Vt. Republican convention to host GOP notables, ‘Stop the Steal’ activist

Published: Nov. 14, 2023 at 6:10 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The Vermont Republican Party is selecting new party leaders this weekend at its annual convention. It comes as one speaker at the event with ties to the January 6th insurrection is raising questions about the party’s future.

“I think people will be there just because they’re interested in what’s happening with the party,” said Vermont GOP Chair Paul Dame.

Vermont GOP Chair Paul Dame says the aim is to bring in as many people into the process. He says this year, the party is also hosting several policy panels focused on housing, public safety, affordability, healthcare and more.

The convention will feature several speakers, including former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, tax reduction activist Grover Norquist, and Scott Presler. Presler, a conservative activist has worked in states like Florida and Louisiana to encourage Republicans to vote early and absentee, something some in the GOP base have been skeptical of.

“That’s an important part that Republicans need to embrace if we want to be competitive and win,” Dame said.

But his appearances haven’t been without controversy. Presler has come under fire from some for his support of the riot at the Capitol on January 6th, having organized so-called “stop the steal” rallies.

The Vermont Democratic Party condemned Presler’s appearance and said Governor Phil Scott has a responsibility to fix his party, saying “...the Vermont Republican Party has descended into conspiracy-mongering and this ‘honored speaker’ should be the last straw.”

Dame with the GOP said the goal of bringing in Presler is to encourage voter turnout.

“I don’t want to become one of those cynical people who do stunts just to get the attention,” he said. “I’m hoping that we can be consistent about doing good work and over time the right people will see what we’re doing and that it will catch on.”

Governor Scott has often been at odds with the Vermont GOP Party. He said he is not planning to attend the convention. “Every weekend I have been doing something with the flood recovery and this weekend is no exception,” he said Tuesday.

Republicans at the Statehouse control just 38 of 150 seats in the House and seven of 30 in the Senate. Scott, who polled as the most popular governor in the country, says he’ll be working on his own candidate recruitment efforts. “We’ll be working on some other events and trying to encourage people. I’ve said we need more centrists, common sense folks running for the Legislature, and I hope to encourage them to do so,” he said.

Dame says in the coming weeks he’ll also be ramping up recruitment of candidates of a similar political stripe as Scott. “We need to find candidates who can work with the governor, that are connected to their community, that are good representatives and after all, those things I think are core Republican values,” he said.

Vermont Democrats are also selecting their officers this weekend but will not hold their state convention until May.