The April 16 edition of the Burlington Free Press brought us, courtesy of veteran State House scribe Terri Hallenbeck, a lengthy exploration of The Life And Times Of Heidi Scheuermann, Republican state representative and potential candidate for Governor.
Deep depth, I tell ya. Not only did Hallenbeck recount Scheuermann’s emergence as a top Republican critic of the Shumlin Administration, she also explored Scheuermann’s formative years as “a good student, determined athlete and team leader,” her sevice in the Peace Corps, her political resume, and her day job: managing her family’s Ski Town rental properties.
No stone unturned.
Well, with one little tiny exception: her close political alliance with one Bruce Lisman, founder of Campaign for Vermont and one of the few Vermonters with the resources and willingness to put a whole lot of money into Vermont politics. She has been CFV’s chief legislative water-carrier this session, the group’s first as a State House presence. Lisman’s name does not appear in the article, at all; “Campaign for Vermont” puts in its one and only appearance at the 1550-word mark in this 1923-word epic. And it doesn’t concern CFV’s connection to her political ambitions; it’s about school funding:
As Scheuermann spoke up for repealing the current system, Democrats shot her down for failing to have a replacement plan.
… Scheuermann argues she does have a plan, one that the policy advocacy group Campaign for Vermont adopted and through which she became a founding partner of that group.
In a very long exploration, that’s all Hallenbeck has to say about Scheuermann’s ties to Lisman or Campaign for Vermont. Curious, to say the least.
Because without Lisman’s backing — tacit or overt — it’s hard to see how a state representative with no name recognition outside of Stowe and Montpelier could hope to compete against a popular incumbent with over a million bucks already in his warchest and a clearly superior party organization behind him. She’d also be getting a very late start, almost as late as the then-better-known Gaye Symington in 2008. And we all know how that turned out.
I have previously put forward the notion that the only way Scheuermann can be competitive — not win, mind you; just avoid embarrassment — is if Lisman pulled a Lenore Broughton: pumping lots of money into a (cough) independent committee to hammer away at the incumbent.
Which makes Hallenbeck’s omission seem doubly curious: how can you assess Scheuermann as a rising politician without considering the primary factor in her rise?
I don’t subscribe to a conspiracy theory on this one. I don’t think Hallenbeck was deliberately obscuring the Lisman connection in furtherance of any stealth political plot on his part. The simpler explanation is the all-too-common myopia of the Political Stenographer’s Class: to see things through the standard prism of the “inside the Beltway” crowd. (There’s no Beltway in Montpelier, but there’s definitely a D.C.-style shared mindset among State House scribes.)
Hallenbeck’s narrative sticks to the two-party system and the palace intrigues of the State House. Her quotes regarding Scheuermann’s political standing are from the Usual Suspects: House Speaker Shap Smith, VTGOP chair David Sunderland, Lt. Gov. Phil Scott.
Her vision was too narrowed to include Bruce Lisman, even though he’s not exactly an unknown, even though my GMD theorizing must have penetrated the Freeploid’s perpetual fogbank, and even though Lenore Broughton provides a perfect, and recent, example of how a wealthy person can lift an obscure candidate into putative relevance.
Despite all that, the limited perspective of the political journalist appears to have triumphed over good sense. As a result, in spite of her otherwise solid work, Hallenbeck’s profile is fatally flawed.