Liberally Speaking10/23/08

Oct. 23, 2008

By Steve Mount

Evaluating the local races

I’ve had a hard time deciding for whom to vote for governor.

This may come as somewhat of a shock if you’ve read these words over the past few months. It would not be inaccurate to call me a Democratic Party partisan. But I try not to make decisions purely based on party. And this year, there are three good choices. What’s a partisan to do?

I’ll circle back to the governor’s race — first, I want to offer my support for local Democrats Terry Macaig and Jim McCullough. McCullough is a longtime resident of Williston and a long-serving member of the Legislature. Though he may score low on some business group’s scorecard, I’m confident that he knows what business needs from Montpelier and will work to that end.

Macaig is also a longtime resident and shares many of my own views on local issues, notably on mandatory minimum sentences and on Vermont Yankee. These are important issues that will need to be worked out carefully and thoughtfully, and I’m confident Macaig will be an important part of that process.

As far as the Senate goes, my family has a personal relationship with Hinesburg Republican Diane Snelling,  and I do plan to give her one of my votes. From the Democratic column, I have long experience with Ginny Lyons of Williston, Ed Flanagan of Burlington and Doug Racine of Richmond. I still have some thinking to do on my final two choices for senator.

Guiding those choices will be my goal of maintaining a Democratic majority in the Statehouse. However, I think it is good to have a robust and vocal opposition, so I don’t want to see the Republicans and Progressives trounced.

And that brings me back to the gubernatorial race. Because I see positives about all three candidates, it has been a process of elimination to come to my decision.

Independent Anthony Pollina has good ideas and he is articulate. I used to hear him on the radio during lunchtime drives, and remember nodding in agreement as he spoke. But in the end, I think his position on Vermont Yankee is dangerous for the Vermont economy, and I fear his health care plan. I would be comfortable voting for Pollina for lieutenant governor — but not for the state’s highest office.

Jim Douglas has some good ideas, to be sure. He opposed an increase in the gas tax, his e-State initiative is a positive plan for our future and he supports Vermont Yankee. However, his refusal to support a clean-up fund for Yankee is troubling, and I disagree with his continued support for unnecessary road projects in Williston and Bennington.

Gaye Symington has a leg up on Douglas because of her party affiliation, and I agree with most of her published positions. I fully support Symington’s plan for Vermont’s infrastructure. The money we would spend on the Circ and on the Bennington Bypass could be put to much better use elsewhere, improving what we already have.

However, I fear her support for Yankee is limited to the plant’s decommissioning. I think Yankee needs to be a centerpiece of our energy plan and we need to work closely with Entergy to that end.

But the biggest reason I have had such a hard time getting behind Symington fully is a basic belief of mine — that the separation of powers is critical to making sure good laws are made. There are so many problems in Washington right now that I think we need to have a Democratic Congress and a Democratic president. I’m a bit afraid of what could happen if the Democrats are flush with power at the state level, though.

So that’s it. Do I support Douglas knowing I disagree with him on several key issues, but also knowing that for bills to become laws, they will have to be reasoned compromises? Or do I support Symington, knowing we agree on most issues, but fearing that the checks and balances of our system are in jeopardy when there is little need for compromise?

After some considerable soul-searching, I have decided to support Symington. We have tough times over the horizon, and I think that with the fourth estate keeping a close eye on our state government, the Democrats can pass laws that benefit the state without burdening the taxpayers. I urge you to support Symington, too, and give her a chance to steer us through the coming storm.

Steve Mount has been a Williston resident since 1996. He is a software engineer at GE Healthcare and is devoted to his family, his country and his Constitution. You can reach Steve at steve@saltyrain.com or read his blog at http://saltyrain.com/ls.