Well, not really. But it’s safe to call it for Our Eternal General, after Chittenden County State’s Attorney TJ Donovah announced he will not challenge Bill Sorrell in this year’s Democratic primary. Donovan nearly knocked off Sorrell in the 2012 primary; only a late infusion of out-of-state money for Sorrell prevented Donovan from notching an upset for the ages.
But he won’t try it again this year, perhaps because he’s lost the element of surprise. Unlike in 2012, Sorrell is actually going out of his way to fundraise this time around. It’s safe to say he’d be harder to beat, now that he’s got his eyes open. (He’s already raised over $20,000 and will hold a fundraiser in Florida this week at the annual convention of the Democratic AG’s Association, which bankrolled his last-ditch push in 2012.)
Before we go on with the speculative analysis, let me pause to consider journalistic ethics. This story was broken by Paul “The Huntsman” Heintz; he got the word from Donovan on Monday and posted it at 8:00 am Tuesday. Since then, the Associated Press and Vermont Press Bureau have picked it up, and the Freeploid has posted the AP story. Both the AP and VPB quote Donovan as revealing his decision “Tuesday,” i.e. today.
Which means they obviously got the story from Heintz. And nowhere in either story is Heintz given the least bit of credit.
I’m sure the standard journalistic explanation is “Well, we contacted Donovan ourselves and got the story from him.” That’s technically true, but still, Heintz deserves credit for the scoop, and he didn’t get it. (His story also has a whole lot more detail than the other two.) Personal foul, unsportsmanlike conduct on the AP and VPB, 15-yard penalty and loss of down.
Now, back to the Donovan/Sorrell saga. Maybe it’s just my overactive blogger’s imagination at work, fueled by a possible CO buildup in our Mom’s Basement headquarters, but all the signs point to a nice friendly backroom deal: Sorrell gets a victory lap in 2014 and retires in two years. Donovan bides his time and gets the nomination in 2016. All neat and tidy; put a bow on it and set it under the tree.
Aside from all this highly convenient collegiality, which sets the stage for a stress-free Democratic primary season for all concerned, I’d also point to Sen. Dick Sears’ introduction of a bill to make the AG’s position a gubernatorial appointment starting in 2016. If that wasn’t a warning shot across Sorrell’s bow, delivered by “the powerful chair of the Judiciary Committee” and “a close friend of Gov. Peter Shumlin,” I don’t know what is.
Both men denied they’d struck a deal to avoid another match-up.
“No, whatever he’s going to do, he’s going to do,” Donovan said when asked whether Sorrell had pledged to retire after serving one more term.
And Sorrell dismissed any talk of 2016, saying it would be “presumptuous” to assume his re-election in 2014. Heintz does not indicate whether Sorrell kept a straight face.
In withdrawing from the race, Donovan delivered a pretty clear slap to Sorrell, which I take as a sign that a future challenge is not out of the question:
As to whether he’ll endorse Sorrell’s reelection bid, Donovan said “I have no idea,” adding, “I will say I think Bill’s been a lot more active in the last couple of years, and that’s a good thing for Vermont.”
In other words, “Sorrell was sleeping his way through the job and I woke him up.” And “I’ll do it again if I have to.”
Nah, I’m sure this is all a product of my imagination. We’re all friends here, aren’t we? And we all love our Eternal General, don’t we?
Note: Credit where credit’s due. “Eternal General” was crafted by the late great Hugh McDiarmid, longtime political columnist for the Detroit Free Press, and the closest thing Michigan has ever had to a Peter Freyne. McDiarmid used the term to describe Frank Kelley, who served 37 years as Michigan’s elected AG. (He was both the youngest and the oldest person to hold the office.) Hmm, by that standard, Sorrell’s a rookie.