Right to the Point (9/17/09)

Dubie leads 2010 gubernatorial race

Sept. 17, 2009

By Mike Benevento

Since his 1972 election to the Vermont House, Gov. James Douglas has been a hard-working public servant for Vermonters for more than 36 years. Looking to start a new chapter in his life, Douglas recently announced that he would not seek reelection in 2010.

As he noted in last month’s speech, Douglas has made health care reform a priority — creating Catamount Health and implementing the Blueprint for Health. He spoke of Vermont’s commitment to the environment and his efforts to make communities safer. Perhaps most importantly, the governor also talked of how he fought to keep state government affordable.

Looking ahead to the final 16 months of his term, Douglas promised he will “continue to fight for working Vermonters and small business owners who struggle to make ends meet by resisting efforts to raise taxes to grow government and increase spending.”

Just as Vermonters do with their family budget, Douglas advocates living within the state’s means. Because he has tried to reduce both spending and taxes, the governor has often locked horns with Democrats in Montpelier.

Democrats responded to Douglas’ efforts to reduce Vermont’s economic burden by increasing spending and taxes. They overrode his veto of the state budget to ensure their desires became law. Because Democrats could not curb their insatiable appetite for spending, during the next two years Vermonters will face a revenue shortfall of more than $200 million.

Should a Democrat replace Douglas as governor, Vermonters can expect more of the same liberal agenda and tax-and-spend policies of this year’s Legislature.

Although others may enter the fray, so far the Democratic contenders for the top state office are former Lt. Gov. (and current State Sen.) Doug Racine, Secretary of State Deb Markowitz and State Sen. Susan Bartlett. Additionally, it looks like Senate President Peter Shumlin may also throw his hat in the ring.

While a melee may ensue on the Democrat’s ballot, the most obvious gubernatorial candidate is our current lieutenant governor, Republican Brian Dubie. Understandably consulting with his wife Penny and their family, Dubie expects to announce whether he will run for governor in the relatively near future.

I have known Brian for more than 30 years. As we both grew up in Essex Junction, our parents were good friends. Additionally, Dubie and Benevento children were classmates all the way through high school back in the 1970s and 1980s.

Because he had just completed two years at the military college, in 1980 Brian advised me on what to expect during my upcoming four years at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.

In the late ’80s, we dueled in the air in our fighter jets over Lake Ontario. I still have a cassette tape in which I recorded several dogfights between Brian and his wingman in their F-16s and my unit’s F-4s, including the one I was flying in. While Burlington’s newer jet fighters beat our older warbirds, we got our fair share of “kills” that day.

After I left the Air Force, I had the privilege to serve on Brian’s 2004 reelection committee. The meetings were full of camaraderie. Brian respected everyone’s opinion — even those from a political novice like me. I was struck by how he cared for those around him and the long hours he spent traveling throughout Vermont to listen to the public’s concerns.

Brian is deeply committed to his family, Vermont and our country. He genuinely cares for all citizens — no matter what their political affiliations are. He humbly puts the welfare of Vermonters and the wellbeing of the state first. He is a very likable person and a natural leader.

The Burlington Free Press’ Terri Hallenbeck pointed out that Dubie has spent a lifetime in leadership positions. He was student council president, captain of the football team and governor at Boys State in high school. Hallenbeck wrote, “The list goes on after high school: F-16 squadron commander, airline pilot, school board chairman, colonel in the Air Force Reserves with missions at Ground Zero, Iraq and Hurricane Katrina, four-term lieutenant governor.”

During his time in office, he has been heavily involved with public safety, green energy issues, economic development and homeland security.

Should Vermonters elect Brian Dubie governor, they will be rewarded with 100 percent effort from a dedicated family man and a caring leader. He will fight to hold the line on taxes and spending and will collaborate with other elected officials to improve the state’s future. Vermont will be hard-pressed to find a better person to serve as governor.

Michael Benevento is a former Air Force fighter jet weapon systems officer. He has a bachelor’s degree in Military History and a master’s in International Relations. Mike resides in Williston with his wife Kristine and their two sons, Matthew and Calvin.