Parties Take up the Fight for Gubernatorial Candidates

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(Host) Both the state Republican and Democratic Parties are actively involved in this year’s race for governor. Both organizations are flooding newsrooms across the state with press releases that attempt to point out discrepancies with their opponent’s record.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Usually it’s the campaign offices of the gubernatorial candidates that issue news releases criticizing their opponent’s position on a variety of issues, but this situation started to change in Vermont two years ago. That’s when the Vermont Republican Party, under the direction of Jim Barnett, took a very active role analyzing the record of Democratic candidate Doug Racine.

In the space of several months, dozens of news releases were sent out accusing Racine of flip-flopping on a number of key issues and this theme was carried over into Jim Douglas’s paid media campaign:

(Sound from 2002 Douglas radio ad)
“Tired of politicians who will shamelessly switch their positions on issues just to get elected? Doug Racine said he wouldn’t raise taxes but then he flip-flopped. Racine tried to raid the unemployment trust fund and then he flip-flopped.”

(Kinzel) Scudder Parker is the chairman of the Vermont Democratic Party. He has a clear memory of the 2002 campaign:

(Parker) “The reality is that the way the Republicans ran the last campaign was to always be on the issues and in the face of Doug Racine and other Democrats.”

(Kinzel) Parker says the Democrats studied this situation and decided they needed to be able to quickly and aggressively respond to the Republicans this year:

(Parker) “We knew that that was going to happen again even more. I mean, Jim Barnett is the Karl Rove Vermont version and admires him and thinks that’s the right way to run campaigns. And the Democrats hopefully are not going to adopt the same style and approach. But we do need to have the capability to respond to those Republican attacks that are really on a daily basis.”

(Kinzel) Barnett says his approach is strictly factual and that it’s important for the Republican Party to hold Democratic candidates accountable for their records.

(Barnett) “There is a role for the political parties to play as far as communicating our message to voters, organizing our volunteers and speaking out on issues and in defense of our candidates. That’s one thing that we’ve been very aggressive at doing is speaking out and correcting the record when our opponents are distorting it or misrepresenting it. So it’s a very important role that political parties can play and we’re going to be doing that over the course of the next five months.”

(Kinzel) Last week the hot issue for both political parties was the issue of wind power in Vermont – it was an issue that caused a flurry of daily releases. The debate started when Governor Douglas released a draft report that bans large scale commercial wind turbines on state land. Following the release of that report, the Democrats criticized Douglas for failing to develop a strong renewable energy provision in the state’s new energy plan, and the Republicans claimed that five years ago in his role as mayor, Clavelle wanted to build a ten-story windmill on the Burlington waterfront. Both parties issued press releases to deny the accusations that were leveled against them.

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

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