Before a full house, five candidates running for two Washington-7 representative seats fielded questions on a variety of timely subjects at a candidate forum this week
Candidates took the stage on Tuesday, October 16, at the Big Picture Theater at a forum hosted by The Valley Reporter and Mad River Valley Television (MRVTV) and streamed by MRVTV. The five people running for state representative are Kari Dolan, D-Waitsfield; Maxine Grad, D-Moretown; Neil Johnson, Green Mountain Party-Waitsfield; Ed Read, I-Fayston; and Bob Readie, I-Warren.
MEDICARE – OR CARE NOT?
On the topic of Medicare for all, Readie favored universal health care but not Medicare for all, stating that the government shouldn’t be allowed to run it.
Readie said that he didn’t support universal Medicare as it was nonsustainable and said people could not afford Medicare for all. Dolan struggled with the cost issues of Medicare and asked how health care programs such as Dr. Dynasaur could be expanded.
Grad supported universal health care and discussed accessibility and affordability of health care. Grad mentioned cutting costs in co-pay and hospital bill transparency.
Johnson suggested a return to captive insurance, which some businesses used to use instead of bigger insurance companies that have monopolies.
PULLING THE TRIGGER
The gun safety law that Governor Scott signed into law this spring came up several times during the forum. Valley Reporter editor and moderator Lisa Loomis raised the issue as did audience member Bill Robinson, Warren.
Grad said she supported the law, because it makes sure guns are in the right hands. Grad clarified that the wrong hands are those that are a threat to themselves and to others. Grad hoped the law would improve school safety.
Johnson said the problem lies not in the gun but in the person with the weapon. Johnson said that the breakdown starts with the individual and the family, due to the lack of affordability and jobs. “When you have kids struggling in the families, the boys tend to get violent and the girls tend to get pregnant. You can see it in most any nation,” said Johnson.
Read supported Scott’s gun law, saying that it was common sense and that no one was harmed by the making of the law. Readie was against the law and clarified his objection by citing the Vermont Constitution. Dolan supported the law and recognized there are common-sense approaches to figuring out the gun violence issue.
Asked if they could see a path for creating a way to tax and sell marijuana in Vermont, the candidates shared mixed views for the future of the industry.
Readie said if the state were to tax and regulate it, he’d want it taxed like alcohol. Readie said that 80 percent of the tax revenue should go to rehabilitation centers and the other 20 percent to administrative costs. Readie noted the lack of help for those with addiction and mental health problems.
Dolan replied that she’d be cautious on the topic due to health and safety issues. Dolan wants individuals and schools to have better education about marijuana and said that there are health benefits to regulating cannabis to ensure the quality of it.
Grad, who serves on the governor’s marijuana committee, said that in the upcoming months she hopes for better information on taxing and regulating marijuana. Grad said she wasn’t in support of legalization at first but is now. She hopes to learn from other states.
Johnson suggested that marijuana is not the most pressing issue and said it is a money train. Johnson said the biggest priorities are the affordability crisis and the education and drug problem, claiming that drugs are commonly found in the two places they are not supposed to be: prisons and schools.
Read pointed out that Vermont does two things well: tax and regulation. “I don’t think the money will make the state rich. I believe the money should go to education efforts but also to highway safety. I do believe that we should tax and regulate, but I don’t think we should have stars in our eyes that we will get rich off of it,” said Read.
Mark Peele, Waitsfield, cited three incidents of Vermont candidates receiving threatening hate mail and asked the candidates about running for office in the current political climate.
Johnson said that individuals need to be more self-introspective and work together as Vermonters to build off each other’s ideas.
Read said that as a white male in Vermont he doesn’t face sexual or racial discrimination, and said that threats to other legislators are despicable.
Readie said that politics reveal a thin veneer of American civility or lack of. On problems, individuals form their own opinions and form notions that “if you don’t agree with me, you’re wrong.”
Dolan replied that Vermonters and Vermont communities are better than this behavior. “We need to take action. We have had conversations about this for generations. We are different, but we have a lot in common, and we really need to embrace this.”
“There’s no place for intolerance. … We need more training, our law enforcement, our educators, our judges, really systemwide – we do have a commission that is looking at systemic racism and we need to continue that work,” said Grad.
Alice Peele, Waitsfield, asked the candidates about programs for disabled seniors and lack of funds for seniors.
Read said the worst thing for seniors is hiking the minimum wage for workers, as other prices will rise for goods and challenge affordability for fixed-income seniors.
Readie suggested the possibility of cutting the property tax burden for seniors. Readie agreed with Read that seniors will be affected by the rise of the minimum wage.
Dolan spoke about the fight for the seniors and how a civil society would take care of them and advocate to provide for seniors who need support. Grad commented on a family leave possibility, not just for new parents but individuals who need to take care of their own parents, and cutting health care costs while also looking at living facility costs.
Johnson talked about how programs for the disabled have a range in funding assistance and how some haven’t changed in many years. Johnson specifically pointed out the state’s budget for the blind hasn’t changed in 10 years while other programs received more assistance yearly.
The General Election is November 6.