Douglas Won’t Attend Entire GOP Convention

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas says he’s not expecting to spend a lot of time at next week’s Republican National Convention in New York City. Democrats say that’s because Douglas doesn’t want to be associated with President Bush, but Douglas says it’s because he has more important things to do in Vermont.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) When the GOP National Convention opens in New York next Monday, Vermont’s top Republican official, Governor Jim Douglas won’t be there. Douglas says he’ll be going to the convention later in the week because he needs to attend to business in Vermont and because he has some family commitments during the week:

(Douglas) “I’m a delegate and will fulfill that responsibility but I really can’t afford to be away from the state for the entire week. There are a lot of activities here, so I’ll be down there for awhile toward the end of the convention week.”

(Kinzel) Vermont’s Democratic leaders believe there’s more to this story. Party Chairman Scudder Parker thinks Douglas wants to distance himself from President Bush because the president is a liability for the governor in the fall election:

(Parker) “I think he’s going to be trying to downplay significantly his association with the Bush campaign. I think they’ve already been trying to do that in the last couple of months.”

(Kinzel) Douglas, who’s the chairman of the Bush re-election campaign in Vermont, says he’s proud of the president’s record and he thinks the criticism by the Democrats demonstrates a fundamental weakness in their campaign to unseat him.

(Douglas) “I certainly am linked to the president and they’re trying their best to do that and the reason I think is they have nothing else to say. They know as most Vermonters do that my administration has been very successful. A lot has been accomplished over the last 20 months. My opposition knows that and so the only idea he can advance is an affiliation with the president.”

(Kinzel) But Democratic Chairman Parker says the Bush connection is a critical issue for the fall campaign:

(Parker) “Jim Douglas has supported the tax cuts, he has supported the war in Iraq, he’s supported the Medicare bill that’s going to affect Vermonters. He’s supported many of the Bush administration policies that are negatively affecting Vermonters.”

(Kinzel) Douglas says he hopes to get to the convention before the Vermont delegation formally casts its ballots to re-nominate the president for a second term. That’s an activity scheduled for Wednesday night.

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

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