By Shay Totten | Vermont Guardian
Posted October 27, 2006
It’s a chilly Saturday morning and Democratic hopeful Matt Dunne is widening hiking paths that have been encroached upon by goldenrod.
Alongside him are several South Burlington High School honor students, most of them not old enough to vote for him on Nov. 7, also swinging scythes, snipping back branches and otherwise taking back a trail used by hundreds of community members.
This is what Dunne has dubbed “service politics” and has been at the core of his campaign to become Vermont’s next lieutenant governor.
“We’ve had people coming out for the service project who are not interested in politics and through conversations become engaged and excited about making a difference in the political front as well,” said Dunne.
Kevin White, who just turned 18 and plans on voting in the upcoming election, was impressed, and it made him want to pay more attention to politics.
“I think it’s great to have such a commitment to the community,” said White. “I’ve never known people to come out and do this kind of work and I think it makes a difference, and it’s certainly important to me.”
Dunne says his candidacy offers voters a “clear choice” on the issues and he believes that for $61,000 per year, a lieutenant governor — who technically only has to preside over the Senate when it is in session and stand in for the governor when he’s incapacitated or out-of-state — should work full-time.
It’s the latter item that has helped bring the campaign into the limelight in recent weeks — that and the fact that incumbent Republican Brian Dubie has skipped out on a few debates and only agreed to pre-record his answers for another key debate in Chittenden County on the local public access station.
Progressive Marvin Malek also believes that the lieutenant governor, as an elected, statewide leader, should act like a leader and not just fill in for the governor.
“I do think that all the elected statewide leaders should function like leaders, and I learned this from President Reagan and the current president — even though I may disagree with them. They take the responsibility of leadership personally. You have to anticipate problems to the extent that you are able. You don’t wait until someone has a stroke to deal with their high blood pressure,” said Malek, a Barre physician.
Mary Alice Herbert is the fourth candidate in the race, from the Liberty Union party.
Dunne has made the issue of full-time pay versus part-time work a core theme in recent weeks, and said he looks to how other lieutenant governors took to the office.
“I served when Barbara Snelling and Doug Racine were lieutenant governors and they reached out beyond the gavel to pull people together around the issues they were most interested in,” said Dunne, a current state senator who has previously served in the House. “They were effective and engaged while maintaining a non-partisan approach to presiding over the Senate.”
As for issues, Dunne said he would work on building partnerships between businesses and the state’s colleges, as well as finding ways to make college more affordable for Vermonters — perhaps even pushing for a service scholarship that would give students a break on tuition if they gave back to the community in some form of service, either through a non-profit, the military, or the Peace Corps.
However, it’s pay and not policies that have taken center stage.
“The piece that really resonates is that Brian Dubie is paid $61,000 of taxpayer money and chooses to show up less than half the time so he can do another full-time job” (as an American Airlines pilot), said Dunne. “That is a stark difference between he and I, as I would be honored to get up every single day to work on behalf of Vermonters.”
Dubie has countered that Dunne missed a number of votes during the past session — nearly one-third of the bills voted on. Dunne quibbles with the percentage, but agrees that he did miss some votes due to his full-time job, but said he paid back the state for the days he missed. He asked Dubie to do the same.
“The fact is that I’ve never worked harder at anything in my life than being Vermont’s lieutenant governor, and there isn’t a day that doesn’t go by that I’m not working on something for the people of Vermont,” said Dubie, who added that his campaign is going to release his public calendar and schedule to prove that just because he’s not in the building doesn’t mean he isn’t working.
Eyes on the future
Dubie adds that aside from his duties presiding over the Senate while it is in session, that he is also the chairman of the governor’s special commissions on aging and on homeland security. He has also led trade delegations to Quebec and Cuba.
“When has a Vermont lieutenant governor ever delivered 100 heifers to Cuba?” Dubie asks.
On energy, an issue that has surfaced this election season as a hot button issue, Dunne said Dubie has been absent despite the rhetoric of supporting wind power and other renewable sources.
“He says he supports wind power, but yet there is nothing from him in terms of legislation or proposals or changes to the [regulatory process] regarding wind,” said Dunne.
Dunne said the state should be doing more to tap into small hydro power, as well as wind, solar and other renewables.
As for Vermont Yankee, the state’s lone nuclear power plant, Dunne says, “I would love to be able to say that Vermont has a strong, stable, affordable baseload of electricity without nuclear power. I also believe that storing nuclear waste on the banks of the Connecticut River is not a solution … . I think we need to use the 2012 relicensure as a target to identify one-third our electricity and convert it through greater investments in efficiency and clean, renewable energy systems.”
Dubie agrees that the state needs to plan, noting that before he even took his oath of office, he met with officials at the U.S. Department of Energy to help him figure out where Vermont should go in terms of finding its path toward energy security and independence.
Since then, he has also worked to repair what he says were strained relations with Hydro Quebec. And, while not making any promises, he is confident that Vermont will maintain its “special relationship” with the provincial utility in years to come.
He has led a delegation to Quebec where officials from Central Vermont Public Service have shown officials the benefits of capturing methane from farm manure and turning it into power, and Efficiency Vermont has helped to show how Quebecers can save money through investments in efficiency.
“We have to balance out the equation — we can’t just be there at the table demanding that they provide us with power, we have to show something in return,” said Dubie.
It’s this type of quiet brokering that Dubie says he has focused on as lieutenant governor, and has not tried to take the limelight while doing so.
Dubie says he plans on taking an active role in making sure that the Catamount Health Plan is implemented, and there is a broad-based discussion about how schools in Vermont are governed, funded, and measured for outcomes.
One of Dubie’s challengers, Malek, got into the race initially because he believes Vermont should adopt a universal health care system. However, once he got into the race he learned more about other issues.
Malek said he has been appalled by the Douglas and Dubie approach to solving problems, which he equates to “don’t worry, be happy, and we’ll cut your taxes a little bit.”
"This is a soldier who has the courage of his convictions to speak out about a war that has been a disaster for our country. Sgt. Madden is an American patriot. I wish officials in the White House and the Pentagon who got us into this fiasco had a fraction of his honesty and courage," said Leahy. "This whistle-blowing effort is symptomatic of a larger level of concern over the leadership of this war that increasingly is felt by those serving throughout our military services. Our fine soldiers, airmen, and Marines who are carrying out the White House's policies know full well that this war has been mishandled from the start."
Leahy said Madden joins a long tradition of military personnel who have spoken out when they have become concerned about the conduct of a war — from World War I to Vietnam.