Luebke: Return of the Fox – Legal, Ethical or Moral Conduct?

by Dolores Luebke

Let us start with Webster’s Dictionary definition of these terms.

Legal:  conforming to or permitted by law or established rules

Ethical:   conforming to accepted standards of conduct

Moral:  relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior 

Now let’s look at these terms as related to the Progressive Party candidates running as “Fusion” candidates. Fusion, also referred to as cross-endorsement or open ballot voting, is the practice of multiple political parties nominating the same candidate for the same office.  

Vermont primaries allow voters to take one ballot by party. On this primary ballot, the voter can write-in candidates for any office. Take for example, former Representative Robin Chesnut-Tangerman from Middletown Springs in the Rutland-Bennington House District. In prior elections, Chesnut has run as a Democrat and received a small, calculated number of Progressive write-in votes.  

After the primary election, Vermont law allows a candidate who received votes from more than one party to choose the order he prefers for running in the election. Chesnut-Tangerman chose to run as a Progressive/Democrat in four elections, 2014, 2016, 2018, and 2020. Chesnut, caught breaching election law in 2020, was defeated by Republican Sally Achey, also from Middletown Springs.

The breach occurred when the Progressive Party needed to find votes for David Zuckerman to prevent Chris Erikson from having grounds for a recount.  Chesnut initiated the opening of Middletown Springs’ ballot bags by the Board of Civil Authority during an “emergency” meeting.  After six years in the Vermont House, it doesn’t seem very feasible that Robin Chesnut-Tangerman would not know that Vermont election laws prohibit candidates from any proximity with voted or unvoted ballots until the entire election is concluded. 

In 2022, Robin Chesnut-Tangerman chose not to run in the primary for Vermont Representative, Rutland-Bennington District.  Representative Sally Achey, Republican, and Chris Hoyt, Democrat, both ran unchallenged in their primaries.  Following the August primary, Hoyt, who had recently moved to Middletown Springs, suddenly dropped out of the election citing personal reasons. 

I highly recommend that the public and both candidates read Hoyt’s promo page. His approach to politics is refreshingly simplistic and, certainly, less caustic than Robin Chesnut-Tangerman’s.

There is much local speculation about the convenient timing of Hoyt’s move to Middletown Springs, his brief non-campaign and dropping out at the midnight hour. Chesnut-Tangerman quickly maneuvered himself into the race as the Democratic candidate for State Representative for Rutland-Bennington District. Local voters are now pondering how Chesnut will maneuver himself into position to be considered a Progressive/Democrat.  Why by fusion, of course! 

Let’s see now. Fusion is ok by law; however, Candidate Robin Chesnut-Tangerman was still in the room witnessing the opening of Middletown Springs ballot bags of 2020 and helping to change the number of Progressive votes cast for David Zuckerman’s to prevent a legal recount.   If those who make the laws break the laws, do Rutland-Bennington voters really want Foxy Robin back in the Vermont State House?

The author is a West Pawlet resident and active local Republican.

Categories: Commentary