Democrats and Progressives form tentative collaboration

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(Host) Democratic and Progressive Party leaders say they’re interested in working together on certain legislative and statewide races during the 2004 election. However Republican officials think the collaboration will present GOP candidates with a great opportunity to win more races next year.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) It’s very clear that many Democrats and Progressives want to avoid a replay of the circumstances that occurred in the lieutenant governor’s race in 2002. In that contest, Republican Brian Dubie was elected with 42% of the vote in a three-way race with Democrat Peter Shumlin and Progressive Anthony Pollina.

Congressman Bernie Sanders says it’s a big mistake for liberal Democrats and Progressives to run against each other because it virtually assures a Republican victory. And Sanders says he wants to take an active role in the effort to bring the two parties together when the circumstances make sense.

Progressive Party Chairwoman Martha Abbott says she thinks it’s a good idea as long as the Democrats treat the Progressives with respect:

(Abbott) “Given that we’ve established ourselves in the last few years as a real force in Vermont politics, we certainly hope that it works both ways and that the places where the Progressive Party is strong and has strong candidates that Democrats will respect that and not run against us as well. It’s very important that it be a two-way street and not a one-way street.”

(Kinzel) GOP State Director Jim Barnett isn’t surprised by this development and Barnett thinks it will actually help Republican candidates.

(Barnett) “I actually think it could bode quite well for Republicans. It would be an indication that the Democrats are ready to cede the political center to us in pursuit of votes that might otherwise go to a fringe candidate on the far left. They’re going to have to make some adjustments to their agenda in order to appeal to those folks, and it’s going to drag them to the extreme left. Increasingly, that’s where the Party exists in any case.”

(Kinzel) The chairman of the Democratic Party, Scudder Parker, says he’s interested in discussing this issue with members of the Progressive Party and Parker thinks Barnett’s analysis of the situation is way off base:

(Parker) “I think the Republicans at this point have to fall back to name calling and labeling rather than deal with the issues of substance that are before us, that are the reason that Democrats and people of more progressive leanings are realizing they have interests in common at this time.”

(Kinzel) The recent re-election bid of Burlington Mayor Peter Clavelle is an example of Progressives and Democrats working together. Clavelle ran as both a Progressive and Democrat in his successful effort to win another term in office.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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