Douglas: Rainville can command Guard while running for Congress
By DAVID GRAM The Associated Press | July 01,2005
MONTPELIER — Gov. James Douglas said Thursday he has no problem with Gen. Martha Rainville running for Congress while remaining in her position as commander of the Vermont National Guard.
"She can handle those roles responsibly and appropriately," Douglas said.
He called Rainville a "great leader" and said she would be sensitive to the need to keep her military role separate from her political aspirations.
The governor's comments, which came in response to a reporter's question at his weekly news conference, drew immediate fire from Democrats who have sought to question whether Rainville should remain as head of the Guard if she decides to run for office.
Many former military commanders have run for political office; Dwight Eisenhower parlayed the fame he gained as commander of allied forces in the D-Day invasion of Normandy to run for president in 1952 and 1956.
But Eisenhower had retired from the military by the time he launched his political career, something Rainville has shown no signs of doing.
Rainville has not said definitely whether she will be a candidate for Congress. But she has expressed interest in the job, and traveled to Washington recently to meet and talk politics with House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.
Rainville did not return phone messages left for her last week and again on Thursday.
Elected officials usually are careful to keep the work of their governmental staff and their political campaigns separate. Since she has not launched a campaign, questions to Rainville about politics must be routed through her Guard office.
A duty officer who answered the phone at the office on Thursday was told the call was about politics, but referred questions to 1st Lt. Veronica Saffo, a Guard spokeswoman who normally answers questions about the comings and goings of Guard troops.
In an interview with the Associated Press last month, Rainville said there "is no legal requirement for me to resign or retire" as adjutant general. "I am an elected, exempt state employee. I am also a traditional member of the Vermont National Guard."
The comment pointed up the unusual, hybrid nature of the adjutant general's job. Douglas highlighted the job's public nature. The adjutant general is elected to that position by the Legislature, and the person holding that job should be as eligible to seek higher office as a governor, lieutenant governor or any other public officeholder, Douglas argued.
But one provision of federal law sharply restricts active-duty military officers' ability to run for office, and another, known as the Hatch Act, does the same for government employees of agencies that get federal funding.
Even though individual units within the Guard have been called up by the national military for service overseas, the Guard is a creature of the state, said Scott Silliman, a retired colonel who was legal counsel to U.S. Air Force commanders during the first Gulf War and now directs Duke Law School's Center for Law, Ethics and National Security.
"Your Vermont National Guard is under the control of your governor until it is federally recognized, and your state code, rather than the federal code, applies," Silliman wrote in an e-mail. Vermont law is silent on the question.
Beyond the legal technicalities, Democrats have questioned whether Rainville can devote sufficient attention to Guard troops and families, when many of the troops are deployed in a war zone, at the same time that she runs for office.
Last August, Rainville took Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, a longtime Air Guard pilot, to task for hosting a fund-raiser in conjunction with what had originally been billed as a concert for Guard members and their families.
"It is very important for everyone to realize that support for Guard families is nonpartisan," Rainville told the AP at the time. "Anything that would connect the Guard family to politics, even by perception, could be damaging to the families."
Dubie's campaign later sought to defuse the controversy, saying it would donate proceeds from its fund-raiser to a fund for Guard families.
"General Rainville made it clear that politics and the National Guard don't mix when she publicly rebuked the lieutenant governor for a fund-raiser at a Guard event," Carolyn Dwyer, campaign manager for newly announced Democratic candidate Peter Welch, said Thursday. "General Rainville should follow her own wise counsel."