MONTPELIER – Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott spent some time this week digging himself out of a rhetorical rut after suggesting Republicans were playing a larger role in the flood recovery effort than Vermonters affiliated with other parties.
Scott's comments, made at a Republican fundraiser in Rutland, were reported by True North Reports, the right-leaning news website founded by the former chairman of the Vermont Republican Party, Rob Roper.
Here's what Scott said, according to Roper's report in True North:
“We all need to work together to get this done. Having said that, however, we also need to put the right people in place to get the job done…. As I crisscrossed the state and witnessed recovery efforts, and saw the truck drivers, the equipment operators, the law enforcement personnel, the National Guard members, the municipal leaders… and it may have been my imagination, but I do believe most of them who were doing the work were Republicans.”
Scott concluded, “We’re the party of common sense. We are the doers. We’re the ones that get the work done…. Isn’t it ironic that with the majority of Vermonters declaring themselves Democrats, that Governor Shumlin would have to lean on Republicans like myself and Neale Lunderville to help steer the ship, to come up with common sense solutions during adversity to get things done.”
The lite guv, who has had a close working relationship with Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin – especially after the flooding caused by Irene – said he may have been singing a tune the party faithful assembled at the fundraiser wanted to hear.
“I was again at a Republican fundraiser and may have been playing to the crowd a bit,” Scott told the Vermont Press Bureau on Friday. “Unfortunately that was taken out and made it sound a lot worse then it was. For those who are offended, I didn't meant to offend them. I have a lot of friends who are Democrats that are up to their knees in debris and mud and cleaning up so I have no illusion that they aren't effected or aren't cleaning up.”
Scott's comments drew quick condemnation from Vermont Democratic Party chairman Jake Perkinson.
“Yes, Lieutenant Governor... it was your imagination,” Perkinson said in a news release. “Vermonters of all political persuasions have been working hard for weeks to put our state back together, and it’s sad that the Lt. Governor would choose to politicize this crisis.”
Scott said he didn't mean to suggest that Democrats were not working hard after Irene.
“I said it, but I didn't mean it the way it sounded, I guess,” Scott said. “In retrospect, it wasn't the best thing to say.”
His quotes were “taken out of context quite a bit,” Scott said. His larger point, he said, was that in a state where the Democrats hold the governor's office and huge majorities in the House and Senate, Republicans still have an important role to play.
He didn't blame True North, but said that in print, his offhand, joking tone didn't come through.
Scott has praised Shumlin for his flood response, and said he has exchanged voice mails with the governor this week about his comments and talked to Shumlin's staff.
The comments don't mark a new phase in his relationship with the governor or a new, more rigid, partisan stance, said Scott.
“I'm not going to let this little blip alter what has been a great working relationship so far,” Scott said.