Undignified, Discourteous

Two months ago I wrote about the only political race of interest in Vermont – the Democratic primary for attorney general.  Primary day is Tuesday and a race I described as “dignified and courteous” eight weeks ago is now anything but.

Fifteen-year incumbent Attorney General Bill Sorrell, 65 and Chittenden County State’s Attorney TJ Donovan, 38, descended to sandlot bickering at a debate this week in which they got to question each other.  Nice.

A new, flawed survey gives Mr. Sorrell a comfortable lead, but the small sample size and the fact that it surveyed registered rather than likely voters made it more or less meaningless.  A primary is a low turnout affair, GOTV matters and Mr. Donovan’s campaign is perceived to be better organized.

Mr. Sorrell, however, has tee vee and radio ads with former Governor Howard Dean plumping for him.  The National Attorneys General Association provided a $99,000 megaphone for Mr. Dean’s voice, which has Mr. Donovan crying foul, naturally.  (I heard the radio version twice in ten minutes in a coffee shop late this afternoon.)

The race is bitter and may now divide two old Burlington political clan that joined forces a half century ago when Republicans ruled the city and state.  Price of success, I suppose.  Republicans are nearly ghostlike in Vermont.  The Republican candidate for AG, Jack McMullen, is a carpet-bagging millionaire who was beaten in the 1998 GOP senatorial primary by Farmer Fred Tuttle, who then endorsed Pat Leahy.  Mr. McMullen is said to have lost the race with his ignorance of bovine anatomy and is now known as “six teats.”
If Mr. Sorrell loses, he’ll have plenty of job offers and at 65, how many more terms would he serve anyhow?  Perhaps bygones will go by.  If Mr. Donovan loses, that’s a different story.  As I noted eight weeks ago, he’s the Vermont Dauphin and high-profile election losses – even primaries – are not part of the Leddy-Donovan script.  If that ever goes by, it will go by at a Faulknerian pace.

This is fun for the political obsessives, but does it make a difference? Not much, based on the stated positions of the two.  I do think Mr. Donovan will rein in the “cops gone wild” atmosphere in the state.  He took one of the worst cops out of circulation by refusing to prosecute his cases and he’s leading the investigation into our burgeoning trooper overtime scandal.

Were he not acting like such an entitled jackass, he’d have my support, as it is, I still haven’t made up my mind nor will any of my political rotisserie league predict who’s gonna win.  Here’s my shot at it:  TJ takes Burlington and Chittenden County (bigger margin in the city than the county) and will lose much of the rest of the state, so his numbers near the home base will have to be big to take the prize.

Sorrell by five points.  We’ll see Tuesday.

© Mark Floegel, 2012

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