Sunday, March 23, 2008

Vermont Progressive May Win Governorship

Vermont Progressive Party leader Anthony Pollina formally announced his gubernatorial candidacy on March 13. Pollina is very well known in Vermont and conceivably may be elected.

Pollina founded Rural Vermont in 1985, to work for a more favorable tax structure for farmers. In 1986 he successfully persuaded the legislature to label dairy products which used bovine growth hormone. In 1991 he became Policy Advisor to Independent Congressman Bernie Sanders. In 1996 he became Director of Vermont Public Interest Research Group (PIRG).

Although the Progressive Party elected candidates to the state legislature in the 1990’s, it had never run any statewide nominees until 2000, because it didn’t want it to be forced to nominate by primary (which would happen, once it polled 5% in any statewide race). However, the party changed its policy in 2000, and ran Pollina for Governor. He polled 9.59%. Despite that large share of the vote, Democratic nominee Howard Dean was re-elected.

In 2002 Pollina was the party’s candidate for Lieutenant Governor. This time he polled 24.76%. Not surprisingly, he “spoiled” the chances of the Democratic nominee, and the Republican nominee was elected with only 41.2% of the vote. This result increased interest in Instant-Runoff Voting in Vermont.

On March 17, the Burlington Free Press carried a letter to the editor from Philip Hoff, who had been elected Governor in 1962. The letter says, “For a long time I have felt that the Democratic and Progressive Parties should work together for the common good. In the absense of a viable Democratic candidate, it seems to me that the candidacy of Anthony Pollina offers such an opportunity.” Hoff, 83, is well-known in Vermont; he was the first Democratic Governor since 1854.

It is possible that Pollina will win the Democratic primary in September, with write-in votes (he cannot have his name printed on the Democratic primary ballot, since he will be running in the Progressive primary). If he wins the Democratic primary with write-in votes, he would then be free to withdraw as the Democratic nominee. That would leave the Democratic Party without a gubernatorial candidate. Or he could keep the Democratic nomination, and would then be listed on the November ballot as “Progressive, Democratic”. Some Progressive Party state legislators accept Democratic nominations; others do not. The party has six state legislators currently.

If Pollina is elected as a Progressive, he will be the first non-major party candidate to win a governorship since 1998, when the Reform Party elected Jesse Ventura Governor of Minnesota. Thanks to ThirdPartyWatch for news about the Hoff letter.