Dunne, Galbraith, Minter Want To Restore Vermonters' Faith In Government
It’s been six years since Democrats swept to power in Montpelier, but they’re facing some unlikely critics as they try to retain it. And the Democratic gubernatorial candidates seeking to replace one of their own say Vermonters have lost faith in government under one-party rule.
At a Statehouse press conference earlier this month, Democratic candidate for governor Matt Dunne delivered a grim assessment of state government.
“I’m hearing from Vermonters something that I have never heard before in my life in this state, including a long-time in public service, which is that they’re starting to lose trust,” Dunne says.
Dunne cited an EB-5 scandal that for years went undetected by the state regulators assigned to oversee it. And he lamented the failure by a Democratically controlled Legislature to create an ethics commission he says it needed to vet alleged improprieties by lawmakers and executive branch officials.
“When it comes to promoting and protecting the integrity of our government, our laws and institutions just don’t measure up,” Dunne says. “To build a house, you have to trust the foundation. And we are at a moment when our foundation is shakier than I can remember it being in my lifetime.”
Those words would be harsh, but entirely predictable, coming from Republicans. In the 2016 race for governor, however, Democrats too have been severely critical of government operations under Democratic rule.
“It is hugely problematic to me that the Democratic Party has yet to address these questions,” says Democratic candidate Peter Galbraith. “In fact, the Democratic Party has become the party of the status quo.”
"The Democratic Party has become the party of the status quo." — Peter Galbraith
Galbraith says Shumlin in particular is to blame for the lack of trust, for his role in promoting EB-5 projects, and for accepting campaign contributions from the businessmen accused of defrauding foreign investors.
Galbraith says Democrats’ failure to halt the flow of corporate money into political campaigns, as well as their unwillingness to institute an ethics commission, indicate a disregard for the public will.
“In many ways, the Democratic Party in the state has forgotten the values that brought it to being the dominant party in the state of Vermont,” Galbraith says.
Gov. Peter Shumlin says the idea that Vermonters distrust in government is a fallacy. As governor, Shumlin says he talks to more Vermonters than anyone else in the state.
“And when I talk to them about their concerns, they don’t say, ‘I don’t trust Vermont’s government,’” Shumlin says.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sue Minter says she’s detected a common thread in many of her conversations with voters.
“I think people are angry and frustrated,” Minter says.
Minter was the first candidate to enter the race for governor, and establishing an ethics commission was among her first proposals.
"I think people are angry and frustrated." — Sue Minter
Minter says there are a slew of factors responsible for the crisis in confidence, including partisan gridlock in Congress and other things that have nothing to do with failings by state government officials.
But she says troubles on Vermont Health Connect, for example, have made residents wary of the institutions that are supposed to support and protect them. And Minter says she’s particularly troubled by the unwillingness at all almost levels of leadership to get an ethics commission in place.
“I’m disappointed that this has become an issue that has not made progress. I’m surprised, frankly,” Minter says.
All three candidates say it’s imperative that Democrats retain control of the governor’s office, as well as the House and Senate. But they say elected officials need to do a better job at the helm.
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