Shumlin endorses Biden for president during private fundraiser

Former Gov. Peter Shumlin returned to the Statehouse along with his wife, Katie Hunt, for Gov. Phil Scott’s inauguration in January 2019. Photo by Bob LoCicero/VTDigger

Former Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, who backed Hillary Clinton for president in 2016, is again rooting against his home-state senator, Bernie Sanders, this time endorsing Joe Biden, who swung through the Green Mountain State on Saturday for private fundraiser in Norwich.

Shumlin introduced the former vice president to a group of about 70 people who attended the event hosted by longtime Democratic Party contributors Jane and Bill Stetson, according to a pool report from Madeleine Rivera of Fox News. 

“Of all the people I’ve worked with, Joe Biden stands out to me,” Shumlin said. “He’s the one that can actually bring people together to make things happen.”

Shumlin also brought up Biden’s run for Senate in 1972. “This is mostly from Wikipedia. But, most of it is true. He had no money and had virtually no chance of winning,” he said. 

When Biden addressed the donors, he made the case that he is the most electable candidate in the political climate that President Donald Trump has created.

“What we need the most now is someone who can step up on day one and begin to unite the country again by not engaging in politics of attack as it relates to other people’s motives,” Biden said.

Shumlin’s endorsement of Biden comes after Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has received support from a number of prominent Progressive and Democratic public officials in the state — including Attorney General TJ Donovan, Senate leader Tim Ashe, Treasurer Beth Pearce and Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman. Ashe and Zuckerman previously worked for the senator. 

Shumlin’s decision to endorse Biden comes despite their markedly different views on health care policy, one of the signature issues of the 2020 campaign.

Shumlin, like Sanders, has long been a proponent of single-payer, government-run health care. Biden has said that system is not viable while advocating for adding a public option onto the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as ObamaCare. 

Shumlin did not respond to multiple requests for comment Monday. He is currently lecturing about his experiences as governor as a fellow at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

During the 2016 presidential election, Shumlin endorsed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as she ran against Sanders for the Democratic nominee.

The relationship between Shumlin, who served as governor from 2010 to 2016, and Biden dates back a decade, when the former vice president came to Vermont to campaign for the Brattleboro native as he was running for his first term.

In 2016, Shumlin also attended a Biden event to accelerate cancer research, which was hosted by the University of Vermont. 

Biden, who remains a top-tier candidate in the Democratic field for president, has struggled to match the small-donor fundraising pace of Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and has turned to his formidable network of big-money donors to keep up.

Joe Biden speaks to voters at a campaign event in Laconia, New Hampshire, on Sept. 6, 2019. Photo by Kit Norton/VTDigger
Joe Biden speaks to voters at a campaign event in Laconia, New Hampshire, on Sept. 6. Photo by Kit Norton/VTDigger

At the end of the third quarter, Biden raised $15.7 million, but only had $9 million cash on hand. During the same timeframe, Sanders brought in $25 million in contributions and currently has $33.7 million in cash on hand. Warren brought in $24.7 million while maintaining $25.7 million in available funds.

Biden, who earlier this year pledged not to form a super PAC, made an about-face last month and said he was not opposed to utilizing the organizations, which allow individuals and corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on a candidate.

Days after Biden opened the door for PAC help, the Unite the Country PAC was started by Larry Rasky, a former Biden staffer, CNN reported.

On Saturday, the price of attendance at the Stetsons’ home began at $500 and people were encouraged to pay $2,800 — the legal maximum campaign contribution — and “bundle” $5,000 donations for Biden.

In mid-October, the Biden campaign announced the former vice president would be visiting Vermont, but did not release any details the trip other than it would be on Nov. 9. 

Last week, the campaign sent out an updated itinerary for Biden with stops throughout New Hampshire — including Concord, Claremont, New London and Lebanon — but no mention of his visit to Vermont.

In late October, Jane Stetson started reaching out to possible contributors asking them to attend the private fundraiser, located at their home just minutes across the Connecticut River from the Granite State.

Stetson has known Biden for years, dating back to her work as national finance chair for the Democratic National Committee from 2009 to 2013, when Biden was vice president.  

The Stetsons are also active in local and national nonprofit groups working on issues relating to community health, education and the environment, while giving Democratic Party causes hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years.

“Joe Biden is a pragmatic choice,” said Jane Stetson in an interview last month. “He will stabilize us. I am a progressive person, but I don’t feel like this is the time for a whole new political system.” 

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Kit Norton

About Kit

Kit Norton is the general assignment reporter at VTDigger. He is originally from eastern Vermont and graduated from Emerson College in 2017 with a degree in journalism. In 2016, he was a recipient of The Society of Environmental Journalists' Emerging Environmental Journalist award. Kit has worked at PRI's weekly radio environmental program, Living on Earth, and has written for the online news site Truthout.

Email: [email protected]

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