Paige begins two-pronged political battle
By David Delcore
STAFF WRITER | June 14,2014
Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo
H. Brooke Paige, of Washington, is running for the governor’s seat and the attorney general’s post as a Democrat.
MONTPELIER — No one would describe H. Brooke Paige as a conventional politician.
He’s also taken an unconventional route to the Vermont Democratic primary ballot this year, one requiring a judgment call by the secretary of state’s office Friday afternoon and his belated addition to the list of those who filed to run. And unlike most candidates, he’ll be taking on not one but two incumbents: Gov. Peter Shumlin and Attorney General William Sorrell.
Paige, a Washington resident, more than toyed with running for president in 1996 and unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in 2012. He is methodically working his way down the political ladder.
Paige was back at it Thursday, when he lowered his sights, doubled his chances and switched parties — at least on paper — and in one fell swoop gave Shumlin and Sorrell their only primary opponent.
Folks wondering who the heck H. Brooke Paige is might start by Googling “Dave Brat,” the college professor from Virginia who, with tea party backing, this week beat heavily favored House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a Republican primary.
The results of that David-beats-Goliath contest aren’t lost on Paige, who says he isn’t running to lose.
“This isn’t a lark,” Paige said in a Wednesday afternoon interview, noting that what happened in Virginia could happen in Vermont.
“I would not be doing this unless I thought I had an opportunity to best Mr. Shumlin,” he said, quickly adding Sorrell to the mix based on the dual petition he had been circulating since December and filed with the secretary of state’s office before Thursday’s deadline.
The unconventional petition — one that listed two offices instead of the usual one — was deemed valid by elections officials late Friday afternoon, ensuring Paige’s name will appear twice on the Democratic primary ballot in August.
Paige’s political resume may read like a bizarre bucket list executed in reverse, but the man who briefly sought the Republican presidential nomination in 1996 said he can see a plausible path to victory in August.
Paige, 61, said he hasn’t shed his Republican principles, and his decision to run as a Democrat is part of a strategy of “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, and then hope to beat ’em.” It will require more than a little luck, but, he said, if things break just right, an upset — or two — isn’t out of the question.
“There’s a chance,” he said. “What that chance is, is still up for discussion, (but) we’ll see.”
According to Paige, the Republican brand has been seriously “sullied” in Vermont in recent years. While he was disappointed when Randy Brock, a former state senator and state auditor, opted not to enter this year’s gubernatorial race on behalf of the GOP, he said a rematch between Brock and Shumlin probably would have produced a result similar to the one that capped the 2012 campaign.
Enter Paige, whose plan requires disaffected Democrats and Progressives unhappy with Shumlin to vote for him instead, and a large number of Republicans to cast ballots in the Democratic primary.
Paige said the latter scenario isn’t such a stretch, particularly if there aren’t many “down-ticket” Republican races around the state.
“Someone has to hold Shumlin and Sorrell accountable, and it never happens in the general election because it’s all about the D and the R. It’s not about the people,” he said. “I’d like to make it about the people and not the parties.”
There are issues, according to Paige, who hammered Shumlin for being late to the party on Vermont’s drug problem, while also suggesting it is probably time to think about legalizing marijuana in Vermont.
Businessman Scott Milne’s decision to run for governor might make the math harder for Paige, because it sets the stage for a Republican primary between Milne and Emily Peyton that could keep Republicans from crossing over to vote for him in August.
Paige was also critical of Sorrell on the drug front and pointed to costly losses in high-profile cases involving Vermont Yankee and IMS Health Inc.
Though Paige is not a lawyer, he did try to obtain an injunction barring Secretary of State James Condos from distributing ballots listing Barack Obama as a candidate for president in 2012, claiming that Obama was not a “natural born citizen” based on the foreign citizenship of his Kenyan-born father. Rebuffed in Washington Superior Court, Paige appealed to Vermont Supreme Court and ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court, which last month declined to consider the case.