The Littlest Empire Strikes Back

Huh boy. Two of Randy Brock’s closest political buds are standing right behind him, shoving him toward Governor Shumlin, and bravely shouting “Let’s you and him fight!”

That would be “Angry Jack” Lindley and Darcie “Hack” Johnston, the two loudest members of the VTGOP’s conservative wing which, as you may recall, lost their grip on the party last November with the election of Phil Scott’s choice, David Sunderland, as state party chair. They are now loudly urging Brock to run for Governor — which makes me question Randy’s choice of friends — and Johnston is urging Mr. All Directions, Scott Milne, to raise his hands above his head and slowly back away from the campaign. Sounds like they’re trying to relitigate their defeat for party control.  

(If November’s moderate putsch is imagined as the least interesting possible remake of “Star Wars,” with the plucky rebels ousting the entrenched powers, then this is “The Empire Strikes Back,” with Lindley as the pale, forbidding Emperor Palpatine and the Hack as his enforcer, Darth Vader.

Darth Johnston. I like the sound of that.)

This news was first reported by the Mitchell Family Organ’s Neal Goswami, and then by Paul “The Huntsman” Heintz, who has much more detail on this pint-sized battle for the VTGOP’s soul.  

Angry Jack kicked things off with a letter explaining exactly why Brock would stand a better chance against Governor Shumlin this time around. We’ll get to his Stretch Armstrong reasoning in a moment, but first, let’s consider the Hack’s pearls of wisdumb.

“Vermonters should unite around Randy Brock to have the best opportunity and maybe the only opportunity to run a successful campaign against Peter Shumlin,” Johnston said. “I’m absolutely saying Scott Milne should not run.”

Nice. And we should take Johnston seriously because of her long track record of… complete failure? I think the VTGOP would be well advised to do the opposite of whatever the Hack suggests.  

Besides, isn’t she, er, managing a campaign two thousand miles away? Yep.

Johnston is currently managing Arizona gubernatorial candidate Frank Riggs’ campaign.

I wonder if Riggs is aware of the Hack’s frenzied moonlighting in Vermont politics. I also wonder how much he’s paying for half of her attention. Well, one-third, actually, since she’s also fronting Vermonters for Health Care Freedom.

Anyway, back to Johnston’s insights on why Scott Milne should butt the hell out.  

“Any other candidate at this time will only make it impossible for Randy Brock to raise the resources to prosecute a campaign against Peter Shumlin,” she said. “A Republican primary will keep donors on the sidelines both in Vermont and outside of Vermont, and in order for a candidate to be viable against Peter Shumlin, they need the ability to raise significant resources very quickly. Raising those resources after the primary on August 26 is too late.”

BWA HA HA HA HA HA. Cough, choke. Hee hee hee. Snort. That’s rich.

Perhaps I need to remind Johnston, who managed the miserable Brock Titanicampaign in 2012, that Her Man absolutely failed to “raise the necessary resources” last time around. She oughta know; she was the #1 drain on the Brock for Governor pocketbook, charging over $100,000 in pay and expenses to an effort that spent a little more than $600,000 — and half of that was Brock’s own money!

Most potential donors sat on the sidelines throughout Brock’s campaign, and Johnston failed to “raise significant resources.” And now she wants her buddy to get back in the ring for Round Two? With friends like these, Randy Brock needs no enemies.

But wait, says a voice from the corner. It’ll be different this time around. Really!

Angry Jack explains it all in his letter touting a Brock candidacy. A letter, according to Goswami, “distributed by Darcie Johnston.” Cozy, eh? And what kind of figgerin’ gives Brock a solid chance in 2014?  

Though Shumlin bested Brock by a 58 to 38 percent margin in 2012, Lindley wrote that “the electoral math of a non-presidential year” would benefit Republicans. Without President Obama or Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) or Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) up for reelection, turnout could be lower than it was in 2010, when Shumlin barely beat then-lieutenant governor Brian Dubie, Lindley argued.

Well, there’s just a few tiny little problems with that “analysis.” First off, 2010 came at the tail end of Jim Douglas’ reign as Governor, which featured the seemingly likable Dubie as his #2. (Dubie had done a very good job of concealing his conservatism behind the genial surface of the Douglas Administration.) Dubie also had an established profile of his own, as a four-time winner in statewide races. (Brock, by contrast, has a 1-2 record.)

Another key difference: Shumlin wasn’t the incumbent in 2010, and in Vermont, incumbents pretty much always win. (Notable exception: Brock’s loss to Tom Salmon in the 2006 race for Auditor.)

Lindley goes on to argue, correctly, that Shumlin’s popularity has waned. True, but not nearly true enough to raise the sunken S.S. Brock from far beneath the electoral waves. And Angry Jack fires some shots at those who might derail a Brock candidacy — including many in his own party.

“What will it take to sweep out the careless Shumlin administration and install a new leader like Brock?” Lindley asked. “First it will take the VT GOP to fully endorse Brock’s candidacy, it will take independents (including the business community) to recognize that balance can only be achieved by electing a new governor, and moderate Democrats will need to realize that their agenda is at risk of derailment due to Shumlin’s reckless management style and longterm impact.”

Not-so-veiled message #1: Scott Milne should butt the hell out.

Not-so-veiled message #2: The GOP donor base (ahem, “including the business community”) has to stop playing nice with the Governor and give their money to Republicans.

Not-so-veiled, and really stupid, message #3: Moderate Democrats would do better with Randy Brock as Governor than with Peter Shumlin. To which I can only say, “what the fuck?”

It’s not really surprising that the Hack and Angry Jack* are still mad about their sidelining, and itching to get their hands back on the VTGOP tiller. What would be surprising is if anyone takes their counsel seriously. After all, the two of them have a long and undistinguished record of failure to excite the Republicans’ donor base and constituencies. Heintz once paraphrased Johnston’s many critics as decrying “her dismal electoral track record, her history of scorched-earth tactics and her reputation for being politically tone deaf,” which sounds about right to me. And as for Angry Jack, he’s the one who “led” the VTGOP down from the heights of the Douglas Era into the empty-coffered doldrums of the Shumlin Era. Which featured, among other things, the resignation of Mike Bertrand as the party’s Executive Director in March of 2012 because he hadn’t been paid in more than three months.

*Hmm. Sounds like an 80’s buddy-cop TV show.

Such “leadership” is the very reason that Lindley and Johnston were put out to pasture last November. Nobody in the VTGOP should believe anything they have to say. And above all others, Randy Brock should especially beware of “friends” bearing tainted advice.  

3 thoughts on “The Littlest Empire Strikes Back

  1. My guess…Riggs is behind in the polls and the Hack needs a new gig as of August 27th?  Perhaps fleecing Randy Brock again?

  2. about the seemingly neverending disarray of the VT GOP complete w/photo of Jack Lindley having a discussion w/Shummy’s lieutenant, AJ’s expression typifying the “Angry” reputation moniker and Scott looking as sunny as ever.

    Internal strife continues to dog Vermont GOP as party struggles to find candidates for governor’s race

    Anne Galloway Jun. 2 2014, 4:32 am 3 Comments

    I’ve really come to respect Scott — he seems to have character & as of yet, one of the few in the entire lot of R’s w/a brain & the foresight to attempt to nudge his fellow partiers to an exodus out of the dark ages into the sunshine of a dawning new day for the VT GOP.  

    With his sprinking of verbal cues which if followed could result in at least the appearance of change, but the stalwarts don’t seem to be getting it or aren’t seeing any need to change period.

    He has head screwed on enough to see the writing on the wall if the R’s don’t get act together pdq.

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