The lieutenant governor campaigns of Democrat Steve Howard and Republican Phil Scott found much to disagree about at a debate sponsored by the Vermont Press Association at St. Michael's College.
Disagreements came on issues of Vermont Yankee, decriminalization of marijuana, and right to life, while the two campaigns demonstrated marked differences in style during the 90-minute debate Oct. 3.
Howard emphasized the division between "working people" and "corporate America," while Scott's campaign put more emphasis on working together to "get things done" in the face of another projected state budget deficit.
The debate also allowed a forum for two other other candidates that are running for the second spot in Vermont government - Progressive Marjorie Power of Montpelier, and Independent Peter Garritano of Shelburne.
A fifth candidate, Liberty Union's Boots Wardinski of Newbury , declined to participate.
Actually, Sen. Scott, R-Washington was not able to participate in person, either. Due to a scheduling mix-up, the debate was scheduled while Scott was racing in the Milk Bowl at Thunder Road (he came in 11th), and his spot was taken by his campaign manager, State Rep. Patricia McDonald, R-Barre.
McDonald was, nevertheless, able to project Scott's image as a five-term senator who worked across the aisle to "do what's right, and get things done."
"Bringing folks together, that's his skill," she said. "Phil is a guy you just like to see coming in the door."
Howard , a Democratic representative from Rutland, defined the situation differently.
"I'm on the side of working people," he said in his opening statement. "My opponent is on the side of corporate America."
Vermont's Republican leadership is concerned mostly with "How do we make the wealthy wealthier," he said. If he is elected, he said, the office of lieutenant governor will not be a "sleepy ceremonial office."
On specific issues, Howard opened a gap between him and Scott on abortion rights.
"that's a great difference between me and Sen. Scott," he said. He feels abortion rights are "absolute," he said: "I trust women."
McDonald said that Scott also supports abortion rights but is concerned with "the parents' right to know" and would support a parental notification bill.
Division also appeared on the question of relicensing Vermont Yankee. Howard supported closing Vermont Yankee immediately.
"This is another question of 'whose side are you on?'" he said, pitting "ordinary Vermonters against corrupt corporations."
Sen. Scott, McDonald said, believes the legislature needs more information, both on the operation of the nuclear plant and on the credibility of its owners.
Power and Garritano both agreed with Howard on Vermont Yankee's future.
"Let it expire," said Power emphatically.
On the matter of decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, the Scott campaign again found itself alone. McDonald said that Scott feels this would amount to "going backwards" in the fight against drugs.
Howard was cautiously positive on the idea.
"It's time for Vermont to have a very serious conversation about that," he said. He would be "open" to the idea of decriminalization.
Garritano was more emphatic. The war on drugs has been "insane," he said. "You're throwing money at a problem-It's wasted money," he said.
Power also said she would go even farther than decriminalization. She would take marijuana off the list of prohibited substances altogether.
(Story appears courtesy of the Herald of Randolph & Vermont Press Association)