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Vermont U.S. House candidates participate in debate

Screenshot of VTDigger U.S. House debate
Screenshot of VTDigger U.S. House debate

The three candidates running for Vermont’s open at-large U.S. House seat debated Thursday night.

The debate hosted by the on-line investigative newspaper VTDigger included Democrat Becca Balint, Republican and Independent Liam Madden and Libertarian Ericka Bundy Redic.

The moderators immediately asked the candidates what positions they have held that best prepare them to be Vermont’s Congressional representative.

Balint noted that she has been in the state legislature since 2014 and is currently the state Senate pro-tem.

“I've been able to work across the aisle and within coalition's within the state Senate to pass meaningful legislation to impact the lives of Vermonters. I know that I can do the work in Congress because I've done the work in the Senate here in Vermont.”

Madden pointed to his leadership of Iraq Veterans Against the War and his independent philosophy.

“The life experience that I have that best prepares me to represent Vermont is my time leading other antiwar military personnel and veterans because it shows that when a sacred value must be upheld that I am willing to sacrifice my own self interest. And the only way that we can trust that a leader will have the courage to do what is right is if they have demonstrated that living in truth is more important than even their own life.”

Redic said while her business expertise will be crucial, her time working with people in recovery provides a more important background.

“I have a demonstrated history of picking up where people think that that it should be the end. I have been able to put my life back together and help other people put their lives back together. What we need is people with practical real world experiences to address the problems that we face.”

Abortion is expected to be a critical mid-term issue. VTDigger Political Reporter Lola Dufort directed the first question on the topic to Redic.

“You said you would not support a federal abortion ban saying that the issue should be left to the states. Is this still your position?”

“Yes, it is," replied Redic. "What I would love to see is for our state to say that abortion up to nine months is not okay”

Dufort turns to the next candidate.

“We'll go to Mr. Madden.”

“Access to abortion is central to a woman's dignity," asserted Madden. "This issue is better decided by legislation than by courts. I believe it is relevant when a child can live independently of the mother.”

“Senator Balint?” asked Dufort.

“Seventy percent of Vermonters support protecting a woman's right to control her own body," noted Balint, "and any decision that should be made around healthcare should be made between a Vermonter and their health care provider and their doctor.”

During questions between candidates, Redic, who decided to run as a Libertarian after losing the Republican primary to Madden, took him to task for saying he is an independent rather than a Republican.

“Do you want to tell Vermonters that you will be an independent and provide Vermont no value in Congress? Or since you're not a Republican that you will caucus with the Democrats.”

“Yes, you're right," replied Madden. "I have repeatedly said that I am an independent and I will caucus with either both parties cyclically or neither party. I think that there could actually be a tremendous amount of leverage when both sides actually see you as someone that could be a useful vote. I can still submit legislation and I can still vote.”

“I just want to be clear," pressed Redic, "that you believe that the Democrat and Republican leadership in Congress, you think that leadership is going to be okay with you just moving around.”

“I don't care what they want," retorted Madden. "But I understand that they want votes and that gives me some leverage.”

Vermont’s House seat is opening up for the first time since 2006 as Democrat Peter Welch runs to replace retiring U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy.

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