MONTPELIER – Sen. Anthony Pollina couldn’t sit idly by as members of the Vermont Democratic Party in a recent fundraising letter said Progressives were threatening health care reform through their work on the Legislative Apportionment Board.
Pollina is a long-time Progressive who is also a newly minted Democrat.
So Pollina fired off a letter of his own to Vermont Democratic Party executive director Jesse Bragg, pointing out that Progressives have long championed the kind of health care reform underway in Vermont and to suggest they were now threatening it was ludicrous.
“I find it absurd that the Democratic Party would accuse Progressives of undermining single payer health reforms as a fundraising tactic,” Pollina wrote in his letter, which was sent Monday night.
“You should know, for many, many years Progressives have had a clear, principled, unwavering commitment to single payer health care. Progressives have stood fast for single payer when leaders of the Democratic and Republican Parties have not,” he added.
Pollina’s letter to his newly adopted party was the latest missive fired in a spat between Democrats and Progressives over the work of the Legislative Apportionment Board, which is working to redraw voting districts based on the recent census.
The Republicans and Progressives on the board voted for a plan that makes a push for single-member districts, a move that could pit incumbent Democratic lawmakers against one another and was opposed by Democrats on the board.
In response, the Dems issued a fundraising letter that said the GOP and Progressive Party were threatening Democrats and thus their signature issue: health care reform.
“It’s likely you’ve heard about the Republican and Progressive Party’s joint effort to significantly alter Vermont’s existing State House and Senate districts,” the Democratic Party letter said.
The letter went on: “In order to ensure the success of single-payer healthcare, we must maintain our strong majorities and hold onto the Governor’s office in 2012.These redistricting tactics threaten the success of Governor Shumlin's healthcare plan and many other democratic efforts that we've all worked hard to advance."
The Progressive Party sent out its own fundraising letter in response, and shortly after came Pollina’s letter.
Pollina said he just had a gut response to the VDP letter – which he said was full of “misinformation” – and needed to respond.
“I felt on a personal was well as political level a need to respond,” said Pollina.
Alicia D’Alessandro, communications director for the VDP, said the party received Pollina’s letter and has reached out to the Washington County Senator to try to have a chat with him but hadn’t heard back as of Tuesday evening.
D’Alessandro said she didn’t want to prolong dispute.
“This is not a big party fight,” she said.
But as for who should get credit for the success so far of health care reform, it’s Dems all the way, she said.
“Let’s be frank here,” said D’Alessandro. “The Democrats passed single-payer and we are happy to have Progressives as our allies. But a Democratic majority in the House and Senate and Democratic governor got it done.”
Here’s Pollina’s letter in its entirety:
Vermont Democratic Party
I find it absurd that the Democratic Party would accuse Progressives of undermining single payer health reforms as a fundraising tactic. (Letter: Redistricting Tactics Threaten Healthcare Reform)
You should know, for many, many years Progressives have had a clear, principled, unwavering commitment to single payer health care. Progressives have stood fast for single payer when leaders of the Democratic and Republican Parties have not.
All of the Progressive members of the Legislature voted for the recently enacted health care reforms and played critical roles in shaping and advocating for the bill. The same cannot be said for all Democrats.
This suggests electing more Progressives and Progressive/ Democratic legislators would strengthen our health care reform, tax reform and job creation efforts.
In regards to the reapportionment board decision you referenced; a majority of the board did vote to emphasize single member districts. You may disagree with the vote, but single member districts are more democratic, allow a closer relationship between Legislators and citizens and mean candidates spend less money campaigning and have more time to talk to all their constituents.
You also know the reapportionment board only makes a recommendation. The real decision about the makeup of House districts will be made by members of the Legislature, a strong majority of Democrats and Progressives. Painting the board vote as political will only make the Legislature’s vote even more so, especially when it overturns the board’s recommendation and maintains the status quo.
I think it is important that we work together on important issues like health reform. Your fundraising letter creates divisions that are needless and counterproductive. Please rethink your strategy.
Anthony Pollina P/D/WF
Vermont State Senate
cc: Martha Abbott