Primary Source: Howard Dean Likes Democrats’ Chances in 2018

  • Valley News political columnist and news editor John Gregg in West Lebanon, N.H., on September 20, 2016. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Democrat Doug Jones’ upset victory over Republican Roy Moore in Tuesday’s Alabama Senate election has energized Democrats around the country.

And former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who had considerable success with his “50-state strategy” as Democratic National Committee chairman almost a decade ago, thinks Democrats have the momentum to win back the U.S. Senate and House in 2018 elections.

“I think that the country is basically rejecting the dishonesty of the far right, which has taken over the Republican Party, and I think there are a lot of Republicans who are upset about this and trying to figure out how to fix their own party,” Dean said in an interview on Wednesday.

He also said the massive tax reform bill that Republicans are on the verge of passing, and which many economists say ultimately will harm middle-class taxpayers while driving up the U.S. debt, is unpopular with voters and will also help Democrats.

“At this point, I do expect we’ll win both the House and Senate in 2018,” Dean said. “This tax bill is toxic for the Republican Party, and isn’t going away.”

Dean spoke favorably of Jones, a former prosecutor, months ago, when his chances in heavily Republican Alabama seemed remote at best. “I was saying this could happen four or five months ago,” Dean said. “I wasn’t surprised, (though) I knew it was a tough race.”

Dean, who ran for president in 2004, said he thinks Democrats should run candidates in every state, and that he’s encouraged by the strong turnout in Alabama from African-Americans and the heavy support Jones enjoyed from younger voters.

“The country is changing. It’s not OK to just go out there and say outrageous things and deny everything,” Dean said.

The Alabama race has left a mark on another Vermont political player.

Republican National Committeewoman Suzanne Butterfield, a Gaysville resident who served for years as Windsor County GOP chairwoman and is a moderate on social issues, was chastened by blowback this week after she said the sexual misconduct accusations from at least eight women against Moore were a “smear campaign.”

“If this stuff were accurate, it would have come out years ago,” Butterfield told Seven Days, the alternative weekly in Burlington, before the election.

On Wednesday, Butterfield said she had “put my RNC hat on” and was “was under the impression the accusations were not valid” because of information she had seen from GOP-leaning sources when she made the statements.

“I absolutely do not support pedophiles or anybody that supports sexual abuse, and I do think that women need to come forward,” Butterfield said.

Asked if it was better that Moore won or lost, she said, “He did not win. … If he had won, it would have taken the focus off more important things, and they would be dealing with him there.”

Grassroots Legacy

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott has picked a longtime Republican Party activist — and fun-loving Vermonter — to the Vermont Commission on Women.

Mary Daly, a retired registered nurse and former Fairlee selectwoman who just moved back to her native Peacham, where she grew up on a dairy farm, served several terms as Orange County GOP chairwoman.

“Mary has a long history of public service, and has demonstrated a deep commitment to her community,” Scott said in a news release.

Daly also has a great sense of humor. An early adaptor to hybrid cars, in 2006 she quipped, “I love driving through Norwich in my Prius with my ‘Bush-Cheney’ bumper sticker.”

On a more serious note, Grafton County officials are mourning the death of Carol Elliott, a former Grafton County treasurer and register of deeds who had also been town clerk in Plymouth. Elliott died on Dec. 3 at 77 of pulmonary artery disease.

Elliott lost her treasurer’s seat for one term in 2008 when Vanessa Sievers, a 20-year-old Dartmouth student, won thanks to the Obama wave and Facebook ads targeting college students in Hanover and Plymouth.

Elliott told the Valley News at the time that the heavy college turnout doomed her candidacy, despite support from “the real people.”

“With a 600-vote (margin), it was the brainwashed college kids that made the difference,” she said

Sievers didn’t win over many county veterans during her one term as treasurer — she conducted much of her business by email, rather than face-to-face, and raised hackles when she would drive to the county seat of Haverhill in her Yukon SUV with Montana license plates to sign county paychecks.

Some Grafton County Democrats never forgave Elliott for her comments, but others did. Register of Deeds Kelley Monahan, an Orford Democrat, said via email, “The staff and I were saddened to hear of the passing of former Grafton County Register of Deeds and County Treasurer Carol Elliott. (She was) a true public servant.”

John Gregg can be reached at jgregg@vnews.com.