For Dem/Prog loss of supermajority, GOP can thank Phil Scott….and John Klar

By Guy Page

The Vermont House Democrat/Progressive supermajority evaporated on Election Day. The axiom that Republican governors have short coattails proved wrong this year. Republican Phil Scott’s ponytailed Democratic/Progressive competitor won fewer votes (27%) than Donald Trump (30%). 

Scott’s victory wasn’t a mere landslide. It was an avalanche. Sent tumbling downhill in the debris were enough Democrat and Progressive lawmakers to drop the D/P caucus to 99. A veto override will now require courageous first-vote party loyalty from every member and help from one or two independents.

The Democrat/Progressive merely-a-majority should be grateful it satisfied its supporter base with successful climate change and marijuana bills this past session. In 2021-22, they will think twice before trying to override a veto from a governor with a lofty voter mandate backed by a GOP caucus usually able to find two or three friendly independents to get to 51.

And while they’re licking their wounds, they (and many Republicans as well) could ponder how things might have turned out otherwise without John Klar.

John Klar was the most effective grassroots powerhouse of 2020. Not even BLM, with all of its media and political support and splashy events, accomplished as much in political gains. Ignored by the mainstream press, with no money, but gifted with plenty of drive and a biting gift of gab, the lawyer/farmer/pastor built a campaign to 1) elect himself governor and 2) elect rural, little-known, “outsider” Vermonters to the Legislature. The roster of House and Senate candidates grew to 29, running in every county but Franklin and Grand Isle. 

#1 failed, of course. His numbers against Scott were even worse than Zuckerman’s. 

Sally Achey

But #2 succeeded. Sally Achey of Middletown Springs was a first-time, unknown candidate running not only against incumbent and Progressive Caucus chair Robin Chesnut-Tangerman but against the isolation of the pandemic. A frequent attendee at Klar campaign events, she appeared in several group political photos and press releases, was featured on the Klar campaign website, and received media coverage from True North Reports and Vermont Daily. 

Samantha Lefebvre

Young mom, businessperson, and EMT Samantha Lefebvre of Orange won a GOP primary in the two-seat Orange 1 district and held off Democrats Kate McLean and incumbent Carl Demrow to win Nov. 3. She too appeared at campaign events, was mentioned in Klar-related media coverage, and is listed on the campaign website. 

Even some of the “losers” came close, like Mike Kell finishing just 53 votes away from victory in Weathersfield-Cavendish district. Newcomer Zach Lang scored a creditable 39% of the vote against Bradford incumbent, House committee chair, and climate warrior Sarah Copeland-Hanzas. Jon Lynch of Colchester campaigned hard and also managed to help the Secretary of State’s office avoid possibly devastating cyberattacks on the voter portal page. Bill Huff (44%) gave longtime Orange County incumbent Mark MacDonald a tough run. Alice Flanders, African-American granddaughter-in-law of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s nemesis Ralph Flanders, publicly pushed back hard against the intolerance of the BLM movement. 

No-one’s saying Klar deserves all or even most of the credit for the success of Achey and Lefebvre. They both campaigned energetically in a challenging campaign year. Vermont GOP officials worked hard to recruit and support strong candidates. Scott’s coattails no doubt helped them too. For that matter so, probably, did Trump’s. Trump won three towns (Wells, Williamstown, and Lefebvre’s hometown of Orange) in their multi-town districts. 

On Tuesday, Achey and Lefebvre won by less than 100 votes combined. Might their Klar Konnection have helped them get over the top? Impossible to know for sure – but reasonable to conclude. 

And the Bard of Brookfield himself is not going gently into that good night. His recent op-ed includes the following promise: “We will remind voters that instead of balancing the budget in 2020 when it was KNOWN that Vermont was $459 million in the red, the Legislature unconstitutionally expanded governmentpower under the GWSA; granted $5 million to   foreigners; awarded COVID relief funds to minority-owned businesses while denying them to white sole proprietors (the definition of systemic racism); favored a political campaign by liberals (under the BLM banner) on public property and in our schools, while excluding any competing voices; called all Vermonters and our ancestors bigots and white supremacists. ALL while ignoring the economic calamity that unfolded.”

Categories: politics

5 replies »

  1. I’m surprised at the results in Vermont. I’ve been disappointed by our governor’s sharp turn to the left. I can only hope with the balance shifting toward a little more ‘middle of the road’, maybe Governor Phil will act a little less like a Progressive and a little more like the ‘R’ after his name on the ballot.

  2. Scott had nothing to do with their hard work. He supported no one financial or otherwise. He hid in Montpelier, did not campaign and got all his democrat friends to vote for him.

  3. I am glad that Phil has good PR connections with Vermonters. I am also glad that John Klar has talents besides stirring new GOP recruits. I hope his budget savvy ways will be tapped in the next session to go along with Phil’s hardline to no new taxes. We can’t afford to not tap John as a financial resource in this hour. GOP representatives and those possibly interested in future elections, should be given opportunities to benefit from his grasp of the numbers and the needs that our covid hit and already lagging economy requires to pick up our boots and get us out of this slump.

  4. The reason that the GOP remains a minority is because they cannot seem to accept social history and cultural change. There are so many of us in VT who believe in small government and relative freedom. We’d love to have a GOP that allows us in the door, but we are rejected because we believe that gay marriage has not killed VT, babies are born everyday regardless of abortion laws, and no no one is being forced to make cakes that somehow threaten their personal relationship with God. I had high hopes that this would be a publication with the capacity to focus on economic issues rather than simply fuel the flames of sadness and anger. Societies change. Cultures change. We can embrace this with low taxes and a powerful entrepreneurial spirit, or we can be big white crybabies with too little soul and too much ammunition. When a “black lives matter” painting on a road is more important than the relative tax rate or alternative school funding, you tell me everything I need to know about your agenda.

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