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Republicans Debate In Advance Of Gubernatorial Primary

WAMC/Pat Bradley

Vermont Public Radio hosted a debate this afternoon between the three Republicans squaring off in next Tuesday’s gubernatorial primary.

Three of the four candidates seeking the Republican nomination for governor debated live on Vermont Public Radio’s Vermont Edition.
The primary to choose between Republicans Scott Milne, Emily Peyton and Steve Berry and Libertarian Dan Feliciano is Tuesday.

As the program began, host Bob Kinzell explained that Libertarian Feliciano, who is urging Republican voters to write in his name during the primary, had asked to be included. Kinzell explained why VPR refused.  “The three candidates sitting here today all followed the official procedure to get on the Republican ballot. They got at least 500 signatures on their petitions. Mr. Feliciano told us that he attempted to get those 500 signatures, but he was unable to do that in the time that he had. And just to be clear, if he had gotten those signatures, he’d be joining us today because this is a debate for all Republican gubernatorial candidates.”

The format had host Kinzell pose questions for one-third of the program. Candidates were then allowed to ask each other questions. The last segment featured questions that had been sent by listeners by Facebook or e-mail.

The debate began with a discussion of health care and incumbent Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin’s desire to create a single-payer system in Vermont. Steve Barry said all people need to do is look at the problems at the VA to predict how single-payer would play out in the state. Scott Milne has been criticized for calling himself “agnostic” over the issue. “For folks that are ideologically true believers that single payer is the be-all, end-all and is going to fix things for us they’ve gotten a really bad deal from the Shumlin administration’s management of the implementation of the health care exchange. Folks on the other end of the spectrum I believe are fighting this ideological battle within the Republican party when my campaign is really built on finding practical solutions for the problem. So what I’ve said is we’ve got a governor who has had three terms to come up with how we’re going to pay for this system and how it’s going to work and he’s been unable to do that. We’re working very hard to have a system in place that’s going to provide accessibility to health care for Vermonters and not chase doctors out-of-state.”

A key component of Emily Peyton’s platform is the green economy and energy. She focused on that when she posed a question to candidate Scott Milne.  “Why aren’t Republicans interested in getting off of fossil fuels when our future depends on it?” Milne responded: “I would disagree with the premise that Republicans aren’t interested in climate change solutions and getting of fossil fuels. I think there’s serious questions about energy policy. I agree with the goals. I agree that we need to do things. But I don’t think that the current pathway is the smartest way to go forward.”

Milne has been endorsed by the Vermont Republican party, and that led to a diatribe from Steve Berry during their question exchange.  “If you lose, what do you think are the most important things for the Republican nominee to accomplish in order to defeat the incumbent Democratic governor?” Berry lashed back: “Well that’s a loaded question. See I don’t like the way the Vermont Republican Party has kind-of preordained you as the front-runner. And also the main-stream media. Now I am going to support whoever does win. Reluctantly yes if it’s you. No offense. But I just don’t think you have the gumption, the fire in the belly and the wisdom that is needed.”   

Audio is courtesy of Vermont Public Radio.

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