Gubernatorial hopefuls, show your hands

Posted

Thursday, December 20
BRATTLEBORO -- If you believe everything you read, you might think the 2008 gubernatorial race is shaping up to be a two-man contest between Republican Gov. Jim Douglas and the Progressive Party's Anthony Pollina.

That is, if you read this week's Seven Days.

One page of the weekly Burlington paper features an ad with a Pollina campaign logo asking interested "volunteers, donors & campaign staff" to sign up for the campaign.

And on another page, columnist and long-time political observer Peter Freyne writes that Pollina is "the man who looks to have the best shot against Jim Douglas next November" and that another top contender, State Sen. and former Lt. Gov. Douglas Racine, D-Chittenden -- isn't very serious about the prospect.

"The recent floating of former Democratic Lt. Gov. Doug Racine's name was less than a genuine trial balloon," Freyne wrote. "Doug is not interested. Trust me."

But according to Racine himself, that's just not the case.

"Unlike journalists, I guess (Freyne) doesn't have to call somebody to find out what they're doing. He never talked to me about it," Racine said Wednesday. "I am considering it."

So is he or isn't he?

The Progressives, apparently, don't seem to think Racine or the three other Democratic candidates whose names have been floated -- Senate Majority Leader John Campbell, D-Windsor, former state senator and 2006 candidate for lieutenant governor Matt Dunne of Hartland and former ambassador Peter Galbraith of Townshend -- intend to run. Or, at least, that's what they're saying.

According to Progressive Party executive director Morgan Daybell, who was reached at the number listed in Pollina's advertisement, "It does not appear from the discussions we're hearing that there's really going to be a top tier Democrat -- someone who can give Jim Douglas a real challenge in that race."

Asked if he was referring to Racine, Campbell, Dunne and Galbraith, Daybell said, "I don't think any of them are running for governor in 2008."

Democratic Party chairman Ian Carleton, however, would beg to differ.

"I expect there to be a Democratic candidate," he said. "Anyone who's suggesting they have the inside scoop on the Democrats' not running a candidate is sorely mistaken."

So if Pollina is running and the Democrats field a candidate, what does that mean?

It means that Christmas has come early for Douglas, who, most agree, would easily defeat a divided left.

But according to Douglas spokesman Jason Gibbs, the governor is too busy focusing on the upcoming legislative session to worry about who he will face next November.

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"The Democrats have said they will have a Democratic nominee and obviously the Progressives want to run Anthony Pollina for yet another statewide office," Gibbs said. "Either way, Vermonters will have a very clear choice between a governor who is focused on affordability and prosperity and other candidates who want to raise taxes and make Vermont less affordable."

But is a three-way race guaranteed? Both Carleton and Daybell say their two parties have been communicating, and neither side wants to hand Douglas an easy re-election.

"Everybody in the Democratic and Progressive parties agree that the No. 1 goal is to defeat Jim Douglas," Carleton said. "I think everybody in both of those parties recognizes that a three-way race is not the best way to achieve that goal."

And according to Racine, it's far from clear that Pollina himself is running.

"There's a lot of activity going on, but (Pollina) hasn't said he's definitely running, just as I haven't said I'm definitely running," Racine said, noting that "to put an ad in the paper is just a few bucks."

"It's talk right now. Maybe it signifies that something real is going on, and maybe it's just part of figuring out if the support is there and floating some kind of trial balloon," Racine said.

But according to Daybell, the Pollina campaign has already recruited a treasurer, opened a campaign account and secured $50,000 in donations and pledges -- halfway to its January goal of $100,000. And since the Seven Days ad hit the news stands, he has been answering calls from potential volunteers and staff members.

"I'm personally donating a lot of time to the effort and I would not be doing that if I didn't think this was for real," Daybell said.

But has Pollina announced yet? Not really.

At the Progressive's annual convention in November, he said, "I do very much expect and I do very much intend to be a candidate for governor."

But a campaign announcement that is not. According to Daybell, that likely will not come until January.

Neither Pollina, Dunne nor Campbell returned calls Wednesday for comment, while Galbraith said he had nothing to add to his previous statements.

"If and when I have something to announce, I will announce it," Galbraith said.

And as for Racine?

"I'm on the phone a lot. I'm talking to a lot of different people and getting varying pieces of advice, and I need to make a decision soon," he said. "I know I need to make a decision in the next several weeks."

Paul Heintz can be reached at pheintz@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.


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