MONTPELIER, Vt. -- Craig Averill likes to stump flatlanders.
The native Vermonter will ask self-proclaimed Vermonters the difference between a hedgehog and a porcupine. If they don't say they're the same thing, he knows they are from outside the Green Mountain state.
But the 'flatlanders' nowadays run Vermont, with a governor who was born in Switzerland and a state legislature run by people born elsewhere in New England.
For the first time ever, Democrats control the governor's office, the Senate and the House speaker's chair. The era of Calvin Coolidge and GOP dominance is long gone.
Averill, who manages a Rutland appliance store, says out-of-staters have 'busted Vermont wide open like a watermelon on a hot tin roof,' turning junk into 'antiques' and homes into 'investments.'
'Anyone who has lived in Vermont for less than 20 years can hardly conceive of what Vermont was and what Vermont is,' he complained.
Not so, maintains House Speaker Ralph Wright, a Boston native who says out-of-staters have been unnecessarily harassed.
'That used to get me so annoyed,' said Wright. 'When I first ran for the Legislature, my opponents would always put on their leaflets 'native Vermonter.' That's not what this country is all about.
'I came up here in the first vanguard of people discovering Vermont,' said Wright, who in the early 1960s was offered a job teaching high school in the state. 'Being Irish and from Boston, I put up with a lot, but I never regretted it.'
Census figures show 43 percent of Vermont's year-round population of 518,000 was born out of state. The number of out-of-staters grows even higher when those with second homes in Vermont are included. Many second homes are condominiums at ski resorts, purchased for both tax shelter and recreation.
'The flatlanders are taking over,' said Rep. Robert Kinsey, a GOP lawmaker from Orleans who narrowly lost the speakership to Wright last year. 'They're more wealthy, more aggressive, and have time because of their wealth to take over the government. They've frozen out the natives.'
The Vermont Senate has a Democratic majority, and the House of Representatives, while still narrowly controlled by Republicans, elected Democrat Wright as speaker last year.
Gov. Madeline Kunin, elected in 1984, is only the third Democratic governor in the state's history, and she has brought a host of liberal reforms, particularly in education.
The division between old politics and new was reflected in a controversial recent article in Ski magazine that said, 'Gov. Kunin - Democrat, immigrant, female and Jewish -- was elected in 1984 in a state historically not overwhelmingly fond of any of the above.'
But her popularity is growing, and thus far the GOP has been unable to find a candidate to challenge her later this year as she seeks a second two-year term.
The state, one of only two (along with Maine) to vote for the GOP's Alf Landon over Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936, has turned into a breeding ground for progressive politics, particularly environmental legislation.
Kinsey notes that every statewide elected official, excepting the auditor of accounts, is from out of state. He says even the three leading Republicans in the Legislature were born in other New England states.
The Vermont landscape is also changing. Rustic hills once graced by farms are now dotted with rows of condominiums, and high-priced foreign cars with out-of-state license plates contribute to massive traffic jams during the ski and foliage-watching seasons.
Averill says the newcomers look down on the natives.
'I used to work at Killington ski area when I was going to school,' he said. 'The skiers would just treat the natives like dirt, like they didn't exist.'
And the conflict has spilled over into local newspapers, where it is now commonplace for people writing letters to the editor to sign 'native Vermonter' below their names.