The reluctant candidate? If Smith wins Progressive Primary, she could make trail bumpy for Shumlin

Editor’s note: This article is a political analysis, not a straight news story.

Just when the Democrats and Gov. Peter Shumlin thought they’d made peace with the Progs, here comes an under-the-radar candidate with no money, a lot of chutzpah and zero campaign experience.

Enter Annette Smith, stage (where else but?) left, in the Progressive Party primary for governor.

Smith, executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, is the reluctant standard-bearer for the anti-corporatists who are so angry at Shumlin for his stance on a narrow range of issues — overt support of the Green Mountain Power/Central Vermont Public Service merger and his willingness to back industrial wind — that they are willing, against all odds, not to mention at the very last minute (the campaign is 10 days old), to run a write-in campaign for Smith.

Smith has been jeremiahing in the wilderness about the environmental impact of wind on the state’s ridgelines for years. A primary win would give her a platform to take her message statewide.

Mind you, Smith herself isn’t necessarily enthusiastic about the idea of a campaign. It wasn’t, after all, her idea. It was the brainchild of Stephanie Kaplan, Randy Koch and other activists who were in anyone-but-Shumlin mode and wanted to have someone to vote for come Election Day. (Smith isn’t taking calls from the press, Kaplan says, because she isn’t running the campaign — she’s too busy fighting the David Blittersdorf wind project on Georgia Mountain, among other environmental fronts.)

Kaplan, Koch et al., believe Smith is perfect candidate for disaffected voters who: 1. oppose industrial wind (especially on Lowell Mountain, a Green Mountain Power project the governor has supported wholeheartedly); 2. believe Shumlin is too cozy with business, especially corporate Canada, i.e., Gaz Metro; 3. have concerns about Gaz Metro’s merger of Green Mountain Power and CVPS, the state’s two largest utilities; 4. hate the idea of smart meters for health reasons; and 5. oppose the basing of F-35s at the Burlington International Airport.

“These are the issues that we’re raising because we know they’re issues Annette has positions on and would be able to discuss these things intelligently,” Kaplan said. “It starts with Shumlin’s coziness with big corporations in Vermont and how that has made people uncomfortable. It’s reflected in the merger that he promoted [between Gaz Metro’s Green Mountain Power and CVPS]. … It was promoted as this fantastic thing … other people looked closely at figures and it may not be good thing for Vermonters, though it’s good for Green Mountain Power and CVPS.”

If Smith wins the primary, she will be given the right, as a major party candidate to be included in all the public debates — and the opportunity to give Shumlin a hard time about the aforementioned issues.

Kaplan said in an email that Smith “consistently stands up for ordinary Vermonters, helping them take on the big corporations and their lawyers and lobbyists. She is deeply knowledgeable about the corporate take-over of Vermont in all its many forms, and she is an excellent and passionate speaker.” The “anti-corporate” jingle, which has been the theme song of Progressives, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, the standard-bearer for the Progressive Party in Vermont (even though he eschews the label and runs as an independent), is apparently no longer being sung loudly enough for the Lowell activists.

Do Smith and her supporters really think she has a chance to beat the Progressives’ very own Martha Abbott, the chairwoman of the party?

Very hard to say. In the last two election cycles, only about 500 people voted in the Progressive Party. Smith’s “campaign” listserve (friends of friends taking the news viral) is at least that size, and her supporters are motivated activists, many of whom are appalled by the Lowell Mountain wind project. “Lowell is the biggest development in Vermont since the interstate,” Kaplan said. What galls activists, she said, is Shumlin’s unwillingness to talk to them about the project — or visit the site.

Then there is the contrarian factor: Vermonters love opposition candidates in a primary. Remember Fred Tuttle?

Still being a write-in candidate in a primary is a dicey business in Vermont. First, there is the question of which ballot to choose (there are three, one for each of the major parties), and most people who go to the polls on Aug. 28 will likely choose a Democratic ballot, in order to vote in the hotly contested Vermont attorney general primary race.

The other challenge is getting voters to remember the name of the write-in candidate.

Abbott will have no such issue, as her name will be front and center on the Progressive ticket. Abbott told the Vermont Press Bureau that the challenge from Smith is “exciting” because it will “raise the level of interest in our primary.” In the last election, the Progressives supported Peter Shumlin because of his stances on single-payer health care, renewable energy and Vermont Yankee. Abbott has said that if she wins, she may drop out of the General Election.

CORRECTION: We originally stated that Sanders was a founder of the Progressive Party. Though often claimed by party members as one of their own, Sanders is an independent who caucuses with the Democrats.

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Anne Galloway

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  • Sally Shaw

    Oh Annette, have you gone off the deep end? I, too, like my mountains unsullied, but I’d rather see Vermont develop it’s own wind and solar power sources than sit on my hands while fossil fuels and nuclear leave a scorched earth behind for our children. There is no perfectly clean way to make electricity. But the strides VT has made toward reducing its energy footprint, the blossoming of efficiency and renewable energy jobs, the return to a vision of self-reliance and sanity in the efforts to shut the toxic waste factory in Vernon are the best thing that’s happened in decades. Governor Shumlin is doing what a majority of Vermonters elected him to do. The best way to protect Vermont is to stand together against the corporate bullies in fossil fuels and nuclear who dictate to our national government and supersede state’s rights wherever they choose.

    • Rob Roy Macgregor

      Thank you Sally, well put.

      I often think that wind opponents should take a tour of what once was mountain-top West Virginia, for a broader sense of perspective.

      • Randy Koch

        Yes it IS sad to go back an look at the photos of mountain top removal in the South and compare them with the likewise appalling photos of destruction on Lowell and Georgia mountains.

        It’s one of the grand ironies in all this that in a recent anti-mtn top removal campaign in West Virginia, the enviros were reduced to arguing that if you remove the mountain tops for coal, they will no longer be high enough to use for industrial wind projects!

        • Rob Roy

          There is no comparison, especially when you consider the true external, social costs of coal.

        • Mark Roberts

          I used to be good with wind power… makes sense environmentally but if a project were proposed near me I’d be the first to put sugar in the corporate bulldozer’s gas tank. It would be nice if Shumlin et al were willing to embrace and enable home and community energy production like micro hydro, methane generation and small wind turbines. That we don’t see more from the Dems and the rest on the advantages of small scale energy does point to a corporate bias. But yeah, no matter how you slice it, cutting off the top of a mountain for energy production is a crappy trade-off.

          I’d vote for Smith but for the whole smart meter thing. ‘Health reasons’? From what, the radio waves? I’m willing to be enlightened but I think we’ve got MUCH more important and real things to be concerned about…

          • Lee Stirling

            Unfortunately, I think most of the people in the USA would agree with you about putting sugar in the bulldozer’s tank. People really do talk a good game, especially if they don’t live in an affected area. But when push comes to shove, I bet most of the strong industrial wind supporters would oppose it if it was going to be placed in their back yard. Everyone is willing to make the sacrifice as long as they don’t have to actually sacrifice something themselves. How two-faced!

  • timothy price

    Perhaps this will inform Shumlin of the concerns people have about the militarization of our economy and will suggest to him that the F-35 not be based in Vermont… or anywhere else, for that matter. The military is too large, too much of the economic drain, too destructive of resources, too damaging to the civilian economy, too influential in foreign policy, and creates shortfalls to building a healthy and sustainable society here at home. We should not be held hostage by a huge industry that more likely creates justified ill will toward the USA, and does so for no good reason, as far as the people are concerned. Corporate globalists love our military.

  • Howard Ires

    I heard Annette Smith speak at a wind information meeting in Windham VT last month. She opened by cautioning us to not let the issue “inflame” the town, and proceeded to make every kind of misinformed, inflammatory statement about a proposed project that consists of 3 temporary test towers in the middle of 5000 acres of privately owned woodlot.

    The Progressives have been the leaders of the anti nuclear movement in Vermont, do they want to become the party of the anti everything movement?

  • David Van Deusen

    This will be a referendum for the Progressive community on support or opposition to wind power in Vermont. I very much look forward to seeing the results.

    • Bruce Post

      Mr. Van Deusen, I hardly think that this can accurately be called “a referendum for the Progressive community on support or opposition to wind power in Vermont.” As Anne’s article points out, write-in ballots present certain hurdles. You and others might “spin” it one way or another, but fact is, from a defensible methodological perpsective, this does not meet the test of validity.

    • Eric Davis

      How much of the Progressive community will vote in the Progressive primary? In particular, will Chittenden County Progressives vote in the Progressive primary, or in the Democratic primary, for Senate candidates Tim Ashe, Philip Baruth, and David Zuckerman?

      • Yes, how to define “Progressive” candidates, also “Independents” such as Bernie who has, like Shumlin, refused or failed to address, as publicly promised, his constituency here in the NEK on the issue of corporate wind. Bernie’s attitude is the most disturbing given his legendary opposition to the corrupting corporate presence in electoral politics, legislatures, health care, Medicare, etc.
        Working with Stephanie Kaplan on Annette Smith’s write-in campaign is quintessential democracy at work. How revealing that opponents must descend to mockery & derision rather than defending one’s right to participate in our fundamental electoral process.

        I invite all who wish to see the issue of corporate wind become a major point of discussion by candidates, to visit http://www.change.org/petitions/vermont-voters-write-in-annette-smith-forgovernor-in-the-primary-aug-28-2012.

  • Fred Woogmaster

    Annette Smith has been speaking out on environmental issues for many years. While I have not always shared her opinion, I appreciate her point of view and consider her to be a serious participant in the process. Her inclusion in debates guarantees a more substantive dialogue on environmental issues. The Vermont citizenry will be better informed as a result. The two party system (and the huge barrels of money) stifles genuine democracy and limits discussion. If Smith is successful in the Progressive primary I will surely listen to what she has to say although I may not vote for her. I have always admired her clarity and her courage.

    • Kate Scarlott

      Annette is a person of deep integrity, passion, and independent and critical thinking. She works incredibly hard for environmental and social justice values she feels very strongly about — without caving to corporate or political pressure as is so depressingly common in our elected officials. Her presence in the debates and campaign will mean important issues will have a chance to be talked about with seriousness and depth, rather than glossed over with sound bites or glib dismissals.

  • Frank Davis

    I am glad the one issue voters have a candidate. Even if Smith loses the primary, my impression is that the “anti-wind” voters of Albany and Craftsbury, etc. will still write-in Annette Smith in the general election. I’ll bet a pint of maple though that Lowell voters will give Shumlin a hefty majority.

    • Diane Grenkow

      This write in campaign is not based on the single issue of utility scale wind in Vermont — its focus is on the many ways the state of Vermont is being colonized by corporations with the blessing of our current governor. I, for one, hope that enough people write in Annette Smith for Governor on the Progressive ballot so that these issues will be debated. You can bet that if it is just Shumlin and Mr. Brock we won’t be hearing much about “smart” meters, F-35s, and wind.

  • Stan Shapiro

    Ms. Shaws comment that to ‘stand against the corporate bullies in fossil fuels and nuclear who dictate to our national government…’ is the height of naivete.These are the very same companies that are the largest industrial wind turbine developers.While it constitutes a small percentage of their income,they are essentialy betting on red and black.Our politicans know that billions of dollars are at stake and to wear the cloak green energy thus affords them the ability to benefit from the dollars these ccorporations donate to their campaign efforts.

  • Cynthia Browning

    I notice that in the first comment Ms. Shaw says that Gov. Shumlin is doing what a majority of Vermonters elected him to do. Someone could check the vote tallies from 2010, but my recollection is that he had 48.5 percent of the vote, and if former Lt Gov Dubie had insisted the election could have gone to the Vermont House for decision. If my memory is correct, a majority of Vermont voters (let alone of Vermonters overall) did not vote for the Governor.

    I think that Ms. Smith could bring a breath of fresh air and and a pulse of strong principles into a race that often seems driven by political opportunism.

    Rep. Cynthia Browning, Arlington

    • Lee Stirling

      Do I detect a hint of bitterness in Ms. Browning’s comments? Perhaps a little more than a hint? Anyway, thanks for correcting the math from the 2010 election. And maybe I’m going out on a limb here, but I thought every elected official sought to take advantage of their current political climate and whatever circumstances present themselves to advance their own agenda, all while trying to time things properly. Couldn’t this also be called political opportunism?

  • Avram Patt

    In the last election, both candidates for Governor were on the record supporters of industrial scale wind development. As someone who believes “industrial” is not by definition a dirty word, i’m just saying that the majority of Vermonters have been listening, understand the tradeoffs, and are not opposed to industrial scale solutions to the industrial scale problem we face.

    • Paul Denton

      The ‘most Vermonters’ you reference have never seen one of these abominations and think of wind power only in the abstract as a kind of ‘feel good’ type thing. We in the NEK actually have them and are far more aware of the whole picture.

      There is NOTHING good about wind power as it is being developed in Vermont. It is intermittent and does NOT have the scale needed to make a meaningful impact on power supply or global warming. It is extremely high cost, despite outrageous investment and operating tax credits, which are all passed on to the high bracket investors who own these things; and increases the federal deficit as well. It wreaks havoc on our mountains and local environment. It is sited in low income areas so that the people are in effect ‘bribed’ to take it. It impacts communities that do not benefit from this economic exploitation, causing inter-community hostility. Try building one of these horrors off Appletree Point or in view of Shelburne, Woodstock or Weston! Pigs will fly before that happens. Sheffield, Lowell, Island Pond, who cares about them?

      We could have had far less expensive, carbon free power by buying it from Hydro-Quebec or Seabrook. But no, our ‘leaders’ pick the highest cost power from the most locally devastating and divisive source. That’s just plain stupid. Or pandering to the utilities and investors; the only ones who benefit from this extremely poor public policy.

      I am glad Annette is running so I don’t have to write in Porky Pig.

  • Please be reminded that Governor candidate Cris Ericson,
    U.S. Marijuana Party, has a similar platform.

    Cris Ericson was so opposed to the $10. fee for opting out of Smart Meters that she e-mailed the F.B.I. and posted the e-mail on her blog, afterwhich, by pure coincidence, CVPS decided to not charge current customers for opting out of Smart Meters this year.

    Cris Ericson is so opposed to the CVPS and Green Mountain
    Power merger that she talked about it in the first independent U.S. Senate candidate debate on CCTV Aug. 2, 2012.
    Cris explained that her CVPS bill stated that she was being charged 2.2% for Hurricane Irene damage but the bill fraudulently concealed the material facts of how much money CVPS had already received from FEMA and their business insurance, so they may be getting paid two or three times over for the same damage!

    On August 16, 2012 Cris Ericson attended a meeting at the
    Springfield High School in Windsor County, Vermont to oppose
    the proposed Biomass Plant which Adam Winstanley of
    Concord, Massachusetts wants to build in a residential
    neighborhood two miles from Stoughton Pond where American
    Bald Eagles live and fish and breed. His intent is to buy
    42 Million dollars worth of Vermont trees every year and burn them at less than 40% efficiency and cause air pollution and particulate matter that will make people sick and might hurt the Bald Eagles, too.

    Adam Winstanley wants to do this because he doesn’t have to look for customers, Green Mountain Power will buy his filthy electricity while tax rates go sky high in the area because more ambulances will be taking more people to Springfield Hospital when trucks loaded
    with lumber travel through tourist areas on narrow roads where cars suddenly stop to photograph cows or buy strawberries, pumpkins or Christmas Trees. Tourist cars from NJ, NY, MA, RI and Conn. go bumper to
    bumper friday afternoons on Rte 103, often very narrow, towards the Ski Resorts and during fall foliage season, and Adam Winstanley plans on having tons of trucks driving ten hours a day which take 430 feet to
    come to a stop, while tourist cars stop on a dime to jump out when they see something they like. How many will get

    Check out Cris Ericson’s new campaign T-shirt shop and see
    the T-shirts with photos Cris took of black ice under snow.

  • Wendy Rae

    How do we spell her name? ANNETTE SMITH. Use that pen on August 28th.

  • Randy Koch

    Annette Smith OF DANBY

  • Michael Colby

    To me, this effort to draft Annette Smith is about more than just getting Smith’s much-needed perspective into the debates. It’s also about whether or not an effort like this has a chance of infusing some energy into — or the outright hijacking of — the moribund Progressive Party. It’s sadly comical to me that the Party’s current stodgy leadership would be so hostile to such an effort. All so they can smooth the way for Shumlin? So while they seemingly seek to perfect their super-secret-insider-handshake, the rest of us would like to get on with the business of challenging the corrupt core of Vermont’s Democratic monopoly.