Year in Review: Politics - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Year in Review: Politics

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2012 started with money -- Governor Shumlin proposed the states first $5 billion dollar budget.

The Governor got most of what he wanted from the Democratically controlled legislature, from rebuilding the Waterbury office complex, to health care, to holding the line on taxes. And the education commissioner will now become a secretary -- controlled no longer by the education board -- instead -- answering directly to the Governor.

Burlington elected a new Mayor, Miro Weinberger.  The political newcomer won, pledging a fresh start, beating better known candidates -- putting a Democrat in charge of City Hall for the first time in three decades. "Whether you voted today for Kurt or Wanda or for me, let's come together now, tonight as one community," Weinberger said.

But the state could not come together with FEMA. The Shumlin administration and FEMA had a miscommunication over rebuilding after Irene damaged the state office complex Waterbury.  The two are still negotiating and it's unclear how much the state will have to pay. "We have to prepare for a long, sometimes bumpy, sometimes happy ride with FEMA," Shumlin said.

The funding flap opened the door for criticism from Republican Gubernatorial candidate Randy Brock. "We should have had contingency plans in place and we didn't," Brock said. Brock also brought up Shumlin's vacations and overtime troubles in state government, but nothing resonated with voters. Governor Shumlin easily won re-election.

And on election night Democrats won up and down the ballot.  The only Republican elected statewide is Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott.  Many in the GOP say they need to rebuild or lose all relevance.  "It's a bittersweet moment watching some of the other races, legislative and state wide, that worked so hard but weren't successful," Scott said.

While Democrats rule in Vermont, women do not.  There was only one woman elected statewide -- Treasurer Beth Pearce.  A sharp contrast to New Hampshire where Granite State voters made history, electing the first all-woman delegation.  "I think it's really cool," observed former Vt. House Speaker Gaye Symington.  "I'm a little bit jealous."

This election there were some new players trying to influence Vermonters votes -- Super PACs.  The groups can raise and spend as much as they want as long as the don't coordinate with campaigns.  A group made T. V. ads for Bill Sorrell late in his close primary battle against T.J. Donovan, lifting Sorrell to victory.  But in the general election a conservative Super PAC spent almost a million dollars but had little influence on the outcome.  

And the year ended with a debate over gun control.  Governor Shumlin said change should happen in Washington. Senator Sanders and Congressman Welch are open to an assault weapons ban. Senator Leahy will lead those hearings as Chair of the Judiciary Committee.

With the serious side of politics, there came also some silliness.  Who can forget Governor Shumlin's bear story? "The biggest bear is a long distance away -- starts tearing for the porch as I am grabbing the other two feeders, so I grab them and tear for the porch door and literally it was seven feet from the door when I slammed it shut.  I thought, that bear is coming right through," Shumlin said.

A crazy tale. But the Governor even revealed more about the middle of the night run. "Lets just put it this way," Shumlin said. "Real Vermont boys don't wear pajamas, so the bear was better dressed than me."

Baring it all and proving in politics -- it's tough to predict what we'll be talking about next year.

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