MONTPELIER — Political allies of Republican Randy Brock, the former state senator and auditor, are making an overt pitch for him to again challenge Gov. Peter Shumlin.
Brock, who served one term as state auditor and two terms as a state senator from Franklin County, pulled 38 percent of the vote against Shumlin in 2012. In that race Brock announced his candidacy about 11 months before the election.
With about five months left before the November election, Brock says he is again thinking of running.
“My decision-making process is moving along toward the end, and I will have arrived at a decision very shortly,” he said Wednesday. “This is a process, and I’m going about it in a very deliberate way, and once that process is concluded, which involves lots of things, talking to lots of people, I’ll make a decision.”
Brock acknowledged the deadline of June 12 to file with the secretary of state as a candidate. He also said a campaign will need to launch soon to be effective.
“There’s also the whole issue of getting a campaign out and running,” Brock said. “But at this stage, most Vermonters are not interested in the November election. The only people that are interested in the November election are reporters who write about the November election.”
His close political allies, meanwhile, may already be laying the groundwork and gauging support. Former state GOP Chairman Jack Lindley wrote a recent letter trying to debunk the conventional wisdom that Shumlin cannot be beaten.
“Those who think a rematch between Brock and Shumlin cannot produce a different outcome than 2012 should consider a variety of factors, not the least of which is the electoral math of a nonpresidential year and the administrative mess that has become the Shumlin administration’s hallmark affecting more Vermonters each day,” Lindley wrote.
He said a rematch could be a dead heat because there is no presidential or U.S. Senate race for voters to weigh in on. He also noted Shumlin’s steep drop in job approval, with just under 50 percent of Vermonters approving in a recent poll.
Lindley’s letter was distributed by Darcie Johnston, Brock’s former campaign manager and founder of Vermonters for Health Care Freedom, which has opposed Shumlin’s health care reform initiatives. She said Brock approved of the letter.
“I think that we wanted to … get people mobilized and thinking about a ‘Brock for Governor’ campaign and see if there was the energy and commitment there, which there seems to be,” Johnston said.
Brock said he was aware of the letter but did not ask Lindley or Johnston, who has been touting Brock on Twitter, to write it.
“I think I’ve got a lot of great supporters. Whatever has been done has been done not at my request at all,” he said. “I appreciate the fact that there are lots of loyal supporters from the past campaign and also some new ones who have surfaced and asked me to run, and that’s why I’m seriously considering it.”
Scott Milne, president of Milne Travel, is also considering a bid. The GOP could see a primary if both Brock and Milne decide to run, which Milne said could energize the party.
Johnston strongly disagrees.
“A primary is absolutely not helpful. It will stall the one thing that the Republican Party and candidate needs, which is money,” she said. “Randy Brock doesn’t need the campaign to get up to speed on the issues or to know how to prosecute Gov. Shumlin, or to figure out what his positions are.”
Johnston, who is working on a gubernatorial campaign in Arizona, said her involvement at this stage is as “a volunteer and supporter.” She is not looking to again manage a Brock campaign.
“If Randy personally asked me, and that’s what he really wanted, I would consider it, but my dance card is pretty full at the moment,” she said.
Brock said he has had discussions with the Republican Governors Association and other groups about his potential candidacy. He said those discussions won’t play a large role in his deliberation, and he downplayed the need for support from outside groups.
“The RGA, and what it and organizations like it do, sometimes they’re a help and sometimes they may not be. Things like that are independent expenditures of which a candidate has no control and no input into,” Brock said. “There’s a very defined line there, and I’ve seen organizations that have come in … and with their expenditures have actually harmed a campaign rather than help it.”
Should he run, Brock said he is not likely to contribute his own money to the campaign. In 2012, he spent about $300,000 of his own money in the losing effort, about the same amount he raised from individual donors.
“I think a campaign has to be funded in the conventional way, and that is I think Vermonters want to see broad support from a wide segment of folks to support a campaign, rather than a candidate paying for a campaign out of pocket,” he said.
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