Clavelle seeks Dean’s grassroots campaign strategies

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(Host) Peter Clavelle, the Democratic candidate for governor, is reaching out to the network of supporters for Howard Dean. The Burlington mayor wants to tap into the grassroots campaign organization that was the hallmark of the Dean campaign.

VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) Peter Clavelle is on the road a lot these days. Wednesday night found him at a meeting of Howard Dean supporters gathered in a Montpelier church basement.

With their candidate out of the presidential race, the group wants a new political mission. Clavelle hopes they’ll join his campaign.

(Clavelle) “In the same way that Dean for America organized a national effort, the Clavelle for Governor campaign is going to organize a statewide effort. And tonight I want to say thank you all for contributions over the past year to Dean for America, but also want to say I would welcome you all to be part of the Clavelle for Governor effort.”

(Dillon) The audience is receptive. They pepper Clavelle with questions about his record as mayor, and about the issues he’d raise in his campaign against Republican Governor Jim Douglas. And they offer to help:

(Audience member) “What do you want us to do? Because I think we’ll do anything.”

(Dillon) The candidate says he wants their ideas on issues, but he also has pragmatic concerns.

(Clavelle) “Of course your money will be welcome. This is an expensive proposition. Last year, Douglas spent about a million dollars. That’s a daunting amount of money to be raised. So obviously fundraising is going to be significant part of this.”

(Dillon) Clavelle says he’s visited 50 towns so far as he tours the state. He’s been to five of the monthly Dean meetings. And the Burlington mayor clearly hopes to build on the Dean phenomenon that brought many people into politics for the first time.

(Clavelle) “I will have a grassroots campaign, there’s no question about it. And obviously the Dean movement was grassroots, so to the extent that there’s intersections, we’ll take advantage of those. But absolutely there’s energy that can be harnessed and I think the Republicans cannot begin to match the grassroots energy that exists within Democratic circles.”

(Dillon) Clavelle may need that energy because he’s challenging a popular incumbent who spends a lot of time in Vermont’s towns and cities meeting voters.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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