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Vermont U.S. Senate candidates' differences on display during debate

Republican Gerald Malloy (left) and Democrat Peter Welch (right)
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Republican Gerald Malloy (left) and Democrat Peter Welch (right)

A debate between Democratic Congressman Peter Welch and Republican Gerald Malloy on Thursday was for the most part genial, but showcased a number of policy and philosophical differences as the two run for Senate from Vermont.

Democrat Peter Welch was elected to the state Senate in 1980 and served as its ProTem before his election to the U.S. House in 2006.

Republican Gerald Malloy is a West Point graduate who spent two decades serving in the U.S. Army. He now works in the private sector for defense contractors and government organizations.

There were no opening statements in the Vermont Public debate. The candidates were asked why they believe they are the best choice, especially when some voters have called for younger generations to lead in Washington. Welch, who is 75, said being in the Capitol on January 6th had a significant impact on him.

“The urgency of what we need to do is right now. Protecting democracy has to begin in January with the new Congress. Dealing with an economy that is in tough shape is something that has to begin right now," said Welch. "I've served Vermont for 16 years and have been able to establish a relationship with Vermonters and I sense their deep concern about the well-being of our democracy. I believe I'm in a position to carry on that commitment Vermont has to our democracy.”

Malloy said his 42 years of service in the military and business forms a solid basis to seek solutions in Congress.

“Across that has been leadership and performance, a willingness to make tough decisions. I’m not a career politician. That's resonating with Vermonters. I think that's what's missing in Washington from Vermont representation," said Malloy. "I'm also a Vermont parent. I have three children in Vermont schools. And my business background I look to that. I engage and listen and develop solutions for mostly government customers. I’m going to take that and apply it to Vermont issues and develop solutions and also try to grow well-paying jobs here in Vermont.”

The differences between the candidates were most apparent during their opportunity to question each other. Malloy pressed Welch on the increase in the national debt and inflation.

“We have a $31 trillion debt that is crushing our economy," noted Malloy. "Can you explain your rationale for continuing to support overspending?”

“I don't support overspending," replied Welch. "I'm a pay as you go person. I'll adjust when there's an emergency. But let me tell you something. The war in Iraq: on the credit card. The war in Afghanistan: on the credit card. Trillions of dollars. But pay as you go is the way I go, and in an emergency, which COVID was, I was absolutely supportive of the federal government doing what only it could do to help.”

“In that 14 years," countered Malloy, "that was mostly Democrat administrations.”

“The war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, those were both George Bush decisions," corrected Welch. "The tax cuts during the Bush administration, the tax cuts during the Trump administration.”

Welch then challenged Malloy on his stance regarding the U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding abortion.

“Originally I think you said you were for a nationwide ban," recalled Welch. "Now, as I understand it, you say it's up to the states. Do you think it's right for Texas legislatures to take away that right of reproductive freedom?”

“I believe that the Supreme Court made the right decision in accordance with the Constitution, specifically the 10th Amendment to make reproductive rights a state issue, asserted Malloy. "I will support that law staying as a state issue. I will not support it coming back up to a federal level.”

“OK, I'm going to try to translate that," Welch rebutted. "That means that a woman's right to choose depends on what zip code she lives in?”

“The translation would be I'm seeking to be a United States Senator, and I will support and defend the Constitution," Malloy declared. "Per the Constitution the 10th Amendment the Supreme Court made it a state issue. It is a state issue and I will support that.”

The Senate seat is open because Democrat Patrick Leahy will retire at the end of his eighth term.

Natasha Diamondstone-Kohout of the Green Mountain Party and independents Mark Coester, Stephen Duke, Dawn Marie Ellis, Ms. Cris Ericson, and Kerry Patrick Raheb are also running.

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