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Folksy Senate Campaign in Vermont

October 15, 1998

GRANVILLE, Vt. (AP) _ It’s not your typical Senate campaign _ there was the Democrat helping the Republican answer some questions and the Republican saying he’d vote for his opponent. Then, the two shared milk and cookies.

Most campaigns don’t feature a retired dairy farmer/movie actor who ran only to protest another’s well-bankrolled candidacy _ and then won the GOP primary.

Sen. Patrick Leahy and his Republican opponent, 79-year-old Fred Tuttle, dined together in Tuttle’s Tunbridge farmhouse Tuesday night _ ``Probably the only place in the country where that might be taking place during an election year,″ Leahy said. On Wednesday, they made their first joint appearance, at Granville’s one-room schoolhouse.

TV cameras dotted the hardwood floor. Parents filled seats behind the school’s 27 pupils and the candidates sat in front of the chalk board, below a multiplication table and a map of the world, fielding questions about their pets, their farms and, occasionally, the Senate race.

``What does it feel like to be a senator?″ third-grader Rosely Johnson asked.

``We actually talked about that last night,″ Leahy said. ``I told Fred he wouldn’t enjoy it.

``You kind of agreed with me, didn’t you?″ Leahy asked Tuttle.

``Yeah,″ Tuttle said.

This is the Pat and Fred show, the campaign that’s not a contest, starring a Republican candidate who wants his opponent to win.

Tuttle got into the race this summer to promote his movie, ``Man with a Plan,″ a low-budget film his neighbor made about a dairy farmer who needs money so he runs for Congress and wins.

Tuttle also ran to protest the candidacy of Jack McMullen, a millionaire management consultant from Massachusetts who moved to Vermont last year and ran for Senate on the Republican ticket.

With filmmaker John O’Brien as his campaign manager, Tuttle, the man without an answering machine, waged a $200 campaign against McMullen, a man with $450,000 war chest and a Web site.

Tuttle beat McMullen in last month’s primary, winning 54 percent of the vote. He has capped his campaign spending for the general election at $251, $1 for each town in Vermont.

But, as he made clear again Wednesday, he doesn’t want to beat Leahy.

Next door in New York, Republican Sen. Alfonse D’Amato and Democratic Rep. Charles Schumer are fighting one of the tightest, nastiest and most expensive Senate races in the country, a race one pollster compared to a cafeteria food fight.

But in Vermont, the senatorial candidates signed autographs, bought tickets for the Granville Village School Ice Cream Raffle and exchanged compliments.

Leahy praised Tuttle for living a life as a farmer, for his close community ties and for his service in the Army during World War II. He gets his ribbing from other senators about his easy race, he said.

``But I tell them that Fred Tuttle is what’s very special about Vermont.″

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