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Vermont Gubernatorial Candidates Debate Climate And Social Justice Issues

The candidates for Vermont governor, with the exception of the incumbent, recently participated in a forum that focused on climate and social justice issues.
The 2020 Gubernatorial Candidate Forum coordinated by Vermont Conservation Voters brought together Democrats David Zuckerman, Rebecca Holcombe and Pat Winburn for a virtual discussion on climate and social justice issues.

Republican Governor Phil Scott did not participate in the forum.  He said he will not campaign while he is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Questions had been provided by the participating groups to the candidates in advance and online viewers could submit questions.

During opening statements, Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman reminded people he is also a farmer and small business owner.  “I really jumped into this campaign in large part because of the crisis of our time, the climate crisis, has just been becoming more and more paramount. And between that and economic injustice and obviously now we’re talking a lot about racial injustice these issues are critical and at the forefront and we’re at a turning point.”

Former Vermont Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe said better long term planning by state officials is necessary.  “Right now we face a crisis of democracy. We face a health crisis. We face an economic crisis, a racial justice crisis and an environmental crisis all at the same time. We’ve had a governor who’s fixing a crisis. He is not planning for the future that we know we need.”

Bennington attorney Pat Winburn says he brings a unique perspective to the race.  “I’m not from Montpelier. I’m not a politician. I’ve been on the school board. I’m also the moderator of the village of Old Bennington and a past trustee. But I would look at everything different and I do have different skills and I do have different backgrounds that do give me a different perspective as an outsider.”

Vermont Law School Environmental Justice Clinic attorney and Sierra Club Vermont Executive Committee member Rachel Stevens asked the candidates about issues surrounding systemic racism.  “How will you as governor reorder fundamental priorities and provide moral leadership in ways that actively work to dismantle systemic racism? The first response is to you David.”
David Zuckerman: “We have to add significant funding to the Office of Racial Equity so that one person is not required to tackle this alone. And my administration will also bring people into the cabinet with diverse perspectives and experiences so that they’re at the table from the beginning of the conversations.”
Stevens: “Rebecca you’re next.”
Rebecca Holcombe:  “We have to start by acknowledging that we have systemically been disinvesting in the potential of people and particularly people from marginalized communities. It’s one of the reasons I’m a strong proponent of reform of our education funding formula.”
Stevens: “Pat.”
Pat Winburn:  “Implicit bias training is needed at every level of government and our communities so that we can begin acknowledging the problem and address it. Vermont often prides itself on being the first state to outlaw slavery. But that claim is hollow. Racism is all around us.”

Vermont Conservation Voters Political Outreach Associate Sheldon Goodwin asked the candidates how the state can redirect resources to meet climate, health and economic challenges.  “What’s your vision for the post-COVID, post-carbon Vermont economy? We will start with Rebecca.”
Holcombe: “As a state we need to understand that our future is renewable, it’s green and it’s local and that’s not where we are right now.”
Goodwin: “Next, Pat.”
Winburn: “If elected my environmental platform would be more aggressive and I would work to pass a Green Mountain New Deal during my first two years in office.”
Goodwin:  “David.”
Zuckerman:  “We really have to invest in a major way to really transition our economy including supporting things like carbon sequestration in agriculture and sequestering carbon from the atmosphere.”
The primary is August 11.


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