Donovan picks up VSEA endorsement

The Vermont State Employees Association, a union of about 6,400 state workers, endorsed Democratic attorney general candidate TJ Donovan Thursday in a strongly worded show of support.

In a statement released by the Donovan campaign, VSEA president John Resse said, “For too long Vermonters have gone without an Attorney General who understands what working and middle class Vermonters go through day in and day out, and who appreciates the essential role state workers play in our state.”

The slight against Bill Sorrell, the 15-year incumbent, didn’t come as a surprise to Sorrell, who said he didn’t expect an endorsement from the union.

“TJ approached them,” he said. “They were in touch with me to ask me if I wanted to meet with them, but they didn’t endorse me two years ago either, so I didn’t expect their endorsement.”

As he suggested in answering questions about the Vermont Troopers Association and Vermont Sheriffs Association endorsements of his opponent, Sorrell pointed to his work in the AG’s office as a possible reason the group shied away.

“The attorney general defends the employee grievances that get filed, so we find ourselves litigating against the VSEA very frequently,” Sorrell said in an interview.

Donovan said the fact that he is a “middle class guy” helped him gain the support of the union. Other unions have endorsed Donovan as well. On June 6, the campaign announced they’d received the support of the Vermont State Labor Council and the AFL-CIO.

Eric Davis, a retired professor of political science at Middlebury, said support from big organizations can help boost a candidate if enough of the organizations’ members get to the polls. Davis predicts August’s Democratic primary to bring out about 40,000 voters, which means 20,000 votes would likely win the race.

“I would say the VSEA is one of the most important unions with it comes to endorsements in the primary. The other two are the NEA and the AFL-CIO,” Davis said.

Today’s announcement gives Donovan a boost, especially if the VSEA mobilizes its members in support of Donovan in August.

“If they can get, as a result, you know 2,000 of their people to the polls to vote for Donovan, that gets him 10 percent of the votes he would need to win the primary,” Davis said.

Taylor Dobbs

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  • Nancy Classig

    If memory serves, VSEA and AFL-CIO endorsed Doug Racine in the 2010 Democratic gubernatorial primary,and Vt Sheriffs endorsed Brian Dubie in 2010. Their guys didn’t win then, so who can say what they would do in this race?

  • Julie Hansen

    I will say again. Is Donavon running for Attorney General or Governor? The AG enforces the law as it is written. Sometimes the law works for a employee and sometimes it works for the employer.

    I’m amazed that so many folks don’t seem to understand the job of the AG.

    • Christian Noll

      Hey Julie thanks but it seems you’re the one that doesn’t understand the “Job of the AG.” Anyone is better than Bill Sorrell.

      “Sometimes the law works for a(n) employee and sometimes it works for the employer.”

      Are you kidding me? Talk about CLUELESS!

      We “understand” very well that the “Law” very very rarely works for the employee if the AG is involved.

      In fact the Vermont Attorney General’s Office is quite undeniably “In the pockets” of most Vermont employers.

      We “folks” understand quite well what the job of the AG’s office is. If we could just get our current attorney general to do what we’ve hired him to do, maybe life wouldn’t be so bad here.

      If we had an AG who’s Civil Rights Unit was a little more attentive and responsive to the basic needs of our state’s citizens and particularly those who’ve been harrassed, unlawfully discriminated against or mistreated by their employer (particularly in the public sector) MAYBE we Vermonters wouldn’t be looking for a new one?

      Don’t be “amazed.”

      We understand what our AG’s job is.

      If we could just get our current AG to understand it as well.

  • Julie Hansen

    Mr. Noll,

    I get it that you oppose the re-election of Bill Sorrell.

    My issue is a bit different from that.

    The AG does not write the law.

    We know that Vermont pushes the limits in some of their legislation, but I don’t happen to think that is a bad thing. It does make it more challenging to win court cases, and yes, I know that we would prefer to win and that it costs money. But I do think progress is made each time those cases are fought, even if Vermont loses. It is clear that many Vermonters have varying perspectives on that.

    I know there is overlap among the three branches, but I would hope that we want to encourage their separation.

    I am not comfortable with someone running for Attorney General who seeks the approval of so many groups. Will he owe them something once he is elected? I would want his allegiance to be to the law. If we don’t like the law then we need to work with the legislature. Mr. Donovan speaks more as if he is running for governor than a law enforcement officer, and maybe he would be a great governor.

    My suggestion was that people seem to support Donovan because they believe that he will do something for them or their group. That is why I question whether they actually understand the job.

    Some states don’t elect the Attorney General. I wonder if it ultimately makes any difference in our perceptions.

    Thanks for giving me the opportunity to clarify my ideas.

    • Christian Noll

      Julie you’re welcome and thanks for responding.

      “I am not comfortable with someone running for Attorney General who seeks the approval of so many groups.”

      Really? I wonder why?

      Is there any candidate running for any office who doesn’t seek the approval of any voting group? If you’re running for office you’re everybody’s friend.

      My understanding is that Mr Sorrell’s mother used to play bridge with Howard Dean’s mother and was greatly assisted by this relationship to get where he is now. Many people are voting for TJ Donovan because they just want a plain and simple change. As far as the election goes, I’m not so sure the job of the Attorney General is staying the same. I think over time that changes too. We would want it to change for the better though.

      So weather those voting groups understand the job of the Attorney General or not, might not be the deciding factor. Positive change is needed and we don’t see it with our current Attorney General, regardless of what his job description is.

      There is so much more to the AG’s office than big court room decisions. There is the “Civil Rights Unit or “CRU.” According to the Vermont AG’s office seldom do they litigate Civil Rights cases any more. They almost always mediate their way through to a settlement.

      According to the Vermont Attorney Genral’s office, as of June 5th 2012 the CRU has 97 open investigations. Since May 21st 2007 to May 21st of this year 2012, the CRU had 171 investigations with reported Non-Court settlements. In that same period the CRU completed 549 investigations.

      “Will he owe them something once elected?” Does any elected official owe his voting constituents anything once elected?

      “I would want his allegiance to be with the law.”

      TJ Donovan?? He’s the Chittenden County State prosecutor! How much more “allegiance” would one need? Can anyone be more allied with the law in Vermont than the State’s prosecutor for Chittenden County? Maybe but I as a voter don’t want the status quo anymore with our current AG’s office and I think a lot of others agree with me.

      The law is not perfect either. I agree that we need to address certain laws with our legislature. I would hope our future Attorney General use the better part of their discretion to enforce them.

      Personally when I look at the history of the Vermont Attorney Generals office and the preceeding three Attorney Generals before Bill Sorrell, I see a shift in policy which appears to separate our current AG office from the history of the position in our state. The shift seems to protect the state more instead of its citizens. So I’m not so sure “The job” is really what it used to be in the first place, nor if its changed for the betterment of our tax paying citizens.

      Julie I appreciate your clarifications and allowing me to do the same.

  • Sally Reynolds

    I think it’s a great thing that Donovan is getting these endorsements. Also, memory serves me right — VSEA endorsed Doug Racine in 2010, showed up to his campaign HQ to go door-to-door and the campaign had nothing for them to do. Doug squandered the endorsement.

    Also, keep in mind that Shumin’s former deputy field director is now TJ’s campaign manager. Shumlin had a far superior ground game than anyone else in the primary and general — so I think they will put the endorsement to good use, cut turf and get VSEA members out there and knock on doors.

    I think it’s going to be close but when voters are presented with the facts — I think Donovan will win narrowly. I honestly think that Bill has pissed too many people off (hence the fact that he’s lost the troopers, the firefighters and the sherrifs). If he loses the Fraternal order of Police endorsement — I think people should re-consider him as a candidate due to this question: If he is AG, can he work with law enforcement and public safety officials across the state?

    I think the endorsements are indicative that these constituency and advocacy groups want a change.

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