Vt. Republicans Consider Future Following Big Losses On Election Night

11/08/12 7:34AM By Bob Kinzel
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AP/Toby Talbot
Republican candidate for governor Randy Brock shakes a voter's hand at the polling place in South Burlington. Brock, along with many Republican candidates, lost on election night.

Many political observers felt the GOP candidate for Auditor, state senator Vince Illuzzi, had a good chance of winning his race. But in the end he lost to Democrat Doug Hoffer.  Illuzzi said having an "R" next to his name turned out to be a liability.

"As I campaigned this summer I had to spend a lot of time distinguishing myself from the national Republican ticket," said Illuzzi. "And unless you follow politic is very closely you tend to assume that the Vermont Republicans are like the national Republicans which by no stretch of the imagination are we."

The lone statewide Republican to win was incumbent Lt. Governor Phil Scott and he bluntly addressed the future of his Party in his acceptance speech.

"It's not easy being a Republican here in this state, even a moderate like myself," said Scott. "There are some who imply that the Vermont Republican Party has become irrelevant but tonight first and foremost I need to say this, it's a democracy every single voice is important and no voice, no voice is irrelevant."

Middlebury College retired political science professor Eric Davis says the demographics of the state are working against the Republicans.

"If you look at the counties where close to half of Vermont's population lives, Chittenden, Washington, Windsor and Windham, the Republicans were wiped out."

And Davis says Republican leaders need to reflect on the future of their Party.

"So the Republicans really need to figure out where they're going from here and a hard right conservative oriented strategy such as was pursued by Randy Brock and advocated by Vermonters First that strategy's not going to be successful."

Jack Lindley is the chairman of the Vermont Republican Party. He says the Party "has nowhere to go but up."

"We have a great opportunity in front of us. Part of politics is you know sometimes when you get kicked in the shins and are going land on the ground," said Lindley. "But you've got to pick yourself up and dust yourself off and move forward and we're kind of in that position where we're trying to get that accomplished right now."

A GOP SuperPAC known as Vermonters First, spent roughly a million dollars on the Treasurer's race and 40 House districts.  Lindley says the group has little to show for their spending and thinks SuperPACS weaken the organizational structure of the State Parties.

"I think the analysis clearly shows that their impact was at the margins and that leaves the responsibility of the Party to be the vehicle and the instrument to move forward the political operations in the state of Vermont."

Former Republican Governor Jim Douglas was elected to four terms while Vermonters were also voting for many national and state Democratic candidates. He thinks the Party faces several challenges.

"I think sometimes there's a situation where people don't feel good about recent success and so it becomes harder to recruit good candidates to run because they don't think they're likely to succeed," said Douglas. "So I don't know there are lots of different ways to look at it I'm not sure ideology is the whole story."

Douglas says he's convinced that the Republican Party will make a comeback in Vermont and he thinks Lt. Governor Phil Scott will help lead the way.

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