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Vermont Democratic Congressional Candidates Debate

From left: Benjamin Mitchell, Peter Welch and Dan Freilich in a screenshot from Channel 17's Congressional Primary Forum
Channel 17 Town Meeting Television
From left: Benjamin Mitchell, Peter Welch and Dan Freilich in a screenshot from Channel 17's Congressional Primary Forum

Two Democrats are challenging incumbent Congressman Peter Welch in next week’s Vermont primary.  While the three agree on many issues they, clashed on a couple topics during a forum Tuesday evening.
Incumbent Democrat Peter Welch was first elected as Vermont’s at-large representative in the U.S. House in 2006. Benjamin Mitchell is a career educator currently working with at-risk high school students. He describes himself as a Democratic Socialist. Dan Freilich (fry-lick) is a physician and Navy captain who says he is a Progressive Democrat.

Moderator Howard Wooden began the forum on Channel 17asking the trio how they would move the nation to a universal health care system.  Welch says access and cost of health care is the top issue.  “My view is that we have to have a system where everybody’s covered, where everybody helps to pay for it. And a lot of employers by the way I think would do great with a single payer system. They wouldn’t have to be running a department about health care benefits. And with the present president we’re not going to get him to sign it.  But we can begin if we get a Democratic majority in the Congress.”

Freilich agreed that universal health care via a Medicare for All model is economical, practical and necessary.  “I think we all agree that we should have Medicare for All. My issue is that the Democratic Party, at least the establishment within the Democratic Party, has really been very lukewarm in terms of its advocacy.  But Americans are really hurting and I think that we as Democrats need to advocate for this forcefully on a day-to-day basis.”

Mitchell pointed out that revisions to the health care system must start with a public option.  A short time later during a discussion on drug legalization and how Congress is responding to the opioid crisis, Mitchell deviated and began criticizing incumbent Welch for accepting corporate donations.  “We need Congressmen who stand up to the corporations and we can’t be co-sponsoring bills that protect the companies that are doing harm to our communities from prosecution.  When you receive $100,000 from the pharmaceutical lobby and then you co-sponsor a bill on their behalf to protect them from prosecution. I still say if you stop taking corporate money I’ll drop out right now! Taking that money certainly it it challenges our ability to respect.”
Peter Welch:  “There’s two things. One is the money and another is the bill. The bill was a totally benign bill.  And the corporate money. You know campaign finance we’ve got to change Citizen’s United. We’ve got to get disclosure. We’ve got to get dark money out of politics and if we can have public financing that would take a lot this question out.”
Moderator Howard Wooden:  “I want to give Dan some time here.”
Dan Freilich: “Yeah I want make it clear I don’t think Ben and I are attacking on this topic you personally. I have a document here. Anybody can download it from the Federal Election Commission site. So this is all of Mr. Welch’s PAC money. Now I’m going to say up front that my colleague takes less money than many. The problem is that you take a lot of it and for some reason and you and your colleagues, I don’t think you’re any different than most, are not willing to have the insight to understand the destruction to our democracy and the inability to advocate for middle class people.”  

Audio from the Democratic Congressional Primary Forum is courtesy of Channel 17 Town Meeting Television.