GOP makes a push
Republicans are making a concerted drive to have more members of their party elected to the Vermont Legislature. The effort displays a level of sophistication and use of technology that I haven’t seen very often before in this state from any part, leading up to the General Election in November.
A letter came to my house in Rutland with the heading “Vermonters First.” The subtitle was “Restoring Balance.” The “balance” it refers to is having more Republicans in the Legislature. Tayt Brooks signed the letter as treasurer of the organization.
There was a space where I was encouraged to vote for Larry C. Cupoli for state representative. Cupoli is the Republican candidate for the House in my election district. The Democratic incumbent is Margaret Andrews.
Now my House district votes at Christ the King School. And practically every household in the district got the same letter. What that means is that Vermonters First obtained a copy of the voter checklist for the district voting at Christ the King. The checklist includes the addresses of the voters.
The bulk of the letter reflected the general dissatisfaction often felt by people toward government policies and expenses. Specifically, the letter spoke disparagingly of Gov. Peter Shumlin’s ideas about health care, but didn’t mention him by name, leaving the impression that all Democrats favor such a thing.
The letter began: “As you know, Democrats currently control the governor’s office, treasurer’s office, attorney general’s office, secretary of state’s office and hold veto-proof majorities in both chambers of the Legislature. It’s no wonder they aren’t listening to the needs of average Vermonters ....”
The idea being broached is that having more Republicans will “restore” what the letter implies was balance when the parties were more evenly split.
My recollection of conditions when one party held the governorship and the other party held the Legislature was not so much “balance” as “deadlock.”
Meanwhile, the Vermonters First letter contained an application for an absentee ballot. It had my name and address typed in and a check mark in the box specifying the November General Election. There was an envelope with the name and address of City Clerk Henry Heck typed in, and I was asked to fill out the absentee application and use the envelope to mail it in.
A few days after the letter arrived I got a telephone call with a recorded voice asking me to vote for Cupoli for the House.
It is hardly likely that the ward where I live is the only precinct in Vermont where such an effort is being made to urge election of Republican candidates. It is quite clear that a number of districts where a Democratic incumbent is being challenged by a Republican are being treated in the same manner. This implies the acquisition of many different checklists and the arranging of mailing lists so that only people in a specific House district are given the name of the Republican challenger. It would be a waste of effort for people in a district near Bennington to be urged to vote for the GOP candidate in my district. So the different checklist addresses and candidate names have to be organized in the mechanism that produces such a mailing so as not to overlap.
Computer technology has reached the state where such a condition can be achieved. But to my knowledge it has not been done to such an extent in Vermont politics heretofore and indicates a much more elaborate and extensive expenditure than has usually been the case here.
It will be interesting to see how many more requests for absentee ballots are received by the various clerks who are in charge of General Election balloting.
Also, if human nature is any guide, many of the absentee ballots that are sent in will come from people who are inclined to agree with what Vermonters First has said. So what we are likely to see as a result will be an increase in the number of Republicans in the Vermont House. Maybe not a total majority, but at least a larger minority. And since the ballots also list the candidates for statewide office, my guess is that the elections for those offices will be closer than some have predicted up to now.
I had marked the end of this essay when the mail delivered a flier from Vermonters First with a St. Albans P.O. box return address but a Connecticut postmark. The flier contained two absentee ballot applications and a line urging a vote for the Republican House candidate from my district, mentioning him by name. This leads to a question: Given the sophistication of this concentrated and complicated effort, where is the money coming from?
Kendall Wild is a retired editor of the Herald.