Hold On -- We're About To Be Assaulted!

Springfield Reporter and the Vermont Standard

Kurt Staudter, Columnist | August 3, 2006

First off let me apologize for being one of those folks that spends way too much time watching politics. Ask my wife and family -- They'd be much happier if I took up serious home repair projects, but instead I've got my nose in books or pouring over the newspapers, and going to meetings following the latest antics of our elected representatives in government. Hey, it's a nasty job but someone's got to do it.

However, even yours truly has just about reached my overload limit: The mind numbing assault on Vermonters from the Tarrant campaign boarders on the insanely ridiculous. How much money is this man going to spend on a campaign that he has absolutely no chance of winning? Here in Vermont we've always prided ourselves in the ability to run issue oriented campaigns fueled more by shoe leather than by ungodly sums of money. This year will prove to be an embarrassment to all of the VT political junkies that, until now, have had bragging rights over our friends around the country about how our state is the last oasis from big money politics. Even the misguided Supreme Court dismissed as laughable our attempt at reform, pointing out that if VT had any problem it's the lack of money spent on campaigns. That is until now.

With all that is at stake in Washington, Vermont has been identified as a major battleground between the Republicans and Democrats, and this includes all the out-of-state money that comes with this dubious distinction. Why you might ask is all of this attention being lavished on Vermont? President Bush is universally despised; there is a small but vibrant secession movement; Vermonters are fiercely independent; we like our political season to last just a few months, not for three-quarters of the year; and with the average income one of the lowest in New England, we really can't relate to someone with more money than you know who -- Yet, the two national parties are going to spend a boat load of money to influence an election that is almost a forgone conclusion as to who will win.

Now while this makes for all sorts of fodder for political columnists, it is just another reason why folks are tuning out of politics. Like it or not, we are living in one of those pivotal periods of American history, and considering the disastrous direction the Republicans have taken us, our only hope is in a truly engaged citizenry that can see through the slick ads that are long on fluff and short on substance. Yet, the big money that will be spent on the races won't go to educating us on the issues, instead going to increasingly shrill attacks, not on the ideas, but on the personalities of the candidates.

For the dedicated observer, what makes this political season interesting is the stealth candidacies of Rich Tarrant and Martha Rainville. Here we have two Republican newcomers that are doing their very best not to parrot the agenda of the national party, and yet, even a casual observer has to realize that a freshman senator or congresswoman, especially political novices like Rainville and Tarrant, will take all of their direction from a party leadership that seems universally repugnant to most Vermonters. Why would anyone even consider sending these two to Washington to do our bidding -- They will be forced to take positions on issues that don't represent what most of us believe. They'll be good little party lapdogs.

I'd be totally cynical about the upcoming political season, but check this out: Last week I did an interview with U.S. House candidate Senator Mark Shepard, Republican from Bennington County, and I was treated to a Vermont politician truly in the tradition of Aiken, Flanders and Jeffords. I'd met him in passing a few times in the statehouse, and got to talk with him at length during the Windsor Heritage Days. Now while Mark and I live at opposite ends of the political spectrum, the hour-long interview for SAPA-TV turned out to be one of the most enjoyable interviews I've ever done, and continued long after we turned off the cameras.

Ironically, Mark is getting royally screwed by his party even though he more closely represents the traditional beliefs of those Yankee Republicans that keep electing Jim Douglas Governor. I was disgusted at the Windsor Heritage Days while making my rounds of the political booths to find the lawn signs for Shepard had been physically hidden from view, and that those party officials staffing the booth treated it as a big joke that they'd be so one sided before the primary. Rainville was the anointed one -- Period! Here we have a native born Vermonter, raised in Hartland, with a proven record of fighting for property rights, keeping public lands open to sportsmen, controlling the size of government, lowering taxes, and on and on and on. His common sense positions on the issues, his passion to improve the lives of his fellow Vermonters, and the humility which he brings to his public service, are those same qualities that led both Rs and Ds to keep sending Jim Jeffords to Washington. Mark is no party hack, but a pragmatic family man and entrepreneur, running a shoe leather campaign in the finest Vermont tradition. If I were a Republican...

So, at September 12 primary we have the first opportunity to send a message to the Washington big money political machines: You don't buy political offices in Vermont -- You earn them.

Meanwhile -- Anyone know if it is better to use screws or nails to build a deck?

"... many politicians talk the talk about doing something tangible about new jobs and it doesn't go much further. Sen. Shepard walked the walk."
"Sen. Shepard's big accomplishment, and it is a significant one, lies in the major role he played in bringing the Bennington Microtech Center into being."

Bennington Banner State Senator Endorsement Editorial, October 29, 2004

Paid for by Shepard for Congress Committee

Copyright © 2006, Shepard for Congress Committee. All rights reserved.