(Host) Vermont’s Progressive Party hopes to attract new members by highlighting key differences with the Democrats on budget and tax issues.
And, as VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports, the effort could endanger the fragile truce that currently exists between the two parties for the 2012 elections.
(Kinzel) There was a fair amount of cooperation between Progressives and Democrats during the 2010 election.
Two state senators were elected under the affiliation of both parties and the Progressives deliberately chose not to run a gubernatorial candidate because they didn’t want to siphon votes away from the campaign of Democrat Peter Shumlin.
But things have changed over the past 6 months.
Morgan Daybell is the director of the Progressive Party. He says he’s disappointed that the Democrats had one position on fighting budget cuts when Republican Jim Douglas was governor, and another one when Shumlin was in the office.
(Daybell) "The Democratic majorities in the House and Senate were certainly perfectly willing to talk about raising more revenue especially from the wealthiest Vermonters to put off some of the budget cuts that Douglas had been proposing that message seems to have changed 180 degrees once they’ve captured the Governor’s office and I think that’s left a lot of folks cold."
(Kinzel) Daybell says the Progressives want to generate interest in these fiscal issues as they work to develop town organizations this fall.
(Daybell) "So it’s really about highlighting those differences but also about trying to build a little more public momentum around the idea that we really need to look at other solutions to the revenue crisis rather than these austerity measures that we’re seeing in Vermont."
(Kinzel) Retired Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis says the Progressives may also have an eye on the 2012 legislative session – a session where budget issues are expected to play a major role.
(Davis) "The Progressives might hope that by raising the issue now they can get a few more members of the Democratic caucus to support it maybe even pick up some major figures in the Democratic Party".
(Kinzel) But Davis also thinks that the relationship between the Progressives and Democrats could turn very nasty if both Parties run a candidate for mayor of Burlington next winter and a Republican candidate is able to win. It will be the first election since voters rejected instant run off voting in the race for mayor.
(Davis) "Many Democrats will say that the Progressives were spoilers they split the anti Republican vote with the Democrat and enabled a Republican to win if that happens there’s going to be a lot of animosity between Progressives and Democrats not just in the city of Burlington but in the Legislature in Montpelier as well."
(Kinzel) Davis says it’s possible that the Progressives could gain some additional seats in the Vermont House in 2012 because it’s likely that the Burlington area will gain a seat or two as a result of reapportionment.
For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.