Governor candidates to discuss Vermont's primary issues at forum

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MANCHESTER >> A forum for the five major gubernatorial candidates will be held at Burr and Burton Academy June 9.

Democratic candidates Matt Dunne, Sue Minter, and Peter Galbraith will join Republicans Bruce Lisman and Lt. Gov. Phil Scott to answer 10 different questions from each political party committee of Bennington County, which are hosting the event.

Discussion topics will revolve around education, state finances and taxes, opioid addiction, affordable and market rate housing, crime, energy and healthcare, according to Carol DuPont, Bennington County Republican committee chair, and Michael Keane, county Democratic Committee chair.

Manchester Journal Editor Andrew McKeever will be the moderator. Candidates will deliver opening and closing statements and have two minutes to answer questions; others will get 30 seconds to respond. Each party will ask 10 different questions to the candidates. Audience members will also have a chance to ask questions.

"We're doing it this way because people can get very bored with the one question being answered by five different people," Dupont said. "By the time it gets to the fifth, they've had enough time to mull it over. This way everyone gets a different question and will be able to answer more."

The Vermont primary election for governor is Aug. 9 and the general election is Nov. 8.

Keane said it's important this happens in the county because of the issues occurring locally as well as statewide.

"Bennington County is three things. It's the southwestern most part of the state. It's also the only part of Vermont—unless I missed my geography—that is within 45 minutes of about 1.6 million people of the Albany Capital District," he said. "Sometimes we think about focusing on [Albany] rather than Montpelier. The other reason is, as we've seen in the past year, with the southern Vermont economic development zone, we've seen how difficult things are. We are losing population and have an affordability and quality housing problem and workforce problem."

If people aren't educated enough to work, then potential business owners will not feel confident enough about setting up shop in the area and hiring workforce, Keane said.

"Whoever is the governor," he said, "really needs to pay a lot of attention to southern Vermont."

All but Scott attended a "meet-and-greet" forum at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Bennington on April 9 hosted by Rights and Democracy Vermont. During it, Dunne responded to a question on economic policies and stated that his administration would work directly with small businesses because the state is "a great place to do business." Minter chimed in and opposed cutting taxes and services. The remaining candidates agreed. Similar conversations will carry into the upcoming forum.

Dunne, a Democrat, is from Hartland and a former state senator. He's 46-years-old and left his job as a Google executive in February after eight years. Galbraith, 65, from Townshend, is a former state senator and U.S. Ambassador to Croatia. He represented Windham County as a Democrat for two terms in the senate. Minter, 55, served six years in the state House of Representatives as a Democrat and was appointed to secretary for the Vermont Agency of Transportation in January 2015. She's from Waterbury and stepped down from secretary in September to launch her campaign for governor.

Lisman, 68, is a Republican and retired Wall Street executive. He's from Shelburne and has never held elected office, but he's one of two founders for the Campaign for Vermont advocacy group. Scott is a Republican and has been the lieutenant governor since 2011. He's 57-years-old and an old Berlin resident who served on the Washington County Senate District.

"Everybody's been very helpful and enthusiastic," Dupont said. "I want the kids at BBA to know about it, because it is an educational forum."

Burr and Burton Academy is located at 57 Seminary Ave. in Manchester. It will start at 6:30 p.m. at the Riley Center for the Arts on June 9. For more information, contact Carol Dupont.

—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.


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