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Republican candidates for Vermont U.S. Senate seat debate

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Vermont’s constitutional offices, one U.S. Senate Seat and its U.S. House seat are up for election this year. With only three representatives in Congress and two seats open it is a rare opportunity for candidates. The three Republicans seeking the U.S. Senate seat debated recently ahead of the August 9th primary.

There were no opening statements in the VPR/Vermont PBS debate. Host and moderator Connor Cyrus began with questions for former U.S. Attorney for Vermont Christina Nolan, commercial banker Myers Mermel and Army veteran and business consultant Gerald Malloy.

The initial question focused on an issue on the minds of most Americans: given mass shootings of late, what gun control regulations could or should be imposed? Malloy said he supports the Second Amendment and resists any new gun control laws.

“I think the root cause issues are mental health and social isolation and a breakdown of the family," Malloy said.
"I’m not in favor of gun control actions at this point.”

Nolan says red flag laws similar to Vermont’s are needed nationally.

“The red flag laws are a tool that we can use to get to people who are in, young people who are in acute mental health crisis to take guns out of their hands before these things happen," Nolan said. "But we also need to fund mental health and we need school safety. Not militarize schools. Not fortify them. We want kids to have childhoods but we do need school safety.”

Mermel, who mounted a bid for governor of New York in 2010, called any mass shooting unacceptable but says the problem isn’t guns.

“I don’t think the problem is guns," Mermel said. "I don’t think gun control, I know it’s a slippery slope once we start with more gun control regulations. There are background checks. I’m a gun owner. I understand there are background checks. I understand there are red flag laws. But I don’t think we need to take guns away from innocent people in order to protect people. The issue basically is laws alone are not going to stop criminals from possessing guns.”

A recent leaked draft opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court indicates justices may soon overturn the Roe v. Wade abortion ruling. The candidates were asked what federal legislation they would support regarding access to abortion.

Nolan noted that no change will occur in Vermont regardless of the Supreme Court decision and she supports limited abortion rights.

“If it is overturned I will take action to preserve the right to abortion established in Roe versus Wade, which is a first trimester right. However I am against late-term abortion," Nolan said. "I will not vote for laws that allow abortion in the third trimester without restriction and for any reason. But I will vote to protect the more limited right to abortion in the first and second trimester.”

Malloy called himself pro-life and his answer led to a series of follow up questions from the moderator.

“Those powers are not reserved within the Constitution and therefore should go to the states respectively and the people,” said Malloy.

“Would you vote to ban abortion in all 50 states?" asked moderator Connor Cyrus.

“Yes," Malloy responded.

“And are there any exceptions – rape, incest, what-have-you – that would in your mind allow for a woman to get an abortion?” asked Cyrus.

“No there are not," replied Malloy.

“Do you think that as a white male it’s appropriate for you to make decisions on a woman’s body for her not to choose?” asked Cyrus.

“I’m making decisions on an unborn baby," said Malloy.

Also calling himself pro-life, Mermel deflected his response to other issues he felt should be discussed.

“Vermont is probably the most pro-choice state in the union with the exception of Massachusetts," Mermel said. "There will always be access to abortion in Vermont. I will not let my personal beliefs stand in the way of the will of the people. I don’t think that’s right. I know abortion is a hot topic to eliminate Republicans from serious consideration as intellectuals or compassionate people but we need to talk about the economy, about inflation, about fuel prices. That’s where our emphasis should be on this election.”

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