So, one of the louder Republican voices in the Legislature is talking of a run for Governor. Heidi Scheuermann of Stowe is telling one and all that she is “considering” a candidacy.
The Republicans could do tons worse. (See: Brock, Randy; or Vallee, Rodolphe.) Scheuermann is young, active, relatively moderate, and female, which is a pretty big deal for a party known as a refuge for bitter old white men. Also, she’s putting forward the best possible mix of issues for a challenge to Governor Shumlin: economic growth, property tax relief/school funding reform, and Shumlin’s plan for a single-payer health care system. She is wise, IMO, to de-emphasize the troubled rollout of Vermont Health Connect, and to forego any talk of repeal. VHC is likely to be an established and accepted fact by this fall, and a Republican candidate would be smart to turn that page.
All that being said… no. She’s got no shot. Shumlin remains popular; he’s got a million dollars in the bank and he’s just getting started; it’s awfully late for Scheuermann to begin a run; she has no statewide profile; and Vermonters hardly ever boot an incumbent anything. (See: Sorrell, Bill.) She’d also be saddled with a weak party structure that’s years away from competing with the Democratic machine.
And although she’s chosen the right issues, they aren’t weighty enough to build a case against an entrenched incumbent. The economy could be stronger, but it ain’t that bad; single-payer is an unknown, and it’s hard to make a convincing case against an unknown; and Democratic lawmakers are taking positive steps to defang the property-tax issue by moving to cut the statewide levy and push school reorganization.
Which begs the question: Why is she even thinking about a candidacy almost certain to fail? She’d seemingly be better off continuing to raise her profile in the Legislature. She’s young enough to bide her time until Shumlin tires of being Governor and the VTGOP can fully regenerate. So why run now?
Here’s where the Bruce Lisman Conspiracy Engine huffs its way onstage.
In addition to being one of the more vocal Republicans in the Legislature, Scheuermann is a high-profile member of Campaign for Vermont (Prosperity), Now WIth Less Lisman. She was one of the Founding Partners of CFV, way back in the fall of 2011. She has repeatedly touted her relationship with Lisman and CFV and brought its issues into the Legislature. CFV’s top issue for 2014 is ethics reform; and Scheuermann is the lead sponsor of H.846, an ethics bill “modeled after CFV proposal,” in the words of a VTDigger headline from February 16.
According to one of my sources, Lisman was actually thinking about a run for Governor this year, but realized he’d have to spend a boatload of money (check) and probably lose anyway (double check). Now that he’s backed away from active CFV leadership, he could inject himself more personally into Vermont politics… but if not as a candidate, perhaps as a Lenore Broughton? With a fraction of the capital needed for a campaign of his own, he could effectively jumpstart the candidacy of an established Republican… a Republican with ties to CFV and its agenda… a Republican who would establish the CFV agenda as a force in the VTGOP…
Sounds like Heidi Scheuermann to me.
In this scenario, Scheuermann is a stalking horse for a future Lisman candidacy, say in 2016 or 2018*. She wouldn’t gum up the works by actually winning, so the field would be open next time around. And if she managed a respectable finish — beating Randy Brock’s 38% by at least a few percentage points — she’d provide a shot of credibility to the CFV agenda, and show the VTGOP that this is the best way to win back the corner office.
* Argument for 2018: it’s a non-Presidential year, better for Republicans; and Shumlin is likely to be leaving office by then. Argument for 2016: Lisman is entering his late 60s, so time is not on his side.
As for Scheuermann, she’d sacrifice her House seat — but how much fun is it to be a Republican in a Democrat-dominated legislature? And plenty of rewards would be available. She could be given a gig at CFV if she needed a job. And if Lisman were to actually become Governor, she’d be at the top of the list for Cabinet posts.
Is all of this excessively conspiratorial? Probably. But it’s plausible nonetheless.
More plausible than Scheuermann honestly believing she can beat the Governor this year.