It was a polite crowd of about sixty Franklin County voters who braved the terrible morning news, cold and rain to shuffle into folding chairs and listen to four gubernatorial candidates discuss the issues.
The candidate forum at St. Paul’s in St. Albans was hardly a partisan pitchfork convention, as Phil Scott, noteworthy for his absence, might have expected. An empty chair at the table was the only reference to the missing Lieutenant Governor.
Once the rules of engagement were laid out by representatives of “Rights & Democracy” (organizers of the event), the candidates were invited to give a three minute introduction of themselves.
To his credit, Matt Dunne, who was first to speak, used his three minutes to remember the 50 individuals who were gunned down overnight in Orlando.
After the other candidates had been given their opportunity for a stump speech, the candidates were each in turn asked to answer the same set of questions about jobs and economic opportunity, healthcare, affordable housing, education, energy and the environment. Each response was limited to two minutes and most of the candidates respected the time limits.
Those questions were followed by audience questions, submitted earlier on pieces of paper, with only one-minute allowed to each candidate for a response. There still wasn’t enough time left for all of the audience questions.
In light of the news of the day, I had submitted a question on assault weapons and I know that one other person had asked about efforts to address the dangerous climate of hate and bullying that has recently been in the news. Neither question made the cut.
Of the four candidates, Sue Minter and Matt Dunne made by far the best impression, giving clear and well considered responses that demonstrated their personal strengths as candidates.
Sue Minter is the candidate of greatest public service experience and Matt Dunne projects the dynamism of a quick and entrepreneurial mind. Both came across as capable, comfortable and socially adept.
Peter Galbraith projected passion and determination, and most of his ideas appeared to differ minimally from those of the other Democratic candidates.
The thing that fired him up the most and drew considerable applause from the audience, though, was the issue of industrial scale wind, to which he is vehemently opposed. In fact, his energy policy has a great deal more to do with curbing consumption than replacing it with renewables. I have to say, I see a lot to like in that perspective, since there is almost no national effort toward reducing consumption, and emphasis in that area is badly needed.
Bruce Lisman, as well, is opposed to industrial scale wind. He may in fact be opposed to even small scale wind projects, but I am not at all sure. Many of his responses were a little vague, as I remembered from the last time I heard him speak a couple of years ago. He tended to go off question a bit in order to address topics that were of more interest to him, but that left some listeners, like myself, struggling to follow his train of thought.
I believe that, unlike the other three, he does not support increasing the minimum wage even to $12.; but again, he didn’t really say so.
On the subject of marijuana legalization, Mr. Lisman is opposed while the other three support it with some variation in roll-out and management.
All of the candidates were eager to answer the last question the afternoon, “What would you have done differently from the current governor?’ Sue Minter replied that she would not have promised something she couldn’t deliver, and Matt Dunne also said that he would have handled the health care rollout very differently; drawing on his own experience to avoid the software disaster that plagued the Governor’s efforts. Mr. Galbraith would have given a better account of what the Governor’s healthcare plan would cost and how he would have paid for it.
Mr. Lisman said there were many things he would have done differently from Governor Shumlin, but pressed with just a minute of response time, he settled for saying that he would have been “truthful.”
I thought it was too bad, given the implications of the day’s headline tragedy, that no opportunity was taken to discuss Vermont’s singularly lax gun regulations, or the growth of hate crimes and bigotry throughout the nation.
I keep hearing that we don’t have a gun problem in Vermont; and many would argue that we don’t have a hate crime problem here, either; but bullying is very real even in Vermont, and we are not an island. Sooner or later, gun ‘problems’ will be visited on Vermont as surely as on our neighbor states.
…But I guess we’ll have to save those issues for another election cycle.