In a second-floor office on Burlington’s College Street, the campaign of one well-known candidate has been toiling under the radar for months.
Of course Barack Obama didn’t have to sweat election-night results in Vermont, where voters in 2008 delivered him a more lopsided victory than anywhere but his home state of Hawaii. So why did Obama for America pour precious resources into a paid staffer and office rent here? It’s all about that swing state directly to our east.
“We want to make sure we have an apparatus in place to organize volunteers and get out the vote in places where it’s going to be closer,” Mike Czin, spokesman for Obama for America, said on Election Day.
According to Czin, Obama’s field organization here had nothing to with winning votes in Vermont and everything to do with getting out the vote in New Hampshire. On Tuesday, an army of Obama supporters from Vermont jumped the Connecticut River to execute a well-coordinated get-out-the-vote effort in the Granite State.
“We have a robust ground game across the state and what folks are working on in Vermont today, and have been working on for several months, is making sure President Obama gets elected,” Czin said. “And the best way to do that is to help make sure we get out the vote next door in the Granite State.”
Dotty Kyle was among the hundreds of Vermont volunteers devoting their energy to swaying electoral results in New Hampshire. The 76-year-old Obama supporter was holed up Tuesday in a makeshift phone bank set up in her hometown of Warren.
“I’m not physically going to New Hampshire, but I’m manning the phone bank all day long and am the dispatcher for the Valley Champs team,” Kyle said by phone.
The Valley Champs, as they call themselves, was a team of more than 100 Obama for America volunteers from Warren, Waitsfield, Fayston and Moretown, some of whom had been working on the re-election campaign since March. Other Obama teams organized elsewhere across the state.
Dan Mulligan, Vermont director for Obama for America, coordinated the effort from his office in Burlington. He referred interview requests to Czin.
When Kyle wasn’t phoning registered voters in New Hampshire, urging them to get out and vote, she coordinated the movements of the two two-person teams that the Valley Champs had on the ground canvassing in New Hampshire.
“We’re calling voters in New Hampshire from the call list we’ve been given by our headquarters to encourage people who have not yet gotten to the polls, to get the heck out there and do it,” Kyle said.
Kyle isn’t unfamiliar with the New Hampshire canvassing scene. She and some fellow Valley Champs did their first “road trip” on April 15 and had been banging on Granite State doors when they could ever since.
“We’re all strong supporters of President Obama and understand that his work is far from finished, and we want him to have a chance to finish it,” Kyle said.
Jack Lindley, chairman of the Vermont GOP and de facto point man for Romney for President in Vermont, said the Republican presidential candidate didn’t have any paid staff in Vermont. The campaign’s get-out-the-vote machine was focused chiefly, Lindley said, on the pro-Republican robo-calls that have been dialing Vermont households of late.
“We’ve got our Victory offices up and running and that’s how you get out your vote,” Lindley said. “That’s essentially our biggest contribution to the Romney campaign in Vermont, is the (five) Victory offices.”
Kyle credits Vermont’s small-pond politics for fueling the volunteer effort for Obama.
“I think that Vermonters are aware of their rights, their duties and their privileges as citizens because we’re so close to our own democratic process,” Kyle said. “We can buttonhole Peter Shumlin and have a conversation with him. Our elected officials from top to bottom are accessible, and it makes it easy for us to be involved and aware. And I feel sorry for people in more populated areas that don’t have that opportunity.”
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The state is proposing a new 10-point checklist that schools could administer to certain preschool children to see if they are eligible for federally funded special needs services.
Children under age 3 who might have a disability typically have verbal issues, and they already undergo a battery of evaluations to determine if they are eligible for federally funded services.
But many children who undergo evaluations by the state Agency of Human Services are ineligible for federal funding, said Alice Farrell, the state director of special education for the Vermont Department of Education.
The checklists would be much less time-consuming. The in-depth evaluations would then determine what specific services the eligible child should receive.
A public hearing on the issue will be held at 6 p.m. Dec. 13 at the Rutland High School Café B, which is a part of the cafeteria. The school is located at 22 Stratton Road.
People who encounter children in these age groups, from doctors and dentists to church and day care center staff, are encouraged to attend the event because they are often able to refer students for evaluations.
The rule change would align the state with federal standards. Comments on the proposal can be submitted by Dec. 20.
Farrell, the Education Department staffer, said schools will arrange for the screenings to be conducted. School staff may administer the screening, or they may choose to contract for those services with early-childhood providers in the area.
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