The good citizens of Burlington won’t go to the polls for another couple of weeks, but one candidate has already bitten the dust. Per Alicia Freese of Seven Days:
Ryan Emerson, the Democratic candidate for a city council seat in Burlington’s Ward 2, has withdrawn from the race. Emerson announced his decision Tuesday afternoon, the day after Seven Days inquired about past allegations of domestic violence brought against him.
On two separate occasions in 2005 and 2006, a Chittenden County judge issued relief-from-abuse orders against Emerson, after Sarah Hart, the mother of his child, complained of allegedly violent behavior.
Eeps. A couple of points before I get to the main event.
First, Freese and Seven Days are, rightly, getting pummeled by commenters for naming the victim and going into extensive detail about the case. Did 7D need to publish her name and all the particulars? Not really. I’m sure she hoped this episode was safely behind her; now it’s all been brought back, in living color. Seven Days did allow Hart a fig-leaf of privacy; she has since married and they didn’t reveal her new last name. Gee, thanks, Seven Days.
Second, Emerson must have known this could come out during the campaign. He should have put it out there himself at the beginning of the campaign. If he thought he couldn’t overcome the stigma, he shouldn’t have run in the first place. I believe in second chances, but these incidents happened less than ten years ago. He should have waited longer.
Okay, now for the main event — from the viewpoint of a political blogger.
How did this happen to come up exactly two weeks before Election Day? The timing is suspiciously perfect if one’s intention is to torpedo a candidate. Long enough to let the scandal set in, too short for the candidate to overcome it.
Freese doesn’t say how she came across this tidbit. One possibility is that Seven Days decided to do criminal background checks on all the candidates in Burlington. I don’t think so, because they would have done it sooner.
Which leads me to ratf*cking. Somebody tipped off Seven Days in hopes of derailing Emerson’s campaign. And somebody succeeded.
Who stands to benefit from Emerson’s implosion? Well, most obviously, incumbent Progressive Councilor Max Tracy, who gets to run unopposed. Take a load off, Max; your work is done.
I’m not saying he was the leaker. I am saying that the most likely culprit is someone in the Progressive Party. The Progs will keep one of their precious Council seats, having rid themselves of a well-connected Dem with a lot of campaign experience. (He was on Shumlin’s team in 2010; managed T.J. Donovan’s near-miss in the AG primary in 2012; and headed Beth Pearce’s triumphant campaign for Treasurer that same year.)
Second suspect, deliciously devious: The Republicans. Prog/GOP alliances of convenience are common in Burlington politics. With the GOP in danger of being entirely shut out of City Council, it’s in the party’s interest to maximize Prog representation. They also wouldn’t be at all sorry to kneecap Emerson’s political career; at age 27 he’s already a well-established politico with a track record of success. You’d have to call him a rising star — well, you would have before this revelation.
This conspiracy theory becomes even more plausible when you recall that the chair of the Chittenden County GOP is one Jeff Bartley, last seen winning a lawsuit against former U.S. Senate candidate Len Britton. I recapped Bartley’s dismal career in a previous diary, but one item is worth mentioning in this context: When Bartley was only 20 years old, he was hired by the Rich Tarrant-for-Senate campaign, where he was responsible for a phony political blog called VermontSenateRace.com. It was designed to look legit, but it was just a front for pro-Tarrant (and anti-Pat Leahy) propaganda. Unfortunately for Bartley and Tarrant, Peter Freyne uncovered the scam.
Again, I’m not saying Bartley was the leaker. But his party indirectly benefits, and he’s got a track record.
In any event, whoever the leaker was, congratulations to Max Tracy on a hard-won victory.