Successful Vermont medical-software gazillionaire Richard Tarrant of IDX fame put an end to any remaining speculation about his U.S. Senate bid last week, telling Ch. 5's Stewart Ledbetter that he is, beyond any shadow of a doubt, a candidate.
Mr. Tarrant, who recently sold the medical software colossus he cofounded to General Electric, was even more clear about his Senate ambitions this week when he sat down for an "Inside Track" interview.
Richie explained his surprise "official" declaration of candidacy in the Ch. 5 interview by saying, "[Ledbetter] asked me a question, and as you know, I'm so damn honest, I answer every question. I think it just came out."
Richie Rich happily discussed issues ranging from George W. Bush and the Iraq war to what he thinks he can contribute as a U.S. senator. But Tarrant also bobbed and weaved like the high-scoring St. Michael's basketball player he once was when the questions turned to abortion.
Asked if he is pro-choice, Tarrant replied, "My position on that is, we have got to reduce abortions to virtually zero. I've got two adopted daughters, as you may or may not know. I think parental notification, adoption, education is necessary to get abortions reduced to virtually zero."
We politely suggested he hadn't directly answered the question about being pro-choice or pro-life.
"I'm not going to get labeled," answered Mr. So Damn Honest. "I'm not going to Washington and get labeled. Once you get labeled, you're marginalized and pushed into a corner and nobody listens to you."
When we tried a third time, Tarrant's campaign manger Tim Lennon (no relation to John), interrupted and changed the subject. It was a bit of a surprise, since our understanding was that Tarrant had previously expressed support for Roe v. Wade, calling it "the law of the land."
In fact, after our interview, Lennon emailed us to note that his boss had left out that line when asked about the abortion issue. Lennon informed us Tarrant usually states, "As John Roberts says, the law on this issue is settled and must be respected."
So, Rich Tarrant, the wealthy, wannabe U.S. senator from Vermont, does support a woman's right to choose, right?
According to a 2003 IRS tax filing obtained after the interview and just before deadline, Mr. Tarrant expresses vehement opposition to safe, legal abortion, and also discloses a personal distaste for anything that carries a "progressive" label.
The 23-page Form 990-PF was filed on behalf of the Richard E. Tarrant Foundation Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit funded by more than $2 million worth of IDX stock. According to the Tarrant IRS Form, "qualified organizations must provide valuable community services" to receive a grant.
However, Mr. Tarrant goes out of his way to make it perfectly clear that not one red cent of his foundation's money will go to an organization that either supports abortion rights or has a "progressive" political agenda.
On page 21, Mr. Tarrant lists the "Restrictions or Limitations" on Tarrant Foundation awards.
Among the restrictions was this rather direct statement: "No qualified organization may be a proponent of Free Choice as it relates to abortion."
Apparently Candidate Tarrant's public pronouncements on a woman's right to choose being "settled" law that "must be respected," are at odds with the statements Richie made to the IRS.
Also on the Tarrant IRS blacklist for foundation grants are "organizations which adopt or support a socialist political platform or 'progressive' socialist-type agenda."
Whoa, Richie! Didn't know you were hoping to follow in the footsteps of Wisconsin's legend from the 1950s -- U.S. Sen. Joe McCarthy!
As the late Edward R. Murrow would say, "Mr. Tarrant, goodnight and good luck!"
Tarrant on the War -- The GOP Senate hopeful had some surprising answers when asked about the U.S. foreign policy disaster known as George W. Bush's Iraq war.
"On some things I disagree with Bush," Tarrant told us. "I'm not crazy with the way the war is going. I think we've done a good job in getting rid of a dictator, clearly we've had elections and now a constitution with Sunni participation. I think that's pretty successful, and I think it's time to wrap it up and start getting out. We've done a great job over there."
Was President Bush honest about the reasons for going to war?
"No way I could know what intelligence he had or didn't have," replied Richie. "I can't judge what happened back then."
Will the war be a significant issue in the campaign?
"If the race were tomorrow," answered Tarrant, "it would be. If we get out quickly, which I hope we do, it probably will be less of an issue."
Do you really think we'll get out quickly?
"That's what I'd prefer," said the U.S. Senate hopeful. "I'd love to see it. I'm not saying cut and run, but, damn it, we've been successful. We got rid of a dictator. We got an election. Now we've got a constitution. We'll clearly have another election in December. I don't want to use George Aiken's quote about Vietnam, but the fact of the matter is, we have been successful over there in terms of getting things done. Now let's get out. Civil wars are not something we should be involved in."
Sounds like this Republican Senate hopeful does not want to follow the White House's directive to "stay the course."
Sanders Reaction -- News of Tarrant's declaration brought a quick response from the front-runner, Independent Rep. Bernie Sanders. As you know, Sanders is one of those guys with the "socialist political platforms" Tarrant detests.
On Friday, Sanders' website -- http://www.bernie.org  -- featured a downloadable audio response to his Republican challenger.
"The latest news from the campaign is that we now officially have an opponent," says Ol' Bernardo in the two-minute recording. "His name is Richard Tarrant and, surprise, surprise, he is the wealthiest person in the state of Vermont, worth, we believe, several hundred million dollars!"
Sanders goes on to note Richie's $550,000 personal campaign contribution to get things started, and claims his opponent is prepared to increase that contribution to $5 million.
"The basic issues of this campaign are pretty simple," says Sanders the Socialist. "We now have the most reactionary administration and congressional leadership in the modern history of the United States of America. George W. Bush, Tom DeLay and Bill Frist are right-wing extremists protecting the rich and powerful and turning their backs on ordinary Americans.
"If I have anything to say about it, and I most certainly do," Sanders continues, "Vermont is not going to send to the U.S. Senate a supporter of this right-wing, extremist agenda!"
Where's Dubie? -- Republican Lite-Gov Brian Dubie surprised many by reporting zero campaign contributions to his recently formed U.S. Senate "exploratory committee." No doubt, many Tarrant supporters suspect it may be a sign Doobie-Doo isn't really serious about a Senate campaign.
But observers note Brian had just formed his committee a couple weeks ago. They also say there are signs the Doobster and his team are getting serious about mapping out a game plan for a Senate bid. Dubie may be relatively popular, but a GOP primary against an opponent with more money than God is not something to be taken lightly.
Gen. Stonewall? -- Vermont National Guard Adjutant Gen. Martha Rainville appeared Friday on former GOP State Rep. Mike Quaid's cable TV show on Ch. 17, "Ideas Have Consequences."
The general, who recently formed her own exploratory committee for the 2006 U.S. House race, appeared in civvies. Marvelous Martha, in fact, looked great in red as she fielded callers' questions.
Unfortunately, she surprised the host and many viewers by declining to answer most of them. The first caller asked if Martha was pro-choice or pro-life.
"Well, I'd be happy to talk with you privately," answered the General. "I'm not a candidate. I've set up an exploratory committee, so I am being careful. I am not discussing specific views on topics that might have a political tone . . . If the time comes when I announce as a candidate, I will certainly be laying out my stand on issues such as pro-life and pro-choice so people will clearly know where I stand. Until then, I'm speaking with people privately, one-on-one, in discussing things that concern them most."
Why appear on a political call-in show if you don't want to answer political questions?
Another caller asked if she'll stay in her National Guard position while running for the U.S. House.
"Part of what I'm doing during this exploratory phase," answered Gen. Stonewall, "is considering what the options are so that I can be sure the focus is in the right place -- that if I'm a candidate, my focus is on answering Vermonters and talking with Vermonters and running in a manner that they know clearly who they're voting for, and also know that the Guard, which is my responsibility, is taken care of. What that means right now, I really can't answer."
Well, that's perfectly clear, eh?
P.S. The National Guard scuttlebutt we're hearing indicates Martha will indeed step down to run for the House, and Michael Dubie, Brian's brother, will get the general's job.
Name That Frog -- The photo above was distributed last Friday by Carolyn Dwyer, campaign manager for Democrat Peter Welch's congressional campaign. It was a response to a description of Welch given by the GOP state chairman when asked by a reporter about Welch's FEC report showing he'd raised $270,000.
Meanwhile, GOP hopeful Martha Rainville reported just $7350 in her campaign kitty.
Under the heading "It Ain't Easy Being Green," Dwyer wrote, "Jim Barnett, Governor Douglas' handpicked chairman of the Vermont Republican Party, called Peter Welch -- who has spent the last 30 years in the private sector -- 'a career politician.'
"Turns out," continued Dwyer, "Barnett is the political toady for Governor Douglas, who began running for public office at the age of 21, whose only break from politics was after losing a U.S. Senate race, and who has never held a real job in the private sector. It's kinda like being called ugly by this guy (see photo above):
"It is flattering," said Mad Dog, "that the Welch campaign apparently views me as a threat. Nevertheless," he added, "it's a bit juvenile."
New Chairman -- "Inside Track" has learned that State Democratic Party Chairman Peter Mallary will be leaving the post next month. Mallary replaced Scudder Parker as party chairman last December. Scudder was a lobbyist for Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility during the legislative session and is currently focusing on his race for governor.
Chairman Mallary's term expires in November. He will not seek re-election. The Democratic State Committee will choose his successor.
P.S. Also on the Democratic Party front, openly gay U.S. Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts will be the headliner at a Burlington fundraiser this Friday, 6-8 p.m. at Lake and College on the Waterfront. Suggested donation: $40.
According to openly gay Vermont State Rep. Jason Lorber, it's the first fundraiser hosted by the local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community to benefit the House Democratic Campaign for Statehouse races in 2006.
Media Notes -- WPTZ-TV sports reporter/anchor Dionne Miller, she of the big, wide smile that fills the screen, has landed a new job in a much bigger market!
Dionne bid farewell to viewers last Saturday and will do her next sports report on Fox6 in San Diego, California. Miller has been at our local Hearst-Argyle-owned station since 2003.
"We're sad she's leaving," said News Director Kyle Grimes, "but confident that she will do great in San Diego. It was great to have her around our newsroom."
Correction -- Last week we misspelled James Dobson's name and gave Senate GOP leader Bill Frist his brother's first name. Mea culpa.