Douglas fundraising letter attacks Democratic leadership

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(Host) In a fund-raising letter for his re-election campaign, Governor Jim Douglas accuses Democratic legislative leaders of being out of the mainstream.

He uses the leadership’s commission to study same-sex marriage as his primary example.

VPR’s Ross Sneyd reports.

(Sneyd) The Douglas campaign sent out 3,000 letters to supporters last month seeking contributions toward his re-election.

The letter was pretty standard fare as fund-raising pitches go.

It hit on some of the themes of the governor’s tenure – property tax relief, reducing the cost of health care, job creation and overall “affordability.’’

And it hits on Democrats and Progressives, who are portrayed as advocates of higher taxes and more bureaucracy.

Middlebury College political scientist Eric Davis says the letter is vintage Jim Douglas.

(Davis) “My sense is that Jim Douglas has been running for re-election against the Legislature almost from the day he was sworn in in January. In other words, in many ways a lot of what he’s done as governor in 2007 has been aimed at the 2008 campaign. So this just gives him another line of attack against the Democrats in the Legislature.’’

(Sneyd) But it’s the social issue the governor chose to highlight that drew complaints.

Democrats, Douglas writes, have taken what he describes as “an amazing turn’’ and – quote “decided to launch a nine-month public campaign on gay marriage, despite the fact that Vermont has already achieved equality under the law."

The governor goes on to describe the Democratic leadership as being focused on a “far-left agenda’’ that’s not in line with the needs of working families.

Beth Robinson is a leader of the Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force. She says the governor is encouraging what he’s previously said should be avoided.

(Robinson) “When this bill first came into the Legislature back in the spring the governor said he didn’t really like the prospect of raising a divisive issue in the state. And it turns out that the governor is taking the lead in making this a divisive issue. And I’m disappointed in that.’’

(Sneyd) Douglas won’t address the criticism directly. All he’ll say is it’s coming from someone who probably isn’t going to contribute money to his re-election.

What he’s trying to get across in the letter, the governor says, is the same thing he hears from people all the time.

(Douglas) “I can’t tell you how many people all across our state come up to me and ask: `What are they doing there? What are they doing? They’re not focusing on what’s really important to the future of our state.’ And that’s the message I really wanted to convey in that letter and I’ll continue to convey across Vermont.’’

(Sneyd) Is he being divisive? Eric Davis doesn’t think so.

What strikes Davis, instead, is that Vermont’s elected leaders are following national trends.

(Davis) “I think the attempt to sort of mobilize the base by appealing to issues that polarize the electorate is something that we’re seeing more of in Vermont.’’

(Sneyd) And, Davis says, Democrats are just as likely to do the same sort of thing, if given the chance.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.

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