Early endorsements, from VCV’s perspective

Turning away from the portentous spectacle of national politics for a moment to focus on our regional races feels somehow reassuring today; yet there is a bit of drama and controversy to be found even close to home.

A couple of days ago, Vermont Conservation Voters ( VCV) released their list of early endorsements and some were disappointed to see that a favorite candidate didn’t make the cut.

It is important to remember that these are only the early endorsements, and they were reserved for legislators with demonstrated leadership on environmental issues, whose voting record on key legislation identified by the VCV  was over 90%, both in the current session, and for her or his legislative lifetime. Further endorsements will be forthcoming in the fall and will extend to many more individual legislators.

As a former board member for the VCV, I thought I might use the platform of GMD to explain how the sausage gets made, when it comes to endorsements.

Early endorsement from VCV would carry no weight if it was easily won.

In Vermont, we are blessed with a legislature that is, to a large extent, accepting of climate change science and supportive of responsible environmental safeguards. But even within that general consensus, opinions differ on how best to achieve those safeguards and where priorities should be established.

Clearly, Philip Baruth is one of the good guys; and his contributions will certainly be celebrated in the next round of endorsements. That being said, how fair would it be if, having forewarned legislators on what bills would be scored and, therefore, would figure into the early endorsement metrics, VCV made an exception for Philip?  How much credibility would VCV have if they held him to a different standard than every other lawmaker?

Philip is an experienced legislator who, I am sure, has a pretty good grasp of strategic politics.  I doubt that he is particularly surprised or crushed by the early pass. Every now and then, even the good guys, who are just doing what makes strategic sense to them, end up on the wrong end of the equation. It’s called ‘taking one for the team,’ and Philip is no stranger to the experience. He’s a courageous legislator who probably doesn’t need bouquets just for doing his job to the best of his ability.

Odum has well explained the minutiae of everyone’s voting records, so I won’t go into that all over again. Suffice it to say that Sen. Baruth’s score on just the votes that the VCV identified as critical for the current session ended up falling short of the 90% mark.

Informed by research and education, the VCV must pursue the environmental advocacy
positions that they feel best suit their mission, regardless of occasional awkward moments with their usual allies. Environmentally responsible legislators, like Philip, must also follow the course of their best judgments.

Mutual respect should be understood to be in effect, and mutual interest in what is best for the environment remains the goal in each case.

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

11 thoughts on “Early endorsements, from VCV’s perspective

  1. DAMAGE CONTROL!!!! Guess I really rattled the cage eh? Heh. Natural consequences…

    While I’m flattered that you and they felt an entire diary was necessary to counter me, let’s be clear; As far as credentials go, I did work at VNRC for many years, as you know. I also worked at the Oregon League of Conservation Voters for many years, as I mentioned. I don’t post what I did lightly, and it comes from a perspective of some experience.

    But nothing you wrote counters what I did. I contacted folks at both VNRC and VCV before posting, so their point of view was one I fully aware of. One thing you did say, I very much want to highlight:

    “Mutual respect should be understood to be in effect”

    That was, in fact, my primary point. One I hope VCV remembers next time.

  2. I’m sorry if you were offended. That wasn’t my intention.

    I just thought a little additional perspective was warranted. I remember grappling with these kinds of dilemmas when I served on the board, before we even had a relationship with the VNRC; which, by the way, is not a part of the Scorecard process. That is electoral work, which is the exclusive domain of the VCV and governed by a separate board.

    Personally, I think they acted appropriately, even if I am disappointed that they couldn’t give Philip an early endorsement.

    1. Maybe someone on the VCV board involved in the scorecard decision making process would care to respond and clarify why Philip (by the way, now known as ‘Phil’) Baruth failed to win an early endorsement.

      1. Someone from the current board would be welcome to do so, but I thought I had done that pretty simply; so don’t be surprised if no one steps in to provide a further or different explanation.

        It’s not supposed to be a judgement call. When rules are uniformly applied, the result is very straightforward and allows the decision makers to claim fairness in the process. This is pretty important to VCV’s credibility.

        The purpose of an early endorsement is to single out legislators who have best advanced the positions of the endorsing body within the specified time frame.

        It is the prerogative of the endorsing body to specify the timeframe and the relevant legislation. In this case, lawmakers were specifically told in advance of their votes that this particular piece of legislation would be significant to the VCV’s endorsement parameters.

        You or I may not necessarily agree with the VCV’s position on that piece of legislation; and individual legislators may also not agree; but the whole reason for endorsements is to reward votes that advance positions the VCV has determined best serve their mission.

        1. But the rules themselves are very much a judgement call. Obviously. They are not handed down on stone tablets. And those rules should be rational ones.

          No rational rule would leave out Baruth, as I argued in some detail. And I must say, to this point, it’s not lost on my that none of the reasoning behind my criticism has been directly addressed.

          1. Sorry; can’t help beyond what I have already said.

            Yes, all rules are, to begin with, a “judgement call.” But once they have been established, they must be adhered to in order to maintain credibility.

            I understand why you disagree with the VCV policy, but it is what it is.

  3. Who really cares? Endorsements, especially scorecards, by groups probably do little, if anything, to influence voters. The scorecards sooth the egos of the group leaders,but little else.

  4. Nothing about this explains the endorsement of canfidate Ellis over Phil.

    To me, it appears the same anti-wind zealots that have dominated thr VTdigger comments section have similarly dominated the VCV

  5. I have no idea what considerations went into Ms. Ellis’ early endorsement; but the parameters for sitting legislators seem to have been clearly established well in advance of the vote in question.

    I don’t take it as an endorsement of Ellis “over” Phil.

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