Editor’s note: Anne Galloway contributed to this report.
For some, Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer, but in Vermont politics, it’s when the campaign season begins in earnest. With politicians stacking up en masse at parades around the state, the games have begun.
Tuesday morning opened a two-week window in which candidates can submit their petitions to be added to the ballot. No new candidates can enter a race after June 14.
Five candidates filed petitions on Tuesday: Attorney General William Sorrell, Cris Ericson (running for the United States Marijuana Party for both U.S. Senate and governor), H. Brook Paige, a Republican for U.S. Senate, Peta Lindsay from the Socialism & Liberation Party entered a petition for president.
Randy Brock, a Republican state senator, submitted 1,028 signatures for his gubernatorial run.
“This is the first step, it shows that the campaign season is heating up and we’re ready to move forward,” Brock said. “We have all the signatures that we need – in fact more than twice the number that we need. Our consent form is filed, and so our campaign is moving full steam ahead.”
Brock said he is “going anywhere and everywhere throughout the state,” campaigning. Fundraising, he said is “going well,” but he didn’t elaborate. “You’ll see on the 15th of July when we do our first report,” he said.
Brock is the only candidate to formally announce a gubernatorial run so far, and he says he isn’t centering his efforts on Shumlin — at least at this juncture. “I’m focusing on what I need to do rather than what the governor is doing,” Brock said.
Gov. Peter Shumlin has insisted for months that he won’t begin his re-election bid until after Labor Day, and he has been loathe to acknowledge that he has spent any money or hired campaign staff. Shumlin’s approach to this election season is in stark contrast to his bid in 2010 when he narrowly defeated contenders in the five-way Democratic primary and ended up squeaking to the finish line past Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie.
As an incumbent now, with a large lead in the polls, Shumlin can perhaps afford to put off the fight. The governor traverses the state with great frequency, engaging in the kind of retail politics his predecessor, Gov. Jim Douglas, a Republican, was famous for. The glad-handing as a form of governing appears to make the kind of aggressive, on-the-ground campaigning typical of a first run at the Fifth Floor unnecessary.
The pols come marching in
While many Vermonters enjoyed a three-day Memorial Day weekend, Vermont’s politicians were hard at work. The Essex parade on Saturday drew Gov. Peter Shumlin, Sen. Randy Brock, Attorney General Bill Sorrell, Secretary of State Jim Condos and others. Brock was especially busy over the weekend — he marched in the Essex, Middlebury and Vergennes parades.
Shumlin also made an appearance at the Vergennes parade, where he posed for photos with attorney general candidate TJ Donovan.
Donovan’s campaign announced Tuesday that the Vermont Troopers Association endorsed the Chittenden County state’s attorney in his run for attorney general. Campaign spokesman Jay Els said this is the first time the troopers have ever endorsed a candidate for attorney general since they started endorsing politicians in the 1990s. The Vermont Troopers Association was not reachable for comment Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Sen. Vince Illuzzi, R/D-Essex-Orleans, has abandoned his bid as a Republican candidate for attorney general. He is circulating petitions for the state auditor’s race now that Tom Salmon, the incumbent Republican, has dropped out. Still, Illuzzi is cagey about whether he is running for auditor as he says he hasn’t completely ruled out a run for his Senate seat.
Why the big shift from AG to auditor? Illuzzi says his skills as a prosecutor (he’s state’s attorney for Essex County) could come in handy — since the auditor’s role is to investigate state finances. “It’s a question of where would my experience best lead me and is there a realistic opportunity that I could run for and win the office?”
Another factor? Illuzzi said it would have been difficult to challenge Sorrell on the grounds he lost three cases trying to represent laws passed by the General Assembly involving campaign finance limits, a prohibition on sales of prescription drug information and the Legislature’s unwillingness to allow Entergy to continue operating Vermont Yankee beyond the life of its original permit — because he has been a member of the Legislature for 32 years.
Several Senate races start to take shape
Former Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss is launching a run as an independent for state Senate. Kiss says he has just begun collecting signatures and he plans to soon appoint a treasurer and get the campaign under way before a late-June trip to the Grand Canyon.
Kiss faced criticism as Burlington’s mayor after the Burlington Telecom scandal, but says his six years in that office left a positive legacy in the city.
“I think, by and large, that Burlington was a success story,” he said.
On the issues, Kiss says he wants to focus on moving single-payer health care forward, keeping a sustainable budget and affordable housing.
Kiss hopes to take the open seat left by Hinda Miller, D-Chittenden, who is retiring from the Senate this year.
One of Kiss’ challengers in the open six-member district will be a new contender — Burlington City Council member Ed Adrian, who works as an attorney for the Secretary of State.
GOP lacks statewide options
Vermont GOP chairman Jack Lindley said on Tuesday there are only three Republican candidates he knows of who are running for state office: Randy Brock for governor and Wendy Wilton for treasurer. Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott will run for his seat again.
“The next three weeks, obviously, we’ll know what the total picture will be,” he said. But right now, with only two known candidates for statewide office – Lindley hadn’t heard from Sen. Vince Illuzzi, who is considering a run for auditor, or Jack McMullen, a prominent Burlington businessman the AP reports is trying to put together a campaign for attorney general – the GOP turns to the Legislature for a glint of hope.
Lindley said he was “very pleased” with Republican candidates for the state Legislature, and “the statewide races will fall into place as time goes on.”
Correction: We originally reported that there were two Republican candidates for statewide office, inadvertently omitting Phil Scott, the incumbent candidate for lieutenant governor.