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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

VTDigger hosts debate series ahead of the 2022 midterm elections

VTDigger, a newspaper based in Montpelier, Vt., hosted a series of debates this fall in the lead-up to the 2022 midterm elections. The series included the candidates for Vermont’s open U.S. Senate and House seats as well as Vermont’s gubernatorial race.

Race for U.S. Senate seat: Gerald Malloy (R) vs. Peter Welch (D)

The U.S. Senate debate took place on Sept. 8 in Manchester, Vt. Republican candidate Gerald Malloy, a conservative with a background in business, faced off against Vermont’s current House Representative, Democrat Peter Welch. The candidates disagreed on inflation, abortion and immigration.

Malloy was critical of the Inflation Reduction Act — passed in August with spending allocated for budget deficit reduction and lower prescription drug costs—and Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan, voicing concerns over the increasing federal debt. Meanwhile, Welch characterized the upcoming elections as fundamentally about protecting democracy, and said he would support the Electoral Reform Act and consider reform to the structure of the U.S. Supreme Court.

When asked by the moderators why he is qualified to serve Vermont after only living in the state for two years, Malloy responded that his experiences in business and as a combat veteran equip him to be the best candidate for Vermont.

As a newcomer to politics, Malloy argued that D.C. is failing Vermonters, while Representative Welch emphasized that his 15 years of experience in Congress have demonstrated his ability to be an effective lawmaker.

This race marks the end of an era in Vermont politics. With the retirement of Patrick Leahy, who has been in the Senate for the last 48 years, it is the first time a U.S. Senate seat in Vermont has opened since 2007.

According to polls from the University of New Hampshire (UNH) and the Trafalgar Group, Welch is ahead of Malloy.

Race for U.S. House seat: Liam Madden (R) vs. Becca Balint (D) vs. Ericka Redic (Libertarian)

Three candidates vied for Vermont’s sole U.S. House seat — open for the first time in 15 years as Welch runs for Senate — in an online debate held on Sept. 15.

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Vermont state Sen. Balint (D-Windham) highlighted her 8 years as president pro-tempore of the Vermont Senate, whereas Madden emphasized his service as a Marine and his leadership in the anti-Iraq War movement. Both Madden and Redic characterized Balint as an insider politician, while Balint embraced her lawmaking experience.

The candidates disagreed on abortion regulation, with Redic saying the decision should be left up to states, Madden advocating for some restrictions on late-term abortions and Balint arguing that the decision should be up to the woman and her doctor.

Although he is running as a Republican, Madden calls himself an independent and says he will caucus either with both parties in turn or neither party. Redic criticized Madden’s strategy, arguing that it will not benefit Vermonters.

Since August, Balint’s campaign has come under scrutiny since August, when it was revealed that a cryptocurrency mogul donated a total of $1.1 million to the LGBTQ Victory Fund Federal PAC, which spent more than $990,000 on pro-Balint advertisements. Political action committees (PACs) can spend unlimited money in “independent expenditures” — including advertisements for a candidate — as long as they do not coordinate with campaigns. Balint responded that she did not know the person behind the PAC donation and has not been influenced by their agenda, but instead is focused on the agendas of Vermonters.

Balint, who currently leads the race by 38 percentage points according to a University of New Hampshire (UNH) poll, would be the first female and first openly-gay member of U.S. Congress to represent Vermont in the state’s history.

Race for Vermont Governor: Phil Scott (R) vs. Brenda Siegel (D)

The two candidates for Governor of Vermont, Republican incumbent Phil Scott and Democrat Brenda Siegel, debated each other on Sept. 28 in Burlington, Vt.

Siegel, who spent a month camping on the steps of the Statehouse last year to protest lack of affordable housing, took issue with Scott’s inability to fix the crisis as Governor. Scott responded that he has initiated record investments in housing, childcare and infrastructure development. He instead identified demographic issues and critical gaps in the workforce as the factors prohibiting economic growth.

Siegel also challenged Scott’s frequent use of vetoes, claiming he is disconnected from the Vermont legislature. Scott rebutted that he meets with the leadership in the legislature weekly.

The candidates also clashed over the opioid epidemic. Seigel criticized Scott’s veto of a bill that would commission Vermont’s third harm-reduction site, while Scott argued that the Burlington site would not have helped Vermonters in other areas of the state.

According to a UNH poll, Scott holds a 17-point lead over Siegel.

Race for Vermont Lieutenant Governor: Joe Benning (R) vs. David Zuckerman (D)

Current Vermont state Senator Joe Benning (R-Caledonia) debated former Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman on Oct. 5 in an online-only event.

Zuckerman and Benning differed on issues of taxation and government spending. Benning, a liberatarian-leaning Republican, argued for frugal state spending.

The two also clashed on climate change, with Benning arguing that Vermont’s small population should not carry the burden of reducing emissions mostly caused by larger states. Zuckerman replied that investments in renewable energy would both decrease the state’s emissions and benefit the finances of Vermonters.

The candidates mostly agreed on the issue of Act 250, a restrictive Vermont zoning law that some accuse of causing the state’s housing crisis. They both advocated for the removal of bureaucratic red tape involved in housing development and agreed that the Act is worth keeping as it has helped preserve the environment.

According to a UNH poll, Zuckerman leads Benning by 16 percentage points.

Lily Jones

Lily Jones ’23 is an online editor and senior writer.

She previously served as a Senior News Writer and SGA Correspondent.

Jones is double majoring in Philosophy and Political Science. She  also is an intern for the Rohatyn Center for Global Affairs and on the  ultimate frisbee team.