Local candidates discuss state issues

By

Pat Brennan, left, and Maureen Dakin participate in a televised candidate forum at Lake Champlain Access Television in Colchester on Monday. (Photo by Jason Starr)

Pat Brennan, left, and Maureen Dakin participate in a televised candidate forum at Lake Champlain Access Television in Colchester on Monday. (Photo by Jason Starr)

It was one final lineup for Colchester’s Vermont House of Representatives candidates on Monday as Lake Champlain Access Television hosted a televised forum co-organized with The Colchester Sun.

About two weeks until the election, the four candidates vying for two seats in House District 9-1 and the two candidates running unopposed in House District 9-2 staked out their positions on statewide issues. Moderator Kevin Christopher of LCATV probed views on health care reform, opiate addiction, economic development, water quality, taxes and marijuana legalization.

For newcomer Pat Liebrecht, a Republican running in District 9-1, controlling state and education spending are the clear motivators of his campaign.

“I want to change the equation,” he said. “I want to make things affordable again … The 800-pound gorilla in the room is school spending. There are so many people working in the school system that have nothing to do with educating kids. We are on an unsustainable path.”

Liebrecht’s Republican running mate, Joey Purvis, echoed his sentiments, committing to help make Vermont an affordable place to live.

The district’s incumbent Democrat, Jim Condon, also framed himself as a spending hawk, touting his position on the Ways and Means Committee as a bulwark against tax increases and committing himself to property tax reform.

Condon guaranteed that as long as he sits on Ways and Means, a proposed carbon tax would not become law.

“I believe it’s unconstitutional, and it doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

One area where Condon did commit to state dollars is in treatment of opiate addiction.

“It’s a tragic problem,” he said. “People wait five to six months to get treatment. We have to dedicate ourselves to make sure we can get timely treatment for folks who need it.”

Liebrecht and Purvis said the addiction crisis should be primarily combated with law enforcement.

“We don’t have enough teeth in our laws and enforcement on it to stop [heroin] from coming in,” Liebrecht said, suggesting addicts enter forced rehab and drug dealers have property confiscated.

Taylor is running less on issue-specific stances and more on his eclectic career experiences and community service record. He said he enjoys studying issues, listening to people and implementing sustainable solutions.

L to R, Jim Condon, Joey Purvis and Pat Liebrecht, participate Monday in a televised candidate forum at Lake Champlain Access Television. (Photo by Jason Starr)

L to R, Jim Condon, Joey Purvis and Pat Liebrecht, participate Monday in a televised candidate forum at Lake Champlain Access Television. (Photo by Jason Starr)

Taylor is open to his fellow Democrats’ proposals on a carbon tax, marijuana legalization and healthcare reform toward an all-payer model. But he believes Vermont needs more information before implementing them.

Preceding the District 9-2 forum, Democrat Maureen Dakin and Republican Pat Brennan engaged in a discussion of several state issues in the relaxed atmosphere of an uncontested election.

Both incumbents, Dakin and Brennan want to return to the committees they served on last session – Housing and Economic Development and Transportation, respectively. Both said, however, that with a new House speaker yet to be elected, their committee assignments are uncertain.

“I have my fingers crossed,” said Brennan, the incumbent Transportation Committee chairman.

The candidates’ former committee assignments color their future focus, with Brennan hoping to return to stewardship of the state’s roads, bridges and railroads and Dakin looking forward to working on affordable housing and workforce development.

The candidates were also asked about healthcare reform, opiate addiction and Lake Champlain water quality.

Brennan is not on board with Gov. Peter Shumlin’s all-payer proposal where payments are made to doctors not for services performed but for keeping people healthy. He’s also critical of Shumlin’s failed push for universal, government-run health care as well as the state healthcare exchange under the federal Affordable Care Act.

“It was a good idea on paper,” Brennan said of universal health care, “but it was ill-thought-out. I think we have to move on from that concept.”

Dakin supports moving away from fee-for-service but plans to look further into how quality health outcomes will be defined in the all-payer model. She also supports new guidelines for doctors who prescribe opiates to combat the state’s addiction problem. Brennan said the issue calls for more investment in education, prevention and enforcement.

Both candidates said last year’s Clean Water Act will take time to show results but will eventually reduce pollutants from entering the lake.

“We are on the right track; it’s just going to take time,” Brennan said.

Early voting is ongoing, and ballots are available at the town clerk’s office on Blakely Road. Election day is November 8, and voting will take place at Colchester High School.