One exciting night


Thursday, March 6
The national media descended upon Brattleboro on Tuesday to cover our town election and serve up another round of "those Brattleboro folks sure are loony" stories.

The irony is that while they chattered about the ballot article on the indictment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, they didn't know that it was the third most interesting contest on the ballot.

Organizers may beg to differ with us, but the Selectboard race and the Democratic presidential primary proved to be more compelling than a purely symbolic vote on something that is unlikely to ever happen.

We could understand the impeachment votes that were taken at Town Meetings around Vermont in 2006 and 2007. There is a legal framework for impeachment and the votes that were taken were in keeping with the ground rules for removing a president and vice president created by the founders of our nation. The indictment vote was on shaky legal ground from the get-go, and much more controversial.

The real drama was in the Selectboard race. This was the strongest slate of candidates for the Selectboard that the town has seen in years. At a time when towns struggle to find people to serve in local government, this was good to see.

Tuesday's Selectboard vote was a referendum on the current state of Brattleboro and what direction it should head into. The debate, as it played out in the Reformer's Letter Box and on, was about either keeping an activist board or returning power to the burghers who have controlled town government for decades.

The election of Martha O'Connor, Jesse Corum and John Allen to the Selectboard can be seen as the restoration of the old order to town government. We hope it doesn't mean that we will see another year of turmoil, this time with the activists on the outside looking in.

Given all the challenges that the town faces in the coming year -- hiring a new town manager and police chief, rebuilding the wastewater treatment plant, settling on guidelines for development and zoning and trying to run a town government in the face of a weakening economy -- we hope the new majority on the board can guide Brattleboro through it all with a minimum of strife.

As for the Democratic primary, it was exciting to see Vermont in the nomination mix and to see the candidates take our opinions seriously. While our primary was overshadowed by Ohio and Texas, the race for the nomination is still close enough that our 23 delegates mattered.

After Tuesday's voting, Hillary Clinton managed to claim victory in the two states she said she needed, Texas and Ohio. Barack Obama's victory in Vermont effectively canceled out Clinton's win in Rhode Island. But after all the dust settled, Clinton did not substantially cut into Obama's delegate lead. As of Wednesday, Obama has a 1,564-1,463 lead on Clinton, according to the Associated Press' delegate count. Despite Clinton winning three primaries, she and Obama evenly split the number of delegates at stake on Tuesday.

Clinton can claim momentum, but the numbers still aren't in her favor. Next up are contests in Wyoming (March 8) and Mississippi (March 11) before a six-week lull leading up to the Pennsylvania Primary on April 22. The Democratic race remains unsettled, and Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who clinched his party's nomination on Tuesday, will have to wait a while longer to see who he'll face in November.


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