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Vermont Democratic Congressional candidates meet in a televised debate

From left: Becca Balint, Molly Gray, Sianay Chase Clifford and Dr. Louis Meyers participate in NBC5 Congressional debate
NBC5 screenshot
From left: Becca Balint, Molly Gray, Sianay Chase Clifford and Dr. Louis Meyers participate in NBC5 Congressional debate

One of the most high-profile Democratic primary races in Vermont this year is for the at-large U.S. House seat. The latest debate among the four contenders was Wednesday evening on NBC-5 WPTZ.

The primetime debate aired live and was streamed with candidates diving directly into questions, beginning with how to deal with inflation. Vermont Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint, who was endorsed in the House race by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders earlier in the day, outlined several actions.

“The first thing that I would do is make sure that we institute a windfall profits tax on fossil fuel companies. We should also be making sure that we are dealing with price gouging. And finally we have to make sure that we are investing here at home in our supply chain. Part of the issue that we’re dealing with here is that we don’t make enough things right here in this country.”

Rutland Regional Medical Center physician Dr. Louis Meyers anticipates a recession.

“I think the Federal Reserve was too slow to raise interest rates. They’re doing that now and rather aggressively and I think we can expect a recession unfortunately to occur and that actually will help in its own way to stem inflation. But more positively I think President Biden is moving in this direction is to reduce tariffs, particularly on China, and the child tax credit we can reinstitute right now and that will make a huge difference.”

The candidates disagreed whether the F-35 fighter jets should remain based at the Vermont National Guard base in South Burlington. Balint said she supports the Guard’s mission and would not support exporting problems to another community. Lieutenant Governor Molly Gray said she would redouble noise mitigation efforts.

“I deeply support our Guard and their work. I traveled with the Guard to North Macedonia as Lieutenant Governor. The Air Guard is doing a tremendous job. I think they’re a source of pride for our state. And as the daughter and sister of a veteran I will be a champion for veteran’s issues. And I think that with the F-35’s here our biggest challenge is how do we address the noise and that’s something I’m ready to work on in Congress.”

Dr. Meyers says the Guard should stay but the jets should leave. Social worker Sianay Chase Clifford spent five years working as a Congressional aide. She said the jets are detrimental to the area.

“Communities directly impacted have spoken loudly and over and over again the F-35’s have no place in our communities. I am also very proud of the service members in my family but I don’t believe the F-35’s basing here is a veteran’s issue. This really is a health issue. These are also very wasteful machines. Also we weren’t told the truth entirely about the reality of the noise when the conversations about their basing began. So no they should no longer be based in this community.”

The candidates were asked how and whether Congress should further regulate firearms. Clifford began the discussion.

“We need a comprehensive permit-to-purchase legislative approach and a permit-to-purchase framework that doesn’t have exceptions for what type of weapon or what use you’re going to use the weapon for. We need systemic reform here.”

Moderator Alice Kang turned to the next candidate: “Senator Balint?”

“Why do we have so many young men," Balint wondered, "who are feeling such rage and such hatred? We need to make sure that we have federal funds to help deal with that issue as well.”

Kang asked the question to the next candidate: “Lieutenant Governor Gray?”

“We need to ban access to high capacity magazines," said Gray. "I think we need to ban assault rifles. We need to expand red flag laws so there’s not a patchwork across this country.”

Kang then turned to the remaining Congressional candidate: “And Dr. Meyers?”

“I think we need to look at banning ghost guns," Meyers remarked. "They are now involved with a third of the homicides and shootings in our cities. The second thing is a five-year minimum penalty for any crime committed with a gun.”

Vermont’s primary is August 9th. Democratic Congressman Peter Welch is running to replace retiring Democratic U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy.

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