We had hoped for better. We had hoped the lieutenant governor campaign between Republican Scott Milne and Democrat Molly Gray would be civil, thoughtful and focused on the issues important to Vermonters. We had hoped we would not see the hypocrisy here that we are being exposed to nationally.
That hope was dashed last Thursday in the first face-to-face debate of the campaign. Mr. Milne went on the attack casting doubt on Ms. Gray’s suitability for office because of her failure to vote in three election cycles.
The Milne campaign has picked Ms. Gray’s voting record as her Achilles’ heel, unable to find much else. The Republican State Leadership Committee has reportedly targeted the Milne campaign in need of its support with an estimated $90,000 media buy beginning this week. The odds seem sadly predictable that the media blitz will reinforce Mr. Milne’s questions regarding Ms. Gray’s voting record.
Here’s the problem: In doing so Mr. Milne unveils himself as a hypocrite. His voting record is not much better; in fact, it could be far worse. Voting records for Mr. Milne show that he has missed anywhere from four to seven votes in statewide election since 2008, depending on the source. Those missed votes would have reflected choices he made between the ages of 49 and 61, his current age. During the time in question he was middle-aged, nearing retirement, an age when people typically vote with the greatest regularity. Ms. Gray, in contrast, was 24 in 2008.
What was Mr. Milne’s voting record when he was in his 20s? Or 30s? If he missed seven [or four] statewide votes in middle age, would it surprise anyone that he would have missed even more votes in his 20s and 30s?
No. If he is true to his claim of full transparency, he should make those records public.
And, contrary to Mr. Milne’s claim that he has a “consistent” record of voting whereas Ms. Gray does not, that’s obviously not true. Missing a single statewide vote over such a short period of time disqualifies one as has having a “consistent” record of voting. That’s like saying he consistently had A’s on his report card, except for that F in civics. Missing seven statewide votes makes the claim of “consistent” as ridiculous as it is hypocritical.
Mr. Milne also puts himself at risk of being asked the obvious: He’s questioning choices Ms. Gray made in her 20s, which means it’s fair to ask what he was doing in his 20s and how they compare. As Mr. Milne has acknowledged it was during his college years that he was arrested twice for driving while intoxicated and once for possession of pot and cocaine. To his credit, he called his mistakes “powerful life lessons.” In her 20s, Ms. Gray was going to law school, traveling the globe focused on international humanitarian law and working on the Washington staff of Rep. Peter Welch. Those, too, were “powerful life lessons.”
Mr. Milne should be careful in asking Vermonters to draw apples-to-apples comparisons.
What’s discouraging about Mr. Milne’s decision to have this discussion at all is that it’s irrelevant to how either would serve Vermont as the next lieutenant governor. Neither the earth nor heaven trembled with the “news” of either candidate’s voting record. It’s a non-issue to most Vermonters. In fact, most Vermonters are chagrined at the thought that of all the issues facing us, and they are legion, Mr. Milne is talking about whether or not someone showed up at the polls … whenever.
So, from Vermonters to the Milne campaign: Take it up a notch.
by Emerson Lynn