August 17, 2009, the Brattleboro Reformer, by Chris Garofolo
BRATTLEBORO -- Members of the Vermont Progressive Party say they might support a Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2010, but there’s a catch.
The Progressives are trying a new political tactic that could unite them with like-minded liberals and Democrats in Vermont by standing behind three key issues that both parties could champion. If the move is successful, Progressives hope to bring the two sides together under one candidate in a campaign against current Gov. James Douglas, or the Republican challenger if Douglas decides to not seek re-election next year.
Brattleboro Progressive Mollie Burke, serving in her first term in the Statehouse, said Democrats and Progressives need to continue collaborating to achieve political success in upcoming elections. Other local Progressives echo that statement.
"I think we need to build a coalition to change administrations, we need to work together in that direction to achieve a common goal," said Rep. Sarah Edwards, P-Brattleboro.
Martha Abbott, chairwoman of the state’s Progressive Party, said in an announcement on Aug. 10 that they hope to stand behind a candidate who demonstrates strong support of the following:
-- A single payer health care plan for the state where the single payer is not private insurance companies.
-- A strong voice against Vermont Yankee nuclear plant’s continued operation.
-- A reasonable solution to the financial problems with the state pension plan and the unemployment compensation system.
"Since these are the most important issues facing Vermonters in the next election, the Vermont Progressive Party may feel compelled to offer a candidate of our own if no such candidate emerges from (among) the Democratic candidates." she said.
"The three issues that were highlighted are ones that I agree with, they are worth pursuing, not only for the rest of the country, but for Vermonters," said Edwards. "The question is how do we achieve those goals? It’s clear we need a new administration."
What is also important, according to Burke, is that the issues remind the center of debate going into the next election cycle, especially when health care reform is a hotly contested topic around the nation.
"I think what the Progressive party is trying to do is keep (these) issues on the table, such as single payer health care," said Burke.
But if the Progressives do not find a Democratic candidate they like, they will likely run their own -- essentially splitting the left-leaning vote between the two parties.
In last year’s three-way race, Progressive-turned-Independent Anthony Pollina squeaked by Democrat Gaye Symington in the voting booth, but both candidates’ votes combined would not have been enough to defeat the four-time incumbent Douglas.
As of Aug. 15, no Progressive has publicly expressed interest in a gubernatorial run, but it is still early in the process. "We’re not gearing up any campaigns or anything yet," said Morgan Daybell, executive director of the Progressive party. "But if there is nobody out there championing these issues, than we may feel compelled to run our own candidate."
Douglas won more than 50 percent last November, but with his lowest re-election numbers, meaning a three-way race (while dividing undecided residents at the ballot box) could potentially result in legislative vote, said Daybell
Democrats were manhandled by Douglas in 2004 and 2006, however a three-way race could send it to the Legislature for the final decision, he added.
If no candidate receive more than 50 percent of the popular vote, under Vermont law, the election is put in the hands of the state’s Democrat-controlled Legislature.
Some of the Democratic gubernatorial candidates have already started courting Progressives to ensure more votes next Election Day.
Last weekend, State Sen. Susan Bartlett, D-Lamoille, spoke to roughly 50 Progressives in Newport. In May, Sen. Doug Racine, D-Chittenden, spoke to a similar group in Barre.
Both Racine and Bartlett, as well as Secretary of State Deb Markowitz, have announced their candidacy in the hope of taking over the executive branch. Racine lost to Douglas in the 2002 campaign.