Jim Douglas on the Vermont GOP in 2020: ‘We need to get ourselves back on track’

For the Republican Party faithful living in the Democratic-stronghold of Addison County, an ice-cream social gathering held at the River’s Edge Campground in Vergennes provided a pep rally of sorts for rebuilding the local GOP in advance of the 2020 campaign.

The gathering, held July 18, was organized by former state Rep. Connie Houston, of Vergennes, and Jon Christiano, of Middlebury, chair of the Addison County Republicans.

The meeting’s guest speaker was former Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas.

Lou Varricchio

Former Gov. Jim Douglas: “We need people (in Montpelier) who get it, who aren’t going to vote for every spending idea that comes down the pike. We want to instill fiscal responsibility in our state again.”

Before introducing Douglas, both Houston and Christiano welcomed attendees and encouraged them to get involved in local and state politics. Attendees were asked to consider contributing to Republican candidates for 2020 or even running for office themselves.

“We have real opportunities this time around,” Christiano said.

Douglas, a 68-year-old resident of Middlebury, still reads the political tea leaves, not only in his backyard but statewide as well.

Douglas, who served as Vermont governor from 2002 to 2011, began his political career in the state House of Representatives. He was elected secretary of state in 1980 and then state treasurer in 1994. His three terms as governor focused primarily on the economy.

He also was appointed co-chair of the Council of Governors by President Obama in 2010, and is currently an executive-in-residence at Middlebury College, his alma mater.

“There was a time in 1973 when we had only one Democrat from Addison County in either chamber,” Douglas told the River’s Edge audience. “Today, Addison County’s only Republican is Rep. Harvey Smith of New Haven. … Harvey’s ranks need to be enhanced. We need to get ourselves back on track.”

While concerned about Vermont’s supermajority of Democrats and Progressives in the Statehouse, Douglas is not pessimistic about the future.

In anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing on July 20, Douglas echoed the words of history to rally the local GOP.

“As President Kennedy said, ‘We’re going to the Moon not because it is easy, but because it is hard.’ We have to field candidates in every district and then support them; I know we can make progress, but it’s going to be hard work,” he said.

Amid the tumultuous politics of Trump-era Vermont, Douglas offered his analysis of the buildup to 2020 along with his own brand of “hope and change” for the party faithful.

“It’s an interesting time, isn’t it? We had the first Democrat announce for governor already this week, a former education secretary. … I won’t mention her name to increase her name recognition,” he said, getting a laugh from the audience. “It seems kind of an early start to the cycle and I am not sure how she’ll fair. She is the implementer emerita of the school-consolidation law, so I am not sure there’s a big natural constituency there … but this is Vermont — any Democrat starts out with 40 percent basically just for putting a “D” after his or her name.”

Lou Varricchio

Addison County GOP chair Jon Christiano: “We have a real opportunity this time around.”

Douglas praised Gov. Phil Scott’s term in office, though he did not mention the governor by name at any time during the evening.

“We’re lucky to have an incumbent Republican governor who is a fiscal conservative,” Douglas said. “He had accomplishments last session that I can’t even boast of: There were two years without a single tax or fee increase; that didn’t even happen on my watch, I am sorry to say. That’s a tremendous accomplishment; there’s no record of it before in our state’s history. We can be proud of this.”

The former governor spoke of other accomplishments including the thwarting of the $15 minimum wage, which he noted would have cost a few thousand jobs according to the Joint Fiscal Office.

Douglas expressed satisfaction with Scott’s ongoing resistance to the many cost increases in the state budget presented by the opposition.

“He said ‘no’ to a $100 million payroll tax to the family-leave mandate. … It’s not easy to hold back the tide, but he’s doing a great job and we have to make sure he continues to be there to provide some balance to the excesses of our ‘friends’ in the General Assembly.”

Douglas said the Democratic and Progressive supermajority in Montpelier poses a potential “train wreck” for the state.

“They’re trying to do a carbon tax, right? That’s the latest idea,” Douglas noted. “He (Scott) is saying ‘no’ but it’s not easy with the numbers. With a veto-proof majority in each chamber, the Democrats can have their way on any day if they stick together. … So, we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Douglas noted that in the midst of the current Republican slump in state politics there are some key battles that have been checked by Scott. He cited a decline in the lands-gain tax, a reduction in personal income tax rates, and an increase in the estate tax exemption.

“So we hope fewer of you will become Floridians,” Douglas said. “The governor felt strongly about this; that alone will make a positive difference in making Vermont a little more tax friendly then before. Some good things have happened and bad things have been stopped; it’s a real battle.”

Douglas advised Republicans not to become discouraged by either the facts of the current supermajority numbers or of those seemingly impenetrable Democrat-held districts.

“Some (Republicans) say some Vermont districts are lost causes, so why bother?” he said. “Well, my answer to that is if you throw enough against the wall, something is going to stick. My favorite example is from a couple of decades ago. We had a great candidate in the city of Winooksi where three Republicans live (audience laughs). His name is Tom McCormick. He won and served a couple of terms. He was well respected, worked in the extension service, I believe, and was active in his church. So, it is possible to change the tide.”

Douglas added that a losing game can be turned into a victory with a strategy plus hard work.

“In Middlebury, my old district, we had an independent run four years ago — he came within 100 or so votes of knocking off an incumbent Democrat. So, you can’t write off these districts. … We have to field candidates in every district and then support them.”

Douglas thanked the audience by summarizing it as “a great crowd for an off-year election.” He concluded his address in good humor and with a wry smile and a playful pun: “Let’s party on!”

Lou Varricchio is a freelance reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at lvinvt@gmx.com.

Image courtesy of Lou Varricchio/TNR

33 thoughts on “Jim Douglas on the Vermont GOP in 2020: ‘We need to get ourselves back on track’

  1. Personally will never support either Scott or Douglas for governor. They both may have done good things but have had their day in the sun of VT and have failed to use their power to effect any meaningful change but became comfortable in the self-important trappings of higher office which is why we do not need four-year terms for any politicians.

    Scotts’ epic fail was turning on the RKBA community – even snarling at those who watched the bill signing – and all gun owners, complete and utter disgrace.

    Douglas chumminess with college buddy and AP VT reporter Chris Graff plus harsh condemnation for using own half-million payrolled taxpayer-funded staffers aka state employees as campaign team as well as personal press bureau was an eyeopener and I think really hurt him after it became publically known. Turning on VT middle class by raising taxes in favor of wealthy friends and donors all led to downfall. This gave more power to the vetoproof leftist bunch in Montpelier who were seen as revolutionaries following historic veto of state budget, prompting Douglas to announce he would not be running for another term. Calls for another run smack of desperation.

    I would however wholeheartedly support a run by Douglas as we need conservatives for US House and Senate. Douglas had good numbers and wide support – likely still does. Firmly believe he would win easily. Comrade Bernie has lost his luster, has done nothing period – certainly nothing for VT and avoids VT press like the plague. The likes of this fraud need to be removed for good as he does nothing but use his office to enrich himself and spread it to other budding Marxists such as loudmouth bombthrower and about-to-be-primaried protege Ms. Cortez. Quixotic runs for POTUS could not continue w/o his seat, and – he’s the lowest-hanging of the fruits VT has in Washington IMHO.

    • VT needs a Freedom-Caucus style fiscal hawk who is will to go to a zero-based budget and willing to drive the NEA chokehold out of our state by offering vouchers and school choice for all VT students – and ridding us of the Shummy-inspired educational position(s). That is what is behind the school closures and eimination of local boards.

      VT is a fiscally failed state on several levels. Public-sector unions are the biggest problem – only a governor who is willing to make drastic changes that can be enacted outside of our corrupt legislature will be able to right our sinking ship.

      • Great ideas…..we need to get some major support from the RNC if we are to give up our small pool of local talent to the federal level. Our state is the tip of the socialist, sjw spear for sure.

        Peace and prosperity…..we need to bring peace, education and healing to this state. Our land scape is so different from the rest of our country, we need a “Vermont” plan, which will later be a pattern for healing and unity for the entire country.

        We could be leaders in something other than envy, bitterness and nimbyism.

        • Could be difficult for VT GOP leaders/possible candidates to receive funding while spewing Trump hatred…but globalist bagmen Kochs are just fine w it…in fact a requirement. After all…RNC chair Ronna McDaniel is in fact Ronna Romney McDaniel…had to drop the Romney fron name in order to receive DT approval…look at the hate spewed at Ms. Manosh using thinly veiled vitriole cloaked in typical VT selfrighteousness…

  2. The Vermont Republican Party has two major problems. Disorganization and infighting, and letting itself be defined by its detractors. Until those things change, nothing else will for the party.

    • You said so much in so few words, so much truth.

      We need some more wins, desperately, we have no money, no message, no ground team etc. we do have some very well known good leaders, we have an entirely American message for peace and prosperity. Sadly Vermont is very much a popularity contest.

      Dubie – Lt. Gov.

      Milne – Senate
      Feliciano – Senate
      Douglas – Senate or Lt. Gov.
      Stern – Senate

      Don Turner – House or Senate

      Sun Tzu, “The Handbook” aka Rules for Radicals, The Smear, required reading, video Yur Bezmanov, Where he describes how they subvert a country.

      We can survive with Governor Scott, I understand well how people could loath his stance on certain items. We must look at the big picture. I just read years ago where a Republican was ousted from office because he was anti-gun which gave us BERNIE SANDERS!!!!

      We have to understand the trigger words, the knee jerk reactions, how we are automatically defined by others, if not we’ll never win anything in this subverted state. They, the DNC have us almost every time in an argument and FRAME US where they want us, every time.

      Take minimum wage. They say $15. We say no. To many earning $12 an hour we look cheap, mean and uncaring, framed exactly the way the DNC wants us. We fall for the trap EVERY TIME. Truth be told we had the highest minimum wage in the country and world for decades, it’s higher than 97% of the entire world’s earning power. Yet we are consistently unaffordable. The republican answer could be affordable housing. We can have home ownership for people earning minimum wage, it can be done easily with no government money, just need to change the zoning and some small regs. In our efforts going door to door, EVERYBODY supported this.

      When we trigger people by saying we need less regulation and government, (same thing but no details) they would immediately say NO. Such is the Vermont landscape and indoctrination. Know thy territory. Unfortunately it’s also why Scott does press conference slamming Trump, he does know the territory.

      Sun Tzu…….great book.

  3. My two victories in Bennington Senate District where also not likely … from the political class. No Republican has won there since I did not run again. Had I run again, odds are I would have won again. It is very important to understand the reason I did not run again, because it is why many people who would win and serve well do not run. Serving was far to costly because the sessions are far too long for a person who works in the competitive market to serve. This is not an accident. It very much determines the makeup of the Vermont House and Senate and is why year after year Vermont moves further and further away from being a competitive place to have a business. The long sessions are very costly and the extra pay for legislators is a very small part of that extra cost.

    So that is why I again and again put the focus on the long sessions. Until that is addressed, there is no hope of real change. I would not have understood that, except that I lived it. It took us more than a decade to financially recover. I would never have run for a second term, except my wife and I felt those who worked so hard to help get me elected had earned that. My second term was for them and their exceptional efforts.

    Republicans put far too much focus on the statewide offices, but the State House is far more important if your goal is shaping Vermont public policy. I do believe a statewide slate of House and Senate candidates running on shortening the sessions could flip the majority. But they have to be serious and committed to that effort. I would love to help shape such a campaign as it has tons of ways to be effective. But the candidates need to be solid limited-government candidates, so there can be confidence that flipping the majority will make a real difference to Vermonters.

    The last time Republicans had the majority was 1999-2002, where they gained seats in both chambers in 1998 by tapping into the opposition to the Act 60 state takeover of education funding and the civil union law. They only had a majority in the House, but it was a solid majority. But they quickly lost it because they did nothing on the issues that got them elected. The lesson is: don’t run on something that you do not intend to work on once elected. In the 2000 election, when Jim Douglas and Brian Dubie won and I was elected to the Senate in 2000, two incumbent Republican Senators lost their races and in the House Republicans dipped below a majority, but still had more than the Democrats, so Republican Walter Freed was again elected as speaker. But Freed had already lost his majority and then put a Democrat in charge of addressing Act 60. The result was a step toward even greater state control of education. So he was a disaster, by any measure and frankly while Douglas could get himself elected, he had no coattails as the House soon also became super majority Democrat, as it basically has been since. So I see not reason to think Douglas running statewide would help the situation in the State House. He wins because he is very well known and is very likeable, but his message never really went beyond his own race to where Vermonters would understand that even if they liked what Jim Douglas proposed, that could only happen with a House and Senate that was onboard with those ideas. So Jim Douglas finally bowed out since he could do nothing against a Democrat/Progressive/Socialist super majority in both the House and Senate. And not much has changed since … long sessions still keep the legislature solidly in the hands of collectivists who want to use it to remake America and destroy the any notion of individual value where a right individual life and liberty make sense.

    • Mark it’s too bad you were forced to leave the state for your business survival. I believe you would have made a very good governor, someone who could work with the opposition and still hold your positions. If Scott is the best the Republicans can do then the Democrats will force their will on us without any worries.

      • Keith, Thanks for your remarks. I am not sure I would make a good governor as my strengths are not managing people. But I would have loved to have been able to be apart of something good for Vermont from the legislature. Our decision to relocate was multifaceted. Most certainly my customers leaving Vermont had a big impact, but the lack of good opportunities and the abundance of unhealthy ideas and activities in Vermont make it very challenging for those of us raising children. Lastly, the lack of a solid opposition party to the Democrat/Progressive/Socialist party really gave us no reason to think things were going to improve in the near future. So our move was very much for the good of our four boys and hindsight has very much affirmed that move.

    • Do you know how Democrat/Progressive legislators can afford to serve? Do they have a special arrangement with their employers? Are they independently wealthy?

      • Jay, The majority of those I served with did not have jobs in the competitive market place. Some worked for non-profits, some of which were funded by the state like my seatmate for example. Others were wealthy, either by their own professions or from family wealth that was passed down. Others were retired with enough retirement income so long sessions really did not matter. Others were lawyers. I tried to compile this data at one point, but did not have enough time to complete it. But none of the situations I mentioned above earn their income in the competitive world and that is largely a world they do not understand. So while many may have very good intentions, their laws do not consider those of us who do earn our income in the competitive world.

        Consider a comparison to Virginia, where we now live. Virginia is a much more complex state in just about any way imaginable. Vermont is the size of some of the counties in Virginia and Vermont is largely homogeneous in terms of racial makeup. Vermont really has no cities. There are a few places with city form of government, but the population density is truly more like a large town, than a real urban city like Richmond, or areas of Northern Virginia or along the coast where there is massive movements of people to consider. In Virginia the first years of a biennium the legislative session runs from January through part of March. The second year is runs from January through mid February. By contrast Vermont always runs well into April and often into May. One of my years I believe it went into early June. And for what? Why can they not figure out priorities the first year and then just have a short budget adjustment session the second years. No business with the budget the size of Vermont could survive if it took the board roughly 5 months every year to figure out its priorities. It is not like there are a lot of moving parts. One year is very much like the prior year. There is no population boom or anything else. Vermont is a largely static state, except for the people who leave for a more reasonable situation. I believe two months the first year is plenty for Vermont and just a two week session the following year for a budget adjustment if revenues do not match predictions.

        Right now, it is if we are in the formation of a new government every single year. It seems crazy, unless the goal is to control the makeup of the legislature and tweaking the nation rather than helping Vermonters is the top priority. There is a reason for everything and Peter Welch actually told me on my way out that the long sessions were to keep people like me out of the legislature. It worked.

        • Re: “Peter Welch actually told me on my way out that the long sessions were to keep people like me out of the legislature.”

          Not to put you on the spot, Mark, but this is a serious allegation. Would you sign an affidavit that effect? Do you know anyone who witnessed or can substantiate your claim in other similar instances?

          If Mr. Welch said that to you, Mark, he likely said it to others. I hope anyone else who heard or witnessed such a remark steps up to the plate to hold these politicians accountable….an admittedly tall and courageous order.

          • Jay, It was a verbal comment when I made a comment to him that the long sessions were a huge problem for me and that I had to deal with my customers and could not just sit in the State House day after day waiting for House and Senate committees to work out their details.

            It was not a public comment. And he may very well have been trying to be funny with the comment. Hard to know for sure, but it clearly impacts what voices make it into the State House policy discussions.

          • Funny remark…not. As I mentioned a few days ago:

            Forty percent of Vermont’s existing workforce is employed in its government, health and education sectors. They are organized, well-funded and politically active. Vermont’s $6.8 Billion non-profit sector, with $13.2 Billion in assets, is equally substantial and politically active. They are all interested one thing – maintaining their power and control of government because they believe they know what’s best for the rest of us.

            Considering that only 57% of Vermont’s registered voters actually voted in the last election, we now have the dysfunctional tyranny of the voting majority Benjamin Franklin warned us about at the Constitutional Convention.

            “Sir, I agree to this Constitution, with all its Faults, if they are such; because I think a General Government necessary for us, and there is no Form of Government but what may be a Blessing to the People if well administered; and I believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a Course of Years, and can only end in Despotism as other Forms have done before it, when the People shall become so corrupted as to need Despotic Government, being incapable of any other.”

            Unfortunately, we appear to have run that course.

            All the best to you.

          • I agree. It may have to crash before there is the will to fix the mess. One thing I will not hold my breath for is for anything to improve as long as long sessions keep a very needed voice out of the process.

      • Maybe they the ones who get on one of the hundred summer committees, boards and commisions. Maybe they have no other income, above board, but have learned ot exist on that money.

        • Could be, but it would be more polite for them to just ask their neighbors to help them out financially rather than doing that through gaining power to impose compulsory taxation to pay their personal bills.

          • In Cervantes’ Don Quixote, published in 1612: “The old proverb still holds good, thieves are never rogues amongst themselves.”

  4. If Jim Douglas considers Phil Scott then it tells me a lot about him. The money he is wasting on EV’s, paying people to move here, playing musical agencies moving some to Barre and others to Montpelier, and adding several top positions to his administration makes it obvious that Scott is not close to a fiscal conservative.
    As long as the leadership of the party praises Scott’s leadership the party is doomed.

    • It should have read If Jim Douglas considers Phil Scott a fiscal conservative then it tells me a lot about him.
      Furthermore, one of the major reasons taxes and fees weren’t raised was increased revenue in large part thanks to Trump who Scott would never give credit to.

  5. Jim Douglas for Vermont Governor in 2020 – We need him now more than ever !

    (BTW – Lou Varricchio, Vermont’s capitol building is called the “State House” and has been since the first one was built in Montpelier in 1808 !)

    • A run for lt gov, a run for the senate from him would be immensely beneficial. It would cover more bases and create harmony within the party. We need some of the major league players to steep down into the minor league. Dubie, Feliciano, Stern, Milne, to run for Senate. This would be an amazingly positive change for Vermont. It would encourage business people,to run for representative, it would build a Vermont home republican team of local players.

      • Great idea…call to arms with all name-recocognized conservatives exiting the woodwork into daylight asap…also other well-spoken and recognized cool-heads – you know who you are! To put out the four-alarm blaze started by the vetoproof Shummyite destroyers primarily faux Vermonters an SOS to save our state…we need all-hands-on-deck for sure.

        We were in the same emergency mode following Shummy debacle…and personally to my folly thot Scott was Mr. Right…in perpetual facepalm since. Not a name on this list I could not get behind for an office in some capacity:
        Don Turner
        but would add Wendy Wilton
        and Annette Smith
        Would send a powerful message that we need the adults in the room; party bosses and top brass deign to lower office to salvage and pick up the pieces and what is left of our ruined state as the dopesmoking kids have failed…not bc they toke, but could at least put the glass pipe down until session is over for the day. It is well-known by *everyone* what has happened to us and ppl are furious…but no one knows what to do. We need bold ppl and ideas.

    • Brooke I usually agree with you but calling for Jim Douglas for governor is very nonsensical. First he couldn’t take the heat before when the Democrats didn’t have an overwhelming majority. Second anyone who praises the job Scott has done is not the right person to fix this broken state.

  6. Jim Douglas on the Vermont GOP in 2020: ” We need to get ourselves back on track “,
    We all know what needs to be done !!

    The real question is how and with whom ???, who we have now is pathetic disappointment !!

  7. Thank you Governor Douglas;

    Agree! We cannot let any House or Senate xistrict seat sit idle. We need candidates in every General Assembly seat available in Montpelier, all 180. We have many good Ppl working on this fight, but your help is vital. We also cannot hind President Trump. Educate yourself as to why he is the best person for the job tdy, his “PromisesMade, Promises Kept” needs to be out in the public spheres . We can help educate you too.

    Further, “Vermonters for Vermont” Initiative is established to educate ALL Vermonters of why Democrat/Progs policies are bad for all Vermonters. Once Ppl peel back the buzzwords and are educated the light goes on and they will come to Conservative principles and support our work.

    I charge you all to look for and ask Ppl to run for the VT. Legislature this year. I’m working with five candidate prospects to run. We Republicans need candidates in EVERY district for under the Gold Dome. Contact me or the VT. GOP if you are interested in learning more about the great public service opportunity. Thank you,


    Gregory Thayer, MBA
    Bomoseen, Vermont
    V4V Initiative

  8. The first change to reset the clocks is to get Phil Scott out, he has sold out his base too many times.

  9. The train wreck started with Schulman. We need Jim Douglas to come back, short of that we need a whole bunch of like minded folks. Hope springs eternal.

  10. The republicans need to be a conservative not Leftist’s in better suits aka RINO’s.
    For example look at the miserable excuse for a current governor,he has more in common with the far left than differences and if republicans want to win they have to be the party of bold colors,ideas,instead of pale pastels of a left bent.

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