by Robert Maynard
According to a recent Vermont Digger article, Governor Shumlin is too busy to be bothered by participating in debates beyond the five media sponsored debates that he already planned to attend:
The governor is too busy governing, his campaign manager says, to participate in more than the five debates he already plans to attend. Three dates, so far, have been scheduled with VPR, WDEV and VPT. The governor is also talking to WPTZ and WCAX.
“The decision is based solely on scheduling reasons and the fact that governor still needs to do the job he was elected to do, which is continuing to create jobs and make health care more affordable for Vermonters,” MacLean said. “If we were to accept every debate invitation, he would be spending all of his time debating.”
This represents a clear departure from the 2010 Governor’s race:
In 2010, when Shumlin ran against Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, he agreed to 13 debates.
The governor and his opponent, Republican Randy Brock, a state senator, have received 12 invitations so far. The requests have come from several interest groups (AARP, the Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, and a joint event with Vermont Natural Resources Council and Renewable Energy Vermont) and several local organizations (the Williston Central School, Johnson State College, the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, and the Ludlow Town Committee).
His opponent in the race for Governor, State Senator Randy Brock has speculated that fear of facing scrutiny from those who oppose his policies may be a driving factor behind his sudden aversion to debating:
“What’s he afraid of?” Brock asked. “It’s just interesting that he says he’s too busy governing to do that.”
The Republican from Franklin County says the governor just finished a “taxpayer funded” 22-town junket to mark the anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene; found time to give a speech at the announcement of the winner in the Vermont attorney general Democratic primary race; plans to attend the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.; and will travel across the state to speak to the editorial boards of three newspapers and host a campaign launch party at Nectar’s bar in Burlington.
“He can hold an announcement party at Nectar’s, but he can’t find time to talk to Vermonters about his positions relative to his opposition,” Brock says.
That opposition includes the Vermont chapter of AARP, which Brock says is likely the cause of the governor’s reluctance to participate in debates outside the media-sponsored construct. About 15,000 CVPS electricity customers who are members of the group, which represents seniors, signed a petition calling for state regulators to require the Canadian company Gaz Metro to return $21 million to ratepayers as part of a merger deal between Green Mountain Power (a subsidiary of Gaz Metro) and Rutland-based CVPS.
The idea that the Governor is suddenly too busy to engage in more than five debates is a bit hard to swallow given the reputation he developed for finding a great deal of time from his schedule to go on vacations. This tendency was noted in n October 14 2011 Seven Days article:
Since taking office in January, Gov. Peter Shumlin has taken regular respites — mostly long weekends at his chateau on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia — while at least one high-profile vacay took him to the sandy Caribbean isle of Dominica.
Shumlin was away this past Columbus Day weekend, just six weeks after the state was ravaged by Tropical Storm Irene.
Vermont’s Republican Party took the governor to task for his holiday weekend getaway, believing the gov should have stayed at home and used his bully pulpit to tout the state’s foliage to out-of-state travelers. The gov’s staff called the charge “shameful.”
Governor Shumlin’s ploy to duck debates by using the excuse that he is too busy is even more unbelievable when compared to how Governor Douglas handled the same issue in his campaigns as the incumbent Governor as reported in this WCAX News article:
Former Governor Jim Douglas says in 2002 there were 40 debates. The administration then decided to cap the number of gubernatorial debates per season at 12. But back in 2008, incumbent Governor Douglas debated Progressive Anthony Pollina, and Democrat Gaye Symington more than 12 times. With no incumbent back in 2010, Peter Shumlin and Brian Dubie debated 13 times.
Given this history, trying to limit the number of debates to five is unacceptable. If Governor Shumlin has the time to go on lavish vacations in fairly close proximity to when Irene hit, and to go on what is essentially a campaign photo op tour on the anniversary of Irene, he certainly has time for attending debates hosted by groups who might question his policies