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Friday, October 19, 2018

Opinion
Walters: Vermont Political Rivals' Duet Goes National

Posted By on Fri, Oct 19, 2018 at 11:54 AM

Zac Mayo and Lucy Rogers - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Zac Mayo and Lucy Rogers
Two candidates for a rural Vermont House seat are hitting the big time: They'll be featured this weekend on CBS News.

Democrat Lucy Rogers and Republican Zac Mayo, the two under-30 candidates for the seat representing Cambridge, Jeffersonville and Waterville, held a candidates' forum on October 10 at the Varnum Memorial Library in Jeffersonville. They ended the event with a song: "Society" by Eddie Vedder, whose lyrics are a scathing rebuke of materialism and greed.

On Monday, the candidates got calls from CBS News. Two days later, they found themselves being shadowed for a day by "On the Road" correspondent Steve Hartman and his camera crew. "It all happened lightning-fast," said Mayo.

"My understanding is that a person who attended the forum got in touch with them," Rogers said. "The CBS producer told me, 'You have to do this story because there's no other story like this anywhere!'"

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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Opinion
Walters: Vermont Political Debate Ends in Harmony ... Literally

Posted By on Thu, Oct 11, 2018 at 6:42 PM

Zac Mayo and Lucy Rogers - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Zac Mayo and Lucy Rogers
On Wednesday night, two candidates for Vermont House held a forum in the local library that had a very unusual ending. After a thorough debate of the issues, the two joined together to perform a song.

The setting was the Varnum Memorial Library in Jeffersonville. The candidates are Democrat Lucy Rogers and Republican Zac Mayo, who are vying for the seat representing Cambridge, Jeffersonville and Waterville now held by retiring Republican Rep. Bernie Juskiewicz. The song they chose was "Society" by Eddie Vedder. The lyrics condemn materialism and greed, and end with a farewell to society. Mayo strummed a guitar while Rogers played cello.

Both sang the melancholy chorus:
Society, have mercy on me
I hope you're not angry if I disagree
Society, crazy indeed
I hope you're not lonely without me
"It’s always been a personal favorite of mine," said Mayo. "It's always resonated with me."

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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Opinion
Walters: Scott, Hallquist Draw Clear Contrasts in Second Debate

Posted By on Wed, Oct 10, 2018 at 10:18 PM

Christine Hallquist and Gov. Phil Scott at Wednesday's debate in Rutland - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Christine Hallquist and Gov. Phil Scott at Wednesday's debate in Rutland
The two major party candidates for governor offered voters a clear contrast in approach and agenda Wednesday evening during their second debate.

Republican Gov. Phil Scott stuck to the ideas that have been front and center in his first term — economic growth, affordability and protecting the most vulnerable. He spoke of progress made in his first term, especially in blocking increases in taxes and fees. And he warned of existential threats facing Vermont, including the state's aging demographics, decreasing student population and a lack of growth outside of Chittenden County.

Democrat Christine Hallquist agreed on Vermont's challenges and offered an ambitious agenda, including universal high-speed broadband, a $15 per hour minimum wage, paid family leave and the need for universal health care. She also emphasized her track record as chief executive of the Vermont Electric Coop as proof that she can effectively manage state government.

Squaring off at Rutland's Paramount Theatre in a forum sponsored by VTDigger.org, the two candidates did not engage in personal attacks, although there were occasional flare-ups over policy differences. There was no mention of Hallquist's historic status as the first openly transgender person to be a major party's nominee for governor.

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Friday, October 5, 2018

Opinion
Walters: Scott Slams Vermont Ethics Panel

Posted By on Fri, Oct 5, 2018 at 4:42 PM

Gov. Phil Scott - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Gov. Phil Scott
Gov. Phil Scott has some harsh words for the Vermont State Ethics Commission, which recently issued an opinion critical of his ties to a construction firm that bids on state contracts. He also called for unspecified changes to the commission.

"I was disappointed," Scott said at a Friday press conference. "I'd offered to come before them, offered any information they might need." But he got no response to his offer.

In fact, the ethics commission has no authority to investigate or take testimony. It can only refer ethics complaints to other agencies or issue advisory opinions in response to inquiries. In this case, it issued an advisory opinion.

Scott said that the panel's process is "fraught with danger," apparently meaning that other parties would try to use it for political advantage. Which is what he believes happened in this case. "It seems suspect to me that a powerful political organization makes a complaint during October of an election year," he said.

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Monday, October 1, 2018

Opinion
Walters: Scott Holds Modest Fundraising Lead Over Hallquist

Posted By on Mon, Oct 1, 2018 at 6:26 PM

Christine Hallquist making a point while Gov. Phil Scott listens during their debate at the Tunbridge World's Fair - FILE: JOHN WALTERS
  • File: John Walters
  • Christine Hallquist making a point while Gov. Phil Scott listens during their debate at the Tunbridge World's Fair
In his latest campaign finance filing, which was due Monday, Republican Gov. Phil Scott reported raising $138,000 during the month of September. His Democratic challenger, Christine Hallquist, reported a fundraising total of $131,000 for the month.

Their respective totals for the entire campaign cycle: Scott $492,000, Hallquist $358,000. Scott has $121,000 cash on hand, which includes a $19,000 surplus from his 2016 campaign. Hallquist has $65,000.

These numbers are well behind the fundraising pace of two years ago, when the governorship was open and both major-party candidates had to survive hotly contested primaries. By October 1, 2016, Democrat Sue Minter had raised $1.39 million and spent $1.26 million. Then-lieutenant governor Scott had raised $1.14 million and spent virtually all of it.

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Thursday, September 27, 2018

Opinion
Walters: Planned Parenthood Won't Endorse in Gubernatorial Race

Posted By on Thu, Sep 27, 2018 at 5:39 PM

Protesters outside Planned Parenthood in Burlington - FILE: MATTHEW THORSEN
  • File: Matthew Thorsen
  • Protesters outside Planned Parenthood in Burlington
The Planned Parenthood Vermont Action Fund announced four statewide endorsements on Thursday — but purposefully sidestepped the race for governor.

The political arm of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England gave its nod to four incumbents. It endorsed Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, a Progressive and Democrat, and incumbent Democrats Attorney General T.J. Donovan, Secretary of State Jim Condos, and Treasurer Beth Pearce. Neither incumbent Republican Gov. Phil Scott nor his Democratic challenger, Christine Hallquist, were mentioned in the political action committee's press release.

"We have decided we will not issue an endorsement in the governor's race," said Lucy Leriche, the PAC's vice president of public policy. "Both scored 100 on our candidates' questionnaire. Whoever is elected, we're looking forward to having a productive relationship with their administration."

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Opinion
Walters: Leahy Elicits Striking Answer From Kavanaugh Accuser Christine Blasey Ford

Posted By on Thu, Sep 27, 2018 at 2:08 PM

Christine Blasey Ford testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee - AP PHOTO/ANDREW HARNIK
  • AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
  • Christine Blasey Ford testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee
Updated at 5:42 p.m.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) made the most of his brief opportunity to question Christine Blasey Ford about her accusation that U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her in 1982 while a male friend did nothing to intervene.

"What is the strongest memory you have of the incident?" Leahy asked. "Something you cannot forget?"

"Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter, the uproarious laughter between the two," Ford replied, her voice breaking. "I was underneath one of them while the two laughed. Two friends having a really good time with one another."

The exchange came during a Thursday hearing of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, examining one of multiple sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the committee chair, restricted each member to five minutes of questioning for each of the two witnesses: Ford and Kavanaugh. Leahy used his five minutes to question Ford about her memory of the incident in an effort to bolster her credibility.

Later in the day, Leahy had a thoroughly antagonistic exchange with Kavanaugh.

Ford has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when she was 15 years old and Kavanaugh was 17. She has said that Mark Judge, a friend of Kavanaugh's, was in the room during the assault. At the beginning of the hearing, Ford retold the story, her voice frequently breaking as she did so.

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Thursday, September 20, 2018

Opinion
Walters: Scott Appears to Snub Addison Republican Senate Candidate

Posted By on Thu, Sep 20, 2018 at 5:36 PM

Paul Ralston and Marie Audet - FILE: OLIVER PARINI; COURTESY OF MARIE AUDET
  • File: Oliver Parini; Courtesy of Marie Audet
  • Paul Ralston and Marie Audet
Republican Gov. Phil Scott will attend an October 2 fundraiser for two state Senate candidates from Addison County.

Two independent candidates, Marie Audet and Paul Ralston.

Conspicuous by his absence from the invitation: Peter Briggs, a 28-year-old selectboard member from Addison and the Republican candidate in the Senate race.

Audet and Ralston's joint campaign committee organized the event. The independents announced their candidacies together in late July.

Ralston, a former Democratic state representative, has said that he supports Scott. He explained in July that he and Audet teamed up because they would be "running against a party establishment and that party has a lot of resources."

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Saturday, September 15, 2018

Opinion
Walters: Scott and Hallquist Face Off in First Debate

Posted By on Sat, Sep 15, 2018 at 3:20 PM

Christine Hallquist making a point while Gov. Phil Scott listens during their debate at the Tunbridge World's Fair - JOHN WALTERS
  • John Walters
  • Christine Hallquist making a point while Gov. Phil Scott listens during their debate at the Tunbridge World's Fair
The two major-party candidates for Vermont governor debated the issues Friday morning for the first time in the general election campaign. Republican Gov. Phil Scott and Democratic challenger Christine Hallquist held a civil, issues-based discussion that occasionally produced some sharp words — but only over policy disagreements. Personal attacks were notably absent.

The two came off as knowledgeable and articulate, and offered clear policy agendas for Vermont. Hallquist, the first openly transgender person to win a major party's nomination for governor, referred to her gender identity only once or twice; Scott never mentioned it at all.

The debate was broadcast live on WDEV Radio's Dave Gram Show, and is available via podcast. It took place in an open-air gazebo at the Tunbridge World's Fair, with occasional sounds from animals and equipment in the background. Vendors touting a cornucopia of deep-fried delights filled the surrounding area. Gram and VTDigger.org founder and editor Anne Galloway served as moderators.

The two candidates often agreed — at least in terms of policy goals. Both advocated for increased job opportunities and boosting the state's population, especially among younger people and families with children. Both endorsed Vermont's goal of 90 percent renewable energy by the year 2050. Both emphasized the importance of improving water quality in Vermont's lakes and waterways. They both oppose the idea of a carbon tax, although Scott's opposition is absolute and Hallquist says she opposes it "for now."

Where they differed was on how to achieve their goals. Scott continued to repeat his handful of core talking points: affordability, no new taxes or fees, growing the economy and reining in the cost of public education. He did not specifically promise to oppose any additional taxes or fees in his second term (should he be elected), but he made clear his general opposition to raising new revenue.

Hallquist advocated for public investment as a way to make progress, and left herself open to tax hikes when necessary. "I'm not afraid to raise taxes for a good purpose," she said. "I will find a responsible way to pay for it, but we need paid family leave."

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Friday, September 14, 2018

Opinion
Walters: Ethics Panel to Draft Tougher Opinion on Sale of Scott's Business

Posted By on Fri, Sep 14, 2018 at 1:27 PM

Then-candidate Phil Scott (left) with Don DuBois - FILE: TERRI HALLENBECK
  • File: TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Then-candidate Phil Scott (left) with Don DuBois
Members of the Vermont State Ethics Commission are not satisfied with a draft opinion about Gov. Phil Scott's sale of his share in a construction business and are seeking a stronger rewrite.

When Scott became governor, he sold his half-interest in DuBois Construction to the company for $2.5 million. The deal was designed to avoid potential conflicts of interest, since DuBois frequently bids on state contracts. But the sale was financed by Scott himself, which means that he retains a large financial stake in DuBois. He receives monthly loan payments from the firm that totaled $75,000 in the year 2017.

The Vermont Public Interest Research Group claimed that the DuBois deal clearly violates the Ethics Commission's code of ethics and sought an advisory opinion from the commission. VPIRG chose not to file an ethics complaint against Scott because complaints are handled behind closed doors and the process is exempt from public disclosure. The advisory opinion process is entirely open.

At its meeting on September 5, the commission voted unanimously to have executive director Brian Leven prepare a draft opinion for the full body to consider. On September 12, Leven issued his draft, which he made available to the media.

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