Vermont has a long history of being independent and free-spirited. As a matter of fact, the Green Mountain State spent 14 years (1777 to 1791) as the sovereign Republic of Vermont before becoming the 14th colony to join the United States of America. At present, Vermont is home to the longest serving independent member of Congress, Bernie Sanders, who, says his Senate website, spent 16 years in the House of Representatives and has represented Vermont in the Senate since 2007.
It is against this historical backdrop that no fewer than seven candidates have qualified for the official ballot in the 2010 Vermont gubernatorial race, including one hopeful from the United States Marijuana Party, as reported by the state’s Vermont-elections.org.
One candidate, Dennis Steele, is running on a platform of establishing a “Second Vermont Republic” and seceding from what he calls the “sinking ship” of the United States altogether. Despite the plethora of gubernatorial candidates to fill the office left vacant by Republican Gov. Jim Douglas, who decided not to run for a fifth term, a Sept. 15 Rasmussen Reports survey of likely voters shows that only the Democrat, Peter Shumlin, and the Republican, Brian Dubie, have any real chance at victory. According to the survey, only 2 percent of Vermont likely voters support any of the other five candidates and only 3 percent say they are undecided at this point.
Candidates for Governor of Vermont (two-year term)
Candidate: Peter Shumlin
Political experience: Shumlin has a long political career, detailed on his campaign website, dating back to his election as a member of the Putney Select Board at 24. He was appointed to fill a vacant seat in the Vermont state house in 1990 and won re-election to that post the following year. From there, Shumlin moved on the Vermont state senate in 1992 and served there for 10 years before a failed bid for lieutenant governor put him on the sidelines for four years before he ran again and won a seat in the Vermont senate. He is the current president pro-tempore of the Vermont senate and has served on the Finance, Transportation and Appropriations Committees during his tenure.
Professional experience: Fresh out of college, Shumlin’s campaign website says, he took over his parents’ travel business with his brother. The business, Putney Student Travel, specializes in arranging international travel programs for student groups. The Shumlin brothers bought the business outright from their parents and have expanded it to 16 to 20 full-time employees and as many as 200 additional seasonal employees. Shumlin is also a partner in a Vermont dairy farm where, his website says, he still spreads manure and cuts hay himself.
Key issues: Shumlin has published his Vision for Vermont, in which he promises to enact, if elected, a single-payer health care system for Vermont. Shumlin also proposes to strengthen Vermont’s education system by adopting universal pre-kindergarten for Vermont children, while expanding distance learning so that even those children in Vermont’s smallest schools have access to challenging coursework that pushes them to excel. Shumlin’s vision would see broadband access expanded throughout the state and a sweeping tax reform. Among the other policies in Shumlin’s Vision for Vermont are support for Vermont farms, small businesses and renewable-energy sources. Shumlin advocates equal rights for all, supports same-sex marriage and believes that Americans must work to stop “global change” and preserve Vermont’s natural environment, according to the issues page on his website.
Endorsements: Shumlin announced in his blog that he has received endorsements from the Vermont State Troopers, Vermont State Employees Association, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Vermont Freedom to Marry and a group of 23 Vermont health care professionals.
Shumlin’s 2010 election prospects: While it is Republican voters who are highly motivated in many parts of the country, Vermont’s primary elections tell a somewhat different story. Vermont may be one of the few states where the Democrats pick up a governorship that is currently in the Republican camp. According to data released by Vermont-elections.org, a website overseen by Vermont Secretary of State Deborah Markowitz, 71 percent of those who voted in Vermont’s primaries voted Democratic. Rasmussen has Shumlin with a three-percentage-point lead over the Republican, Dubie. A Democratic advantage in turnout, as happened in the primary, would help Shumlin overcome a weakness among independent voters to pull out a victory in Vermont’s 2010 race for Governor.
Candidate: Brian Dubie
Political Experience: Dubie is the lieutenant governor of Vermont, an office he has held since being elected in 2002. Prior to that, Dubie served on the Essex Junction School Board from 1995 to 2000, according to information found on his campaign website.
Professional Experience: Dubie was a mechanical engineer for Goodrich Aerospace and has been a pilot for American Airlines since 1988. He received his pilot training in the Vermont Air National Guard. He became a member of the Air Force Reserve in 1998 and is a colonel.
Key issues: The headline on Dubie’s website issues page says “It’s all about jobs.” He proposes to help make Vermont more business-friendly by streamlining the regulatory process and lowering business costs in the state. Other priorities listed on Dubie’s issues page include lowering taxes, controlling spending and promoting Vermont’s green-technology industry.
Endorsements: Dubie’s blog welcomes endorsements from the Vermont chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB/Vermont) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), a group that has traditionally supported Democratic candidates.
Dubie’s 2010 election prospects: Before the Democratic primary narrowed the crowded field of gubernatorial candidates, Dubie had a commanding lead of 19 percentage points over a hypothetical matchup with Shumlin in a Rasmussen Reports poll. Now that the matchup has moved out of the hypothetical realm, however, Dubie is trailing by three points. Dubie is carrying a heavy advantage in poll numbers among independent voters, and he’ll need them to turn out in droves in the general election in order to win. Despite his effort to promote a list of Democratic supporters, Dubie must hope that the 71 percent Democratic vote in the primary was the result of many independents waiting for the general election; if that number holds in November, he will lose.
Key Differences between Peter Shumlin and Brian Dubie
With his proposal to take the health care system in Vermont to a single-payer system, opponents of the Affordable Health Care Act may have a tough time supporting Shumlin. Another hot-button issue that divides the candidates and voters in Vermont is Shumlin’s plan to save $40 million by promoting the early release from prison of some 780 non-violent offenders who he says are a low risk to the community at large. Dubie has said he would keep criminals in prison and has assailed Shumlin’s plan as reckless.
Why Only Big Party Candidates Stand a Chance
Other candidates in the 2010 Vermont gubernatorial race who are polling in the fractional digits at best include independents Dan Feliciano, Emily “Em” Peyton and Dennis Steele; Liberty Union candidate Ben Mitchell and United States Marijuana Party candidate Cris Ericson. While conventional wisdom might say that it is the lack of large-scale funding and organization that the major parties offer that keeps the other candidates from gaining traction and mainstream media attention, looking at the major platform positions of each of the remaining small-party and independent candidates might tell a different tale.
Independent Dan Feliciano for a Leaner Vermont
Feliciano, on his website, says that he would apply proven business principles of cost cutting and efficient operations to the state to reduce costs. He has a proven track record of doing this at the corporate level as a “Lean Six Sigma Rock Star.” His ideas are arguably the most mainstream of the secondary tier of candidates.
Independent Em Peyton Wants Vermont’s Own Currency
Peyton’s campaign materials say that she wants to establish a Bank of Vermont with Vermont’s own currency unit to protect against U.S. insolvency and to fund “the organic and off the grid switch we must make.” A Vermont State Credit Card, she says, would allow interest payments to help pay the deficit instead of going to MasterCard and Visa. She states that the press is ignoring her campaign and that if everyone understood her platform she would get everyone’s vote.
Independent Dennis Steele Sees Second Vermont Republic
Dennis Steele goes Peyton one step further and advocates Vermont seceding from the United States altogether. His website claims that if the state kept the $2 billion that Vermont currently pays in to the U.S. Defense Department, the Second Vermont Republic would be able to fund itself without support from the U.S. federal government.
U.S. Marijuana Party Candidate Cris Ericson Proposes Telemarketing Program
United States Marijuana Party candidate Cris Ericson’s website says she will establish a “new telemarketing plan” that would “reach out to world wide [sic} wealthy people who may want to invest in Vermont.” Under her “Equal Rights” heading, her website notes that marijuana should be packaged and labeled for THC content in the same way that beer and wine are labeled for alcohol content.
Liberty Union Candidate Ben Mitchell: Free the Potheads
Ben Mitchell, the Liberty Union candidate, says on his Facebook page that he is the Socialist Party candidate for the governor’s seat of Vermont. He advocates socializing health care (by getting rid of insurance and paying for medical school for Vermont students in exchange for five years of service), socializing energy and ending the drug wars. Mitchell says that Vermont should be the “Amsterdam of the US” and that “freeing the potheads” by decriminalizing recreational drug use would be good for farms and would help with the state’s financial problems.
Vermont at a Glance
The U.S. Census estimates that there were 621,380 people living in Vermont as of 2009. The median household income in Vermont is almost exactly the same as that of the U.S. as a whole at $52,000. It is not true that there are more cows than people in Vermont, says Vermont Secretary of State Deb Markowitz in Vermont History, Facts and Fun. While it was true a hundred years ago, today there are nearly four people for every cow in Vermont. Despite this, Vermont still supplies half the milk used in New England.