Debate gives minor candidates their shot
By Peter Hirschfeld
Vermont Press Bureau | October 05,2012
Vermont’s candidates for governor take part in a debate hosted by Vermont Public Television on Thursday night. From left are challengers Republican Randy Brock, Dave Eagle of the Liberty Union Party, Cris Ericson of the United States Marijuana Party of Vermont, independent Emily Peyton, and incumbent Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat.
$PHOTOCREDIT_ON$Anthony Edwards photo
The economy, health care and jobs have figured prominently in this year’s race for governor. But apple seeds and blueberry wine?
In the lone gubernatorial debate to feature every candidate appearing on the general election ballot, five candidates squared off in a 90-minute back-and-forth that veered often from the season’s more conventional talking points.
On issues including single-payer health care, economic development and job creation, Gov. Peter Shumlin and Republican challenger Randy Brock echoed many of the same arguments they’ve made in the previous two debates.
But, as it its custom, Vermont Public Television opened its televised debate to the whole of the gubernatorial field. In what will likely be their lone shot at prolonged TV airtime before the election, the three minor-party candidates sought to make their mark.
Independent Emily Peyton used the platform to chastise the media for presenting voters only with coverage of the two major-party candidates for governor.
“I’m working very hard to refresh democracy,” Peyton said. “The press is not giving you the choice, they are not doing what elections should do. And elections are about choosing the best leader, so they are not allowing you to see my platform.”
Liberty Union candidate Dave Eagle said he’s worried about the influence of money in politics.
“I have one major problem with politics these days, and that is the corporate money that is involved,” Eagle said.
While he’s a strong proponent of many aspects of Shumlin’s platform, single-payer health care especially, Eagle said he’s worried about the effect of corporate donations on the Democratic incumbent’s reelection campaign.
“I want a candidate who’s going to talk about what he believes in,” Eagle said. “Not what (political action committees) believe in, not what Coca-Cola believes in. I want money out of politics, and I want Vermonters to be in charge of what we are going to do.”
Asked about her plan for economic development, Cris Ericson, running under the banner of the United States Marijuana Party, pondered the possibility of state-run wineries. She said she got the idea after seeing farmers struggle to make ends meet at small weekend markets.
“Many of their products could be made into wine,” Ericson said. “If we had state wineries ... then small farmers could bring in small batches of blue berries or strawberries or other products — edible flowers — and (have the state) make them into wine.”
She wasn’t the only candidate to tout the untapped potential of Vermont agricultural products. Asked about her plans for health care reform, Peyton said Vermonters need to be educated about the healing effects of common, if illegal, crops.
“When you eat an apple, you should eat the seeds too. You should eat them because they have cyanide and arsenic in trace amounts … When you eat the whole thing, it fights … cancers,” Peyton said. “These knowledges need to be shared, along with curative effects of high-THC marijuana, which can cure cancers, diabetes, melanoma and rheumatoid arthritis.”
In complimenting Shumlin on his pursuit of single-payer, Eagle made Shumlin an offer.
“I want to make a pledge now,” Eagle said, looking at the governor. “If you resign now, there’s position for you in my administration on single-payer.”