Carpet Bombing Bernie Sanders

Posted October 4, 2004 at 6:19pm

Greg Parke (R) hopes that Republican Gov. Jim Douglas’ victory signals a new start for the GOP in Vermont.

[IMGCAP(1)]Douglas’ 2002 win ended a dry spell for Republicans in the governor’s mansion that was interrupted by only one man, the late Gov. Richard Snelling (R), between 1970 and 2002.

While Republicans now control the statehouse, the Congressional delegation is made up of one Democrat and two Independents — one a former Republican, the other a Socialist.

Parke hopes the state’s liberal streak is waning and that Vermonters will reject self-described Socialist Rep. Bernie Sanders (I) and instead elect a conservative Republican to be their only House Member.

“Sanders is bad for America and bad for Vermont — he says one thing and does another,” the retired Air Force pilot charged. “He’s so far left, he thinks [Sen.] Hillary [Rodham] Clinton [D-N.Y.] is a conservative. He proudly wears the moniker of Socialist.”

Parke has been gunning for Sanders since 2002, when he lost the Republican nomination to William Meub, who was trounced by Sanders 64 percent to 32 percent in the general election.

Parke has raised a respectable amount of money — $363,000 — and has the backing of the party establishment, including Douglas.

However, his cash on hand was a meager $30,000 as of Aug. 25, compared with Sanders’ almost $700,000. And while Vermont is a tiny state, second only to Wyoming in smallest population, Parke still needs to raise his name identification.

So far, neither Sanders nor Parke has been on television despite the election being a mere four weeks away.

“We’re husbanding our resources and trying to hit him hard when everyone’s paying attention,” Parke explained.

Parke insists that he is Sanders’ most serious challenger in recent memory, pointing out that he has raised more money than Sanders’ previous three opponents combined.

He also believes that making Sanders’ Congressional voting record an issue is the key to success.

“Vermonters don’t realize how he really votes,” Parke said, adding that Sanders’ last challenger made headway when he “exposed” the Congressman’s voting patterns.

Sanders caucuses with Democrats in the House.

“As his record came out, voters began to abandon him,” Parke said.

Parke plans to use Sanders’ vote against repealing the District of Columbia’s gun laws against him — a tactic House leaders endorsed when they scheduled the controversial debate last week.

In a state where the motto is “Freedom and Unity,” there are no gun control laws and even Democrats are strong Second Amendment advocates if they want to win elections.

Although Sanders has voted against some gun control measures through the years, Parke warned, “I’m convinced he’d take away citizens’ gun rights in Vermont too. If he can do it [in D.C.] he can do it anywhere.”

The 50-year-old Air Force veteran thinks he can tap into the veteran and sportsmen communities to peel away enough of Sanders’ support to win. Veterans make up 14 percent of registered voters, Parke pointed out.

Parke never misses an opportunity to remind voters that he served in the military while Sanders did not.

His passionate conservatism is rooted in experience.

In addition to his tour in the Air Force, his current job seems to have hardened his Republican leaning as much as anything.

Parke is a charter pilot for Air Castle Corp. and has flown political, business and Hollywood celebrities.

“I’ve flown a lot of interesting people,” he says, ticking off names such as Sen. Clinton, former President George H.W. Bush, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) and former Democratic presidential hopeful Wesley Clark, a retired general.

Parke says there is a disconnect between what “people who purport to be champions of the little guy” say and how they act.

“Bush and Giuliani were very congenial, they came up to the cockpit and said ‘Hello,’” he said. But when he flew Hillary Clinton, “it was as if the hired help didn’t exist,” he said.

Parke says he will not give up on defeating Sanders, and if he does not win this time, he “absolutely” will run again.

“You have to keep hammering away,” he said. “Perseverance.”