Democratic gubernatorial debate: Candidates call for systemic change

By Lucy Townend

With the statewide primary taking place on Aug. 11, followed by the general election on Nov. 3, candidates tried to set themselves apart while also lodging hits at incumbent Republican Gov. Phil Scott, who is running for his second term.

The race for Vermont governorship continued for the Democrats last week in a debate between the three candidates, Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, former Vermont Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe and attorney Patrick Winburn. The three gubernatorial hopefuls discussed issues including re-opening the state, police reform and climate change in a forum hosted on Facebook on June 15.

The debate was hosted by the Addison County Democrats and Dave Silberman, who is running for High Bailiff of Addison County. John Flowers of the Addison Independent and Hattie LeFavour of The Campus moderated the debate.

Holcombe remained focused on larger, systemic issues throughout the debate, opening with a call for sustainable solutions to crises of democracy, the economy, racial justice and the environment. She voiced strong support for police reform, climate change initiatives and expanding early childhood education, linking each to broader issues such as raising minimum wage, finding affordable housing, reinvesting money in Vermont and creating jobs by committing to renewable energy sources.

“If we are going to be an equitable state, we need to work at every level and every sector to do that,” Holcombe said when asked about police reform. “We have been systematically dis-investing in opportunities and in social services for over thirty years.” Holcombe emphasized the need to collect accurate data on policing, as well as examining disproportionate discipline in schools based on race and class.

Holcombe differed from Winburn and Zuckerman on dairy farm bailouts, which  Winburn strongly supported. “Dairy farmers have been the lifeblood of Vermont since the beginning of Vermont,” said Winburn. Throughout the debate, Winburn also took opportunities to affirm his commitment to healthcare for all, as well as regulating and taxing cannabis and redistributing part of the funds towards drug and alcohol education.

Zuckerman took more chances to focus on the need to defeat Governor Scott throughout the debate. When asked about Governor Scott’s reopening plan, he explained Scott’s failure to include business owners in discussions about reopening. Zuckerman also expressed that Scott should have been more proactive in unemployment compensation after the system experienced backlogs.

While all candidates supported climate change initiatives such as renewable energy, Zuckerman also advocated for joining the Transportation and Climate Initiative and investing in affordable, weatherized homes in Vermont towns to allow Vermonters to live where they work. Zuckerman is endorsed by Bill McKibben, the co-founder of 350.org and a professor at Middlebury College, while Holcombe was recently endorsed by Sunrise Middlebury.

A recording of the debate can be found on Facebook here

Editor’s Note: Hattie LeFavour ’21 is one of the Managing Editors of The Campus. LeFavour played no role in the reporting. Any questions may be directed at [email protected].