Pollina ‘bewildered’ by response of Democratic leadership

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(Host) Progressive Anthony Pollina says he’s "a little bewildered" that Democratic leaders have rejected his plan to sit down and discuss the 2008 gubernatorial election.

The Democrats say they have a number of candidates still actively eyeing the governor’s race and that it’s too soon to talk with Pollina.

VPRs Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The Democrats and the Progressives do agree on one thing – Republican incumbent governor Jim Douglas will almost certainly win a 3 way race for re-election.

Last week, Pollina formally entered the contest. In an effort to open a dialogue with Democratic officials, he offered to attend a state party meeting over the weekend.

The Democrats declined Pollina’s offer saying this isn’t the time to have these kinds of discussions. Pollina was surprised at this response:

(Pollina) "If people have questions about my priorities or their priorities or how we can work together quite frankly the logical thing to do it sit down at the table and talk about it…and that’s why it’s a little bewildering they want to keep putting off this conversation."

Pollina acknowledges that it will be very difficult to win a 3 way contest. He says the Democrats have lost three elections to Douglas and now it’s time to give the Progressives a chance:

(Pollina) "What we’re thinking is that this year is a good time to try something different and one of the most important ways to accomplish that would be to have a candidate that not only could appeal to sort of what we would call the Democratic base but also could have the active support of the activists in the Progressive Party."

Democratic Party chairman Ian Carleton says a recent poll that showed Pollina running in third place behind Democrat Peter Galbraith, a person who hasn’t committed to the race, shows the weakness of the Pollina campaign:

(Carleton ) "I know that the Progressive Party wants to make light of that but it certainly serves to underscore the fact that a Democrat is likely to do substantially better in this governor’s race than a Progressive all other things being equal."

Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis says some Democrats question how the Party would benefit from a Pollina candidacy and they wonder if the Progressives will agree not to run a candidate for Lt. Governor and not to run legislative candidates in some liberal Democratic districts:

(Davis) "These Democrats argue that if there is to be an alliance between the Progressives and the Democrats this fall it needs to work both ways."

Former ambassador Galbraith says he’ll make up his mind in about a month. If he doesn’t run, Davis says it’s unlikely that the Democrats will find anyone serving in the Legislature who’d be willing to run against Douglas and Pollina:

(Davis) "Perhaps the Democrats could find someone from the business community who has a record of involvement in public policy…and try and convince that person to make a run for governor this year because that sort of person might at least have some broad appeal even she or he would not be able to defeat Jim Douglas."

The Democrats will consider a plan to have Pollina talk with them at their June meeting because they say the state’s political landscape could look very different at that time.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

AP Photo/Toby Talbot

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