by Rob Roper
Seven Days reports that Peter Shumlin chose to skip this year’s Tunbridge World Fair, a tradition in our state since the 1800’s, in favor of a fundraiser in Los Angeles, California, hosted by a wealthy gay marriage activist.
The Tunbridge Fair is listed as a Top Ten Fall Event by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, attracting thousands of Vermonters to celebrate Vermont’s history and small-town, rural, farming culture. As such, the opportunity it provides to mingle with voters has made it, arguably, a Top One event on Vermont political candidates’ calendars for a long, long time. It’s hard to think of more polar opposite experiences that the Fair and LA.
That Shumlin chose to blow off the Fair fits into a disturbing pattern emerging in his campaign of avoiding crowds of the people he hopes will elect him – regular Vermonters. Shumlin already made the decision to eschew another Vermont tradition of holding many debates, early and often, in town meeting style venues. The debates that will take place between Shumlin and his challenger, Randy Brock, are in studio settings (VPR, VPT, WCAX, WPTZ, WDEV) with no place for people to attend in person and participate. This raises the question, why is Shumlin, a politician known for his skills at retail politics, hiding from the people?
The Tunbridge World Fair actually featured debates between the Attorney General candidates, Jack McMullen (R) and Bill Sorrell (D), and the Lieutenant Governor candidates, Phil Scott (R) and Cassandra Gekas (D) moderated by Mark Johnson (The Mark Johnson Show, WDEV). But not the gubernatorial candidates, obviously, and for an obvious reason – Shumlin isn’t there.
Two questions for Vermonters as they prepare to go to the polls in November: Do we want a governor who seems to be systematically severing contact with them and the traditional “Vermont Way” of local, person-to-person campaigning. And, do we want a governor who will replace those traditions with an emphasis on catering to wealthy, out-of-state, special interests.