting to realize that GMC may not be good for them and the disorganization and heavy hand of the Shumlin administration is… Read more »
Peter Liston
2 years 1 month ago

Put your money where your mouth is, Ms. Wilton. If Shumlin is so vulnerable then why aren’t the prominent Vermont Republicans lining up to run against him?

Wendy wilton
2 years 1 month ago

Shumlin’s money. The article references this accurately.

Peter Liston
2 years 1 month ago

If he is as vulnerable as you suggest, a Republican candidate could easily get the money.

Certainly Bruce Lisman could raise it or self finance.

Brock self financed last time he could do it again.

Lenore Broughton isn’t bashful about showering mega-bucks on Vermont conservatives and their causes.

First you say that he’s vulnerable. Next you say that his money is keeping GOP candidates out of the race … it’s one or the other. Can’t be both.

Eric Taylor
2 years 1 month ago

Wendy, Rutland City has failed to produce an annual report as required by law. As an official of the city of Rutland, I’m curious as to your thoughts on the lack of ‘effective government’ there?

This seems like the exact sort of failure in accountability and transparency that candidate Wilton showed outrage for, yet you’ve been remarkably quiet when it’s in your own house. Funny.

Ron Pulcer
2 years 1 month ago
First, regarding Rodger’s comment: “Carrying Rutland county isn’t a good strategy for election is it?” Rutland County is also the poster-child for ALEC Membership: http://www.alec.org/ Second, as a citizen and taxpayer from Rutland Town, I have to say that out of the three most recent House Reps from Rutland Town (Terenzini, McNeil and Sunderland), that David Sunderland was the better of the three (IMHO). I found David Sunderland to be a responsive legislator. I may not have agreed with him on most issues, but I think he did a pretty good job for our town. I don’t know if you… Read more »
Wendy wilton
2 years 1 month ago

The majority of VT Republicans are moderates. They tend to be pro-choice, support small businesses, job growth, and fiscal responsibility. These ideas seem sound to me. How is that considered tea party?

As a stated above, the big money support for Shumlin and the VT Democrats has nothing to do with ideology. It’s about favors and payback, both good and bad. The liberals and progressives haven’t quite figured this out yet.

Jonathan Willson
2 years 1 month ago

Well Darcie and Lindley do a lot of the talking and they don’t exactly radiate moderation.

Peter Liston
2 years 1 month ago

Judging from the Republican posters on VTDigger, these “moderates” still deny the science behind climate change.

“Moderates” don’t science.

Rodger Hoover
2 years 1 month ago
“Perhaps the Vermont GOP should not follow the Tea Party trends in the other 49 states if they want to actually win any electoral races.” That was, apparently not sufficiently clear, MY point. Although Douglas appeared to be a moderate, he slipped a LOT of ALEC type proposals into the discussion behind the scenes….. I have no desire to see another Republican governor in our state, but frankly a sane Republican and Progressive counterpoint to some legislation is probably a good thing. Being a Dem does to mean you have logic and wisdom cornered somewhere. However, I am happy with… Read more »
2 years 1 month ago

One wonders whether if, at least within Vermont, the acronym GOP now stands for Grumpy Old Party?

Paul Lorenzini
2 years 1 month ago

Maybe if they renamed themselves the VTGOP, instead of associating themselves with the DC crowd they would gain traction, but that is probably a stupid idea for reasons of fundraising and such.

Rodger Hoover
2 years 1 month ago

thinking the pockets of Lenore and Vermonters First founders are not deep enough?

I continue to wonder why the great defender of past mistakes, Tom Pelham has not jumped in to challenge the seated Governor!!! Lots of government experience, possessing a lot of self promoting ideas… apparently afraid of the obligatory smack down?

Paul Lutz
2 years 1 month ago

Why even run a candidate? VT wants liberlism and a massive goverement running their lives. We continue to vote that way. Let Shummy go. The dems have all the control, yet they still blame the “1%” for everything.

Time to move out of this goofy state

Walter Carpenter
2 years 1 month ago

“The dems have all the control, yet they still blame the “1%” for everything.”

Well, they are pretty close to being right on this blame.

Paul Lorenzini
2 years 1 month ago
I believe that what will happen is that this November, the Republicans will gain control of the senate in DC, and in 2016 we will most likely have a Republican president. There will be a reversal of agendas from Washington which right now we walk in lockstep with, courtesy of Montpelier. The support for our leaderships agendas will weaken and the subsidies so many of our leaders love, and profit from, will shrink causing VT to look very foolish, and not economically strong. It will be a tough time here, which is what we need if we want to change… Read more »
Paul Lorenzini
2 years 1 month ago

At that point, or maybe before that election, we will be at war again, so good luck to we.

Fred Woogmaster
2 years 1 month ago

“Professionalization is a conspiracy against the laity.” Shaw.

The two party system is a conspiracy to control the electoral process. More than 50% of The People are neither (D) nor (R).

The ‘two party system’: a veritable see-saw – with no seat for a third party. The Citizens United ruling allows weight to be added to either the ‘see’ or the ‘saw’ (or both) wherever needed to stop or start the motion of that up and down ride. Democracy is suspended in the balance!

2 years 1 month ago
So, Anne Galloway, what’s your point? You seem to be urging people not to vote. Why bother, when Shumlin has that “million dollar kitty” and the Republicans don’t have a chance. (Hopefully the Democrats will wax overconfident, and stay home from the polls.) Note the words used in the headline: “strife, struggle.” I used to be a spin doctor, too, and a very good one. My take on the situation is this: With so many good Republican candidates in the offing, it will be difficult to choose only one. BTW: How do you feel about the head of YOUR party… Read more »
Ron Pulcer
2 years 1 month ago
Ellin, Regarding your “why both to vote?” comment: As an independent, I do vote in every election. But I am increasingly less likely to vote for candidates from either of the two major parties, the Democrats or Republicans, if neither major party offers a candidate I actually want to vote for. It has nothing to do with the size of an incumbent’s war chest, or how organized or disorganized a party is, or the number of TV ads. It has to do with no longer being satisfied with voting for the “Lesser Of Two Evils” or the “Lessor of Two… Read more »
Judith McLaughlin
2 years 1 month ago

“The majority of VT Republicans are moderates. They tend to be pro-choice, support small businesses, job growth, and fiscal responsibility. These ideas seem sound to me.”

Wendy, you are right. Moderate Republicans are not the problem….it is the rest of the VTGOP. The ones who refuse to support a moderate candidate, for being too “liberal” in their eyes. Our party is split, and until we solve this problem, we will never field viable candidates.

Ron Pulcer
2 years 1 month ago
Judith, I am not in the GOP but I agree with your thoughts regarding “moderates”. I also think the same could be said for moderates in the Democratic Party, at least nationally. As a skier, you can get down the hill safely by turning right-left-right-left… or left-right-left-right… yet staying toward the center of the slope. But if you stay hard right or hard left, eventually you will crash into the trees. In the long run, I don’t think neither the Tea Party or the Occupy movements will last. They will eventually crash into the “trees” on their respective side of… Read more »
John MacGovern
2 years 1 month ago

How about another expression I used to hear repeated by sage politicians and born out in the real world? There are two things you find in the middle of the road: yellow lines and dead possums.

Ron Pulcer
2 years 1 month ago

So both the Donkey car and the Elephant car both driving off their respective side of the road is wisdom from political “sages”? (far Left / far Right, “Ideological Purity”)

How is that working out in the so-called political “real world” of Washington DC? It probably is working out for the parties the politicians and the SuperPACs, but it is not working out for the taxpayers and citizens.

Dave Bellini
2 years 1 month ago

Vermont loves incumbents, regardless of party. Once a Governor is in office they might as well be royalty.

2 years 1 month ago
I would suggest to everyone that a study of the Progressive Party should be done thru searches and reading of the Ideologies linked to this Party. “The Party of the People” it will surprise you if you think the Progs are the way to go. Also, after reading the post here it is clear to me that peoples opinions of the Tea Party are gathered more from MSM and there Liberal controllers (whom always demonize the TP) than an actual understanding of what the ideology is. And, anyone, such as Janice Prindle, who does not defend the Constitution as written,… Read more »
2 years 1 month ago

“Progressive” is an unfortunate misnomer.

They are actually “Regressive.” Their policies are nothing less than an attempt to undo 2,000 years of Western Christian civilization, whose crowning glory was the founding of America.

How far will this Progressive-Regression take us? Back to ancient Babylon? Herod’s Judea, complete with the Slaughter of the Innocents? Or maybe pagan Saxon England, where old people were dispatched when they could no longer care for themselves?

If you like the Folsom Street Fair, or wish to marry your horse, vote “Progressive.”

Skeeter Sanders
1 year 11 months ago
It’s difficult for me to not feel a certain degree of sympathy for Lieutenant-Governor Phil Scott. As Vermont’s only Republican statewide office holder, Scott is one of a species of Republicans that are on the brink of extinction nationally: The fiscally conservative but socially moderate-to-liberal Republican in the mold of George Aiken, Ralph Flanders and Richard Snelling. What’s killing the Vermont Republican Party politically is the turn toward the right that the national Republican Party has taken — a turn that has rapidly accelerated to the extreme right since President Obama was elected in 2008. Now Vermont Republicans such as… Read more »
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