Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Galbraith Dips A Toe Into Gubernatorial Waters...

Anthony Pollina's day just got a little worse... and Jim Douglas probably thinks he's got it made (although that false sense of security may be his undoing) as Peter Galbraith takes another step towards running for Governor.

Today Galbraith sent out an email touting his "Vermont Leadership Fund" which will support candidates at all levels, but presumably serves as the official "dipping of the toe" into gubernatorial waters. "Interesting," as Peter Freyne would say. You can check out the message and contribute at:

Maybe this guy CAN give Douglas a run for his money. At least he's got the guts not to be scared off by Douglas and/or Pollina (yet). The conventional wisdom that Douglas cruises in a 3-way race. But the conventional wisdom is wrong: Douglas has it much easier in a head-to-head race against Pollina.

Here's why:

For starters, there are a large percentage of old-guard Democrats who simply WILL NOT vote for a Progressive, regardless of how much courting goes on, and regardless of whether the Democratic leadership could convince someone from running to give him a free pass (which won't happen). In that case, Douglas either picks up those folks ("Douglas Democrats"?), or they take a pass on voting in that race. So, Douglas stands to win with anywhere from 55%-45% (best case for Pollina), or perhaps in a landslide somewhere around 65% or 70% to Pollina's 35% or 30%) (more likely).

Second, in a 3-way race, the Democrats will vote, and turnout will be high in a hotly contested presidential election year. So, it does provide the opening to keep Douglas with a plurality of the vote - either throwing it to the legislature and allowing the 3rd place candidate to make a public appeal to throw their votes to the 2nd place candidate), or at a minimum hampering him by denying him a mandate.

Lastly, might I suggest that if the Dems put forth aggressive energy and health plans this session and Douglas vetoes them, or if the economy continues to worsen, OR, any number of other X-factors come into play (suppose Galbraith outraises Douglas using his national/international connections - who knows?!), then perhaps, just perhaps, the Democrat finishes first. Not entirely outside the realm of possibility if all the stars align.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Tiny Constituent's First Visit to the Statehouse

Yesterday was my son's four-month check-up at the pediatrician. After braving the elements and a round of immunizations, we trekked up to the Statehouse for his first visit to our fine capitol. There, we checked in with some of the movers and shakers, including our own Rep. Maxine Grad. Based on the hustle and bustle in the building, we could already see there will be plenty of action this session.

My son, William White Curtis ("Will") is David W. Curtis' grandson. Since his grandfather was a former state representative, State Party Chairman and longstanding member of the Vermont Democratic Party, it was only fitting that Will become acquainted with the building. He was made to feel right at home.

Here's little Will with Rep. Bill Lippert (D-Hinesburg), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee - the same committee our own Maxine Grad sits on (see her report below):

And, with Rep. Jason Lorber (D-Burlington):

He's a little shy, and he didn't say much during our visit, but this little Northfield resident later told me that he's hoping that Vermont Democrats will make sure there is a strong economy, health care for all, and a reliable energy plan for the future!

I'm certain that if we work together we can accomplish those goals to secure his, and every Vermonter's, future.

Rep. Maxine Grad's Legislative Update

My committee, House Judiciary started in full swing this week. The following is a summary of issues we began to consider.

Boating While Under the Influence: The Vermont Supreme court recently issued a decision that calls into question charging and sentencing within our BUI laws. The court stated that when there is one incident of BUI and multiple deaths, a person could only be charged with one count of boating while intoxicated with death resulting even though there is more than one death. The court called on the Legislature to clarify the law.

The Supreme Court’s decision was in a case that involved the tragic death of two children while watching fireworks at Basin Harbor on the 4th of July. The court’s result, according to the prosecutor and the family of one of the children who died, sent a message that their child’s death didn’t count. During testimony, the example came up that if a drunk driver hit a school bus and 20 children died, there should be the ability to charge the defendant for each death.

There also isn’t any law regarding BUI with serious bodily injury resulting as we do in DUI law. We also discussed the need to distinguish in our law penalties for serious bodily injury and death.

Further, there is law prohibiting driving while intoxicated while operating a commercial vehicle or school bus, but nothing for commercial drivers of boats. The committee is considering changing that.

Additionally, the question of snowmobiles arose. Current law brings snowmobiles into the DUI laws. We heard testimony that boats and autos present the same risk and should be consistent, as they present similar threats to public safety.

Judiciary Budget

We heard testimony from the court administrator that the judiciary is 2 million dollars in the red. As an attempt to remedy this, certain important positions like judges, family court staff and educational and outreach staff positions are not being filled. The committee is very concerned that if our judiciary isn’t properly funded it seriously undermines our citizen’s access to justice and the courts, a foundation of our constitutional system.

Police Line Ups, Photo Identifications, Custodial Interrogations of Suspects and Preservation of Evidence in Criminal Cases Study Committee Report:

The committee is comprised of members from the law enforcement, victims, legal and defense community. The need for the report came out of my committee’s work on the Innocence Protection Act.

1. Eyewitness Identification of Suspects: While listening to this testimony, I realized I watch too much Law and Order! In Vermont, law enforcement rarely uses line-ups. We simply do not have the population base to find enough people that look like the suspect to eliminate any possibility of suggestiveness.

Photo line-ups aren’t used very often either. The committee did however recommend that there should be policy regarding the use of a neutral law enforcement officer, one not involved with the case to show the victim or witness the photos. Body language and unconscious messages are very common and could prejudice the integrity of the procedure and lead to suppression of evidence and dismissal of the case.

The committee is concerned that as Vermont becomes more diverse, cross-racial misidentifications will become an issue.

2. Custodial Interrogations: currently there isn’t law on mandatory videotaping of when a suspect is in police custody and is being interrogated. The best practice is to at a minimum audio record the interview, but also videotape. The committee stated that videotaping should be used whenever possible, is part of the best practice, but should not be mandated. However, if the technology fails, which it often does, failure to have the taped interrogation could lead to problems in court with suppression of evidence. The committee requested that adoption of best practices through some sort of policy, not legislation.

3. Best Law Enforcement Practices for Preservation of Evidence. Currently, there is not statewide policy on preservation of evidence. The proper preservation of evidence can make or break a criminal case. The committee recommended that the procedures taught at the police academy should be recognized as best practices. The committee also said that ideally, there should be one, new statewide evidence repository, with climate control, specialized support, and for budgetary reasons, be housed in an existing facility.

My committee will continue to look at all of this. We have a series of options from having shed light on the issue through the report and this week’s testimony, to enacting legislation, recommending policies, and working with the Judiciary and or the executive branch to adopt a rule or policy. Other states have done it many different ways. I would like to have a dialogue with the members of the judicial and executive branch on ways to address these issues as a starting point.

I, as vice chair of the judiciary committee feel very strongly that the role of my committee is to help support the integrity of our criminal justice system by ensuring our courts, law enforcement, prosecutors, defense, and victims all have the support they need to properly charge, investigate, litigate and decide cases. The healthy functioning of our criminal justice system goes to the core of a healthy democratic society, and therefore significantly impacts the health of Vermonters and our communities.


Congratulations to the Roxbury Free Public Library for its receipt of a cultural facilities grant for the construction of a bathroom and ramp.

Congratulations to James Donahue of Northfield for his selection as a Legislative Page. James started the session with us in the first group as pages.

Please stay in touch:, 828-2228 (State House), 496-4244 (home). Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve you. It is a privilege and honor, Representative Maxine Grad

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Hillary Wins in New Hampshire... What Now?!

The election returns from New Hampshire are in, and Hillary Clinton has pulled off a remarkable comeback win. She has narrowly bested Barack Obama, 39% to 36%. Edwards is a distant third with about 17% of the vote. While this likely dooms Edwards (and certainly Richardson will be dropping out soon, despite his claims that he can compete in Nevada), what does this mean for the race generally?

One thing it might mean is that the reports of Hillary Clinton's demise are premature. The Clinton's are well loved by rank and file Democrats. What is so surprising is that she is doing so well in a place rife with Independents, like New Hampshire. Time will tell how the voters broke. One theory is that Edwards' folks decided he just wasn't viable and ended up breaking for Clinton... they are blue-collar rank and file Democrats more likely to support her than the cerebral Obama. Another theory is that women ended up breaking heavily for Clinton after her performance in the debates and the "Diner Sob." Finally, Obama's youth brigades may have told pollsters they were for him, but then ended up not turning out (that's what you get for inspiring frat-boys, Barack).

But seriously, the other thing it might mean is that rather than coasting, Obama may, in fact get the proper vetting and scrutiny that his campaign will need if it is to survive a general election campaign - particularly if McCain emerges as a consensus candidate (the only one who might be able to pull out a win against the Democrats in 2008). I think Obama (or Clinton, for that matter) would make a fine nominee. However, his campaign to date has largely centered on platitudes and variations on the "change" theme. That won't hold up for the next 11 months. We're going to need more... "beef" as Walter Mondale so eloquently put it to Gary Hart back in '84.

Slate ran a post on this topic that is worth checking out. It's clearly a huge victory for Clinton if she pulls it out, but it isn't a death knell for Obama, just a reality check. Getting the nomination against the caliber of opponent he is facing shouldn't be easy.

Apparently, it isn't.
There is more analysis on this race (and others) at Mulish Behavior and Green Mountain Daily. There are pictures and video footage of Vermonters canvassing for Edwards from last weekend as well.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Obama-Time: Sen. Barack Obama Wins in Iowa; Edwards 2nd, Clinton a close 3rd

Obama-philes everywhere are celebrating their man's victory in the first meaningful vote of the presidential election season. Congratulations to Sen. Obama on a hugely important win in Iowa.

There is plenty of analysis on the race and what this means to the other candidates, but for now it's Barack Obama's day. A well-fought, well-earned victory.

I will say that the other interesting development is Edwards' second-place finish. While a third place finish would probably have doomed him, he now has a claim to being the "alternative" to Obama in a way that Hillary is not. But he now has to win or come in second in either New Hampshire (unlikely) or South Carolina (more likely) in order to stay alive until Super Tuesday. His biggest problem (that Clinton doesn't face) is cash. He doesn't have enough of it compared to his rivals. Will he get any kind of bounce? Can shoe-leather and message make up for lack of money? Traditionally, of course, the answer is no but if Edwards continues to present an obstacle for Clinton then Obama may cruise to the nomination.

And, what about Sen. Clinton? She is a savvy, well-financed candidate with more than a few tricks still left up her sleeve. No doubt she will be much tougher to beat on Super Tuesday when large states (California, New York, Florida, Michigan, etc.) start to vote.

And, what will Vermonters decide to do if the race is still up for grabs in March? Maybe our little primary won't be so inconsequential after all?!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

John Edwards Campaigning in Lebanon, NH

For those of you interested in getting a taste of presidential politics in a key state, you might want to scoot down I-89 and check out John Edwards' final push in New Hampshire. This weekend, Saturday, January 5th, the Edwards campaign is coming to Lebanon, NH. The event begins at 9am and commences with about 4 hours of canvassing door to door. After that, there will reportedly be a rally in the afternoon. Here's the known schedule so far:

This Saturday (5th of January) a group of Vermonters will be banding together and heading to New Hampshire to canvass for John Edwards.

There will be a Vermonter kick-off event at 9:00 a.m. hosted by Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's .
January 5, 2008 - 9:00 AM
Lebanon Canvass Kick-Off
Rivermill Commercial CenterBuilding #5, 85 Mechanic StreetLebanon, NH (Head into NH on I89; Take exit 19 for RT-10/US-4 toward W Lebanon/Lebanon, turn right off the exit onto Mechanic St/US-4. Rivermill Commercial Center is a big old brick building about a mile on the right, #85 Mechanic St.)

There may also be a rally/event with John Edwards in the early afternoon in the river valley area although that is in flux and I do not expect to see final plans until after the Iowa caucus.

Look for more details and updates on this event from our friends at Green Mountain Daily.

It is likely that the Edwards campaign will either be riding high from a first or second place finish in Iowa, or could needing more support if he does poorly there. Either way, New Hampshire could be make or break for Edwards, so it should make for an interesting event, and obviously their campaign would welcome the help.

** Full disclosure, I support Edwards based on his economic populism (he's the only one who actually talks about poverty in America), his health care plan, and his plan to pull troops out of Iraq. However, Democrats are lucky to have any number of exceedingly well qualified candidates (including those who aren't really polling at all: Richardson, Biden, Dodd), especially Hillary and Obama. I am completely committed to helping whoever the eventual nominee is re-take the presidency. I am merely passing this along as an opportunity for others who may be supporting Edwards' candidacy. If you know of other Democratic candidates campaigning in the area and want to post that information here, please let me know and I will do so.