U.S. Senate candidate Richard Tarrant announced on his campaign Web site and in an e-mail to supporters that when Sen. John McCain makes his first visit to Vermont in six years on Saturday, Tarrant will be campaigning with him. Tarrant is running against independent Rep. Bernard Sanders for the Senate seat being left open by the retirement of Sen. James Jeffords.
However, a McCain aide said his boss' 90-minute visit to Rutland is to be devoted completely to boosting the campaign of Martha Rainville, a Republican candidate for the House of Representatives.
Michael Dennehy, a senior strategist with McCain's Straight Talk America, said Tarrant had not sought permission before e-mailing his supporters that "Rich Tarrant will campaign with Senator John McCain on Saturday," and putting a notice about his "Town Hall with Senator John McCain" on his Web site.
"I know that he (McCain) wouldn't be in favor of it," Dennehy said. "He's coming to Vermont to campaign for Martha Rainville. It's terribly confusing as to why the Tarrant campaign would suggest otherwise."
Tarrant campaign manager Tim Lennon said there was no attempt to confuse voters or to claim that McCain would be lending his support to Tarrant.
"There's no misunderstanding that the event is meant to help Martha," Lennon said. "We send out an e-mail every week, and having somebody of John McCain's stature coming up to Vermont is a good thing for Vermont. We wanted to let our people know that he's going to be there."
Tarrant's e-mail didn't mention Rainville at all, but Lennon said that was because doing so would have been an in-kind contribution to her campaign and would have violated federal election rules.
McCain, reported to be considering a 2008 presidential bid, has been traveling the country, stumping for Republican congressional candidates in the 2006 election. "This is the first time something like this has ever happened to us," Dennehy said.
Rainville spokesman Brendan McKenna said he hoped Tarrant's apparent faux pas wouldn't cloud Saturday's event.
"I don't know what the McCain folks said to Tarrant, but, from our point of view, we are just looking forward to a great event," he said. "We couldn't be more excited that John McCain is coming here."
Also, the Washington Post reports that Gov. John Huntsman, R-Utah, has agreed to serve as a co-chairman of Straight Talk America and will help coordinate politics and policy for McCain in Western states.