Seven candidates for Vermont U.S. House seat participate in Castleton University forum
After U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy announced he would retire at the end of his eighth term, current at-large Democratic Congressman Peter Welch launched a bid for the Senate, opening the House seat. The seven declared candidates for Congress participated in a forum on the Castleton University campus Monday evening.
Democrats Molly Gray, Becca Balint, Sianay Chase Clifford, Kesha Ram Hinsdale, Dr. Louis Meyers, Republican Ericka Redic, and Independent Liam Madden were on stage to respond to questions that were voted on by the student body.
Because there were so many candidates only a few questions were asked: Does the president have the authority to cancel student loan debt and how would they address the current student loan structure; how would they address the climate crisis; how would they protect and represent all Vermonters especially members of the BIPOC community; and what national policies would they support to address mental health challenges on college campuses?
Independent Liam Madden noted he is a Marine veteran who says political restructuring in Washington is necessary.
“In order to build a sustainable and just and wise civilization we must first liberate ourselves from the stranglehold of the two party system. I promise you that I am the only candidate in this election who has made the central focus of his campaign ‘rebirthing democracy’ with structural innovations to the way we solve problems.”
Sianay Clifford noted she had worked on the Hill and some people there will never live with the impacts of their policy decisions.
“I’m asking to represent you because I am you. I’m a young person trying to figure out how to build a life in Vermont. Trying to figure out how to buy a house with student loan debt and if we’re going to have a future planet. I am asking to represent you because I know what it takes in Congress to actually get things done. And what we really need are people who are going to ask at every turn how does this impact working families? And that’s exactly what I intend to do.”
Senator Ram Hinsdale said she has worked for over 10 years in the state legislature on many of the issues of concern.
“I am the first woman of color in the Vermont state Senate. The Vermont dream is a dream that many of us share and yet so many of us are made to feel like we don’t belong in rural places and spaces. And I can tell you that electing me, the daughter of immigrants, to Washington in this race would change the conversation about what’s happening in rural America.”
All of the candidates were critical of the student loan system and some including Redic said they would benefit if student loan debt were canceled.
“We have to make systemic changes now. The federal government is a predatory lender. They’ve saddled generations of Americans with this debt we can’t possibly overcome.”
Senator Pro Tem Balint has been open about anxiety and depression and says constituents have appreciated her efforts to eliminate mental health stigma.
“Coming out of this pandemic a lot of people are saying we are struggling with a mental health crisis because of the pandemic. It has made it worse. But it was there before the pandemic hit. So it will be a cornerstone of my work in Congress. I want a future where everyone gets the healthcare they deserve and that it doesn’t end at the neck.”
Dr. Meyers called climate issues the most difficult problem the nation and world faces.
“Whatever we do the results may not be seen for years. And we know that climate change has become a political football. That’s not the way we’re going to make progress in a long term problem like this. We can’t simply do away with fossil fuels tomorrow. This is going to take a long time and it’s going to involve nuclear power.”
Molly Gray emphasized her experience as Lieutenant Governor and working as an aide in Congress.
“We have an opportunity to write the next chapter for our state and I have nearly a half decade working in of experience working in and with Congress. And I know I have the experience in this moment to be a very effective leader for our state and to deliver for our working families and our rural communities.”
Vermont’s primary is August 9th.