October 3rd, 2009

The 2010 Senate Campaign Kick-Off: The Film Tells a Brilliant Story of Brave Souls, Serious Conversation, and More Cake

by Philip Baruth

Suffice it to say that the kick-off Tuesday night was a great success. But suffice it also to say that it was exhausting, and VDB has been resting and recharging for the last three days. Coincidentally, that’s roughly the same amount of time it’s taken for the photos to roll in, photos taken by our expert photographer Kathy FitzGerald. It was an event heavy on family and friends and long-time supporters who feel like family. Some of the best people in the County.

So let’s take this family reunion style, and use just captions, except for the odd bit of narration here or there. Emphasis, I’m afraid, on odd. To the film.

All of you know very well that a crack campaign event depends upon the split-second timing and steel nerves of highly trained campaign operatives. We had the best on hand, and that made all the difference.

Selene Hofer-Shall keeps it Real and on schedule.

Jake Perkinson interfaces seamlessly with blackberrying political Heavies in the crowd.

Service Politics guru Sarah Suscinski and intern Chris St. Martin push decade-old novels on reluctant readers.

But it became very clear very quickly that this was a wonderful, upbeat crowd: politically active, enthusiastic, optimistic, and possessed of some of the biggest smiles in the County. Just wonderful folks, if you had to put it in a nutshell. And of course, I do.

UVM English Dept. types: Major Jackson, Angela Patten, me, my wife Annika, Richard Parent, and Jenny Sisk.

Swedes and Americans married to Swedes: that crucial voting bloc without which no candidate can hope to succeed — Marie, Peter, Bella and Richie.

State Senator Ginny Lyons.

Current Side Judge hopeful Charles Delaney, and VDB Wingman Don Shall.

Jim DeFilippi, the campaign’s man in Winooski, discusses a potential “Bonnie Situation” with VDB.

Chuck Seleen and Peter Lorraine.

The well-read Michael Taney, left.

Didier Delmas and Tony Magistrale.

Burlington Rep. Keesha Ram chats with Attorney General Bill Sorrell.

The campaign’s youngest web designer, Morgante Pell, his mother Andrea Morgante, and Gregg Meyer, our Hinesburg-based Treasurer.

Symmetrical power trio: Laurie Caswell-Burke, Ann Donahue and Annika.

Star Freshman Rep. Suzi Wizowaty with T.J., and nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen in background.

Sam Osborne and Green Mountain Daily’s John Odum, in heated political discussion.

Essential campaign aide Lynn Mesick handles an unruly crowd of urchins maddened by the scent of chocolate.

Vermont ACLU President Allen Gilbert talks shop with Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan.

Charlotte EMT John Howe, left, and Andrew Barnaby, right.

The extremely elegant and stylish pairing of Mary Louise Kete and actress Kathy Blume.

But of course at a certain point the light chit-chat had to cease, in order for the Heavy Speeches to be delivered. Now, in most gatherings of this sort, where the speechifying gets heavy and ponderous, I like to think of myself as a little welcome comic relief. But Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan decided to beat me to the punch: he killed, as they say in the Poconos. Very funny. And not only that, he then shifted gears and put his finger on 5 or 6 of the most pressing political issues in the state.

It was masterful, in short, and you’d think that would be a good thing, since the guy was endorsing my candidacy. But that also left me to follow him. Which proved effectively impossible. Still, I had to do something.

I was, after all, the Candidate.

So I did the only thing I could: I launched into a horrific, stem-winding, Alec-Baldwin-level bloviation, which lasted what felt like several hours. I gave it everything I had, and a whole lot that I didn’t.

But again, these were family and friends and warm supporters, and there seemed to be a tacit agreement that whatever I said, no matter how rough or ill-considered or beyond the pale, everyone was to act as though it all made perfect sense, as though I’d acquitted myself with a modicum of honor and grace.

Essex organizer Matt Breuer gamely joins the rest of the audience in feigning approval and support.

But of course, no one pretended more perfectly than my mother, Diane Fountain, who drove five hours to be in the audience and who maintains, right up to this morning, that it wasn’t a half-bad speech.

And that’s why you have a kick-off, after all: to draw together those people in the world who don’t expect that you be perfect, only that you seek perfection. And no one sought perfection longer and harder than our campaign staff in putting this event together.

Many, many thanks to all of them for their tireless work, and deep gratitude to those who made it down to Nectar’s, when the deal went down. And final thanks, again, to Kathy FitzGerald for capturing this campaign on film (and to the excellent Don Shall, for the final shot below).

More soon.