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Senate Democrats Deeply Divided On Corren Candidacy For Lt. Governor

Courtesy Dean Corren
Senate Democrats are divided over whether to support Progressive Dean Corren for Lieutenant Governor.

The Vermont Democratic State committee will meet tomorrow to endorse a full slate of statewide candidates including Gov. Peter Shumlin, Congressman Peter Welch and Secretary of State Jim Condos.

The committee is also scheduled to hear from Progressive Lt. Governor candidate Dean Corren as part of his effort to officially win the Democratic nomination. Corren is eyeing this possibility because the only Democrat interested in this race, John Bauer, dropped out last month.

Corren could qualify as the Democratic candidate if he receives at least 250 write in votes in the August 26 primary and his supporters plan to pursue this option.

The possibility of a Progressive candidate also winning the Democratic nomination infuriates Senate President John Campbell.

The question is, who would you cross party lines for? Phil [Scott] is a friend I've worked with for years, work well with. And Dean [Corren], the public financing is very admirable. I have tended to agree with him on most issues. So for a lot of us, I think it creates a real dilemma. - Sen. Dick McCormack

He’s one of a number of Democratic senators who are supporting Republican incumbent Phil Scott.

“What I have admired about him most is that he has not been partisan up there he’s not made any partisan rulings when he certainly could have,” said Campbell. “He is genuinely a person who’s looking to do the best for Vermont and Vermonters.”

And Campbell bristles at the thought that Corren could become the Democratic candidate through the write in process:

“And say ‘oh well I’m  going to really run under this Party but then I’m going to try to take the nomination by getting a bunch of people to write in my name,” said Campbell. “I just think it’s a flaw in the system.”

Some Democrats don’t want to get entangled in this dispute including Senate Majority leader Phillip Baruth.

“This is an interesting race and it’s one that I’ll think through as it goes along as I think a lot of people in the Democratic Party will because we don’t have technically yet our own Democratic candidate our candidate dropped out,” said Baruth. “So I think that just calls for some more study as it goes along.”

Windsor senator Dick McCormack is the chairman of the Senate Education committee. He says he’ll support Corren if the write in effort is successful but McCormack says it’s not an easy decision.

“Then the question is who would you cross party lines for ? Phil is a friend I’ve worked with for years, work well with,” said McCormack. “And Dean the public financing is very admirable I have tended to agree with him on most issues so for a lot of us I think it creates a real dilemma.”

Retired Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis is closely watching this situation. He says both Scott and Corren are planning to spend a similar amount of money, roughly 200 thousand dollars, on their campaigns.

Corren qualified for public financing and will get the bulk of his money from that source while Scott is seeking contributions from individuals and business groups.

Because both candidates have similar campaign budgets, Davis thinks issues will be very important in this race.

“The party labels on the ballot won’t make as much difference as the candidates’ personal and professional background,” said Davis. “And their views on some of the major issues facing Vermont.”

And Davis says one of those issues will be the future of health care in Vermont:

“Because Corren will try to lay out some lines of distinction between himself who is a strong supporter of single payer, and Phil Scott who has reservations about the concept,” said Davis.

Corren is criticizing Scott for raising money from wealthy individuals and special interest groups. Davis says Corren is walking a fine line with this approach because those same criticisms could be leveled against Governor Shumlin who could turn out to be Corren’s running mate.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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