Gage faces Durgin-Campbell in Rutland 5-4
By Gordon Dritschilo
Staff Writer | November 02,2012
The candidates in Rutland District 5-4 both have thoughts on drug crime and health care.
Republican Douglas Gage and Democrat Sherri Durgin-Campbell are vying for the House seat, which is being vacated by Rep. Gale Courcelle, D-Rutland.
Durgin-Campbell, 62, has a mediation practice and is resident services coordinator for EP Management Corp., a real estate management company specializing in subsidized housing. This is her first run for public office in Vermont, though she made an unsuccessful bid for a seat on a town health board in Massachusetts in 1997.
“Gale was stepping down and she asked me if I would consider running,” she said, adding that she was spurred on by seeing what happened on Baxter Street after Tropical Storm Irene, when the property damage there compounded problems with blight and drug crime. “I thought we needed representation that understood the dynamic down here and I thought that person was me.”
Durgin-Campbell said single-payer health care will be the biggest issue before the Legislature.
“I tend to support it as long was we can get a good funding mechanism,” she said. “Whatever we do, we have to be sure that the reimbursement to providers is enough that we’re not chasing people out of the state.”
The biggest issue for the district, she says, is drug crime, which she sees as driven by the lack of jobs.
“We need to get the rail systems dealt with,” she said. “We’re never going to attract businesses if we don’t have good infrastructure.”
Durgin-Campbell said she would like to see the Legislature get more involved in job training.
Calling blight closely related to the drug problem, she said the state could also make it easier for the city rehabilitate properties and get them back on the market.
Gage, 53, is a truck driver for Coca-Cola and a member of the School Board. He tried to unseat Courcelle in 2010. The initial count had him losing by a single vote and a recount widened that gap to two votes. Gage then unsuccessfully went to court seeking to expand the recount to other wards in a search for misplaced ballots.
With the vote so close, Gage said it seemed like it was worth trying again.
Like Durgin-Campbell, Gage said he saw crime as the number one issue for voters in the district.
“We’re very soft on hard drugs,” he said. “We’ve got to significantly up the penalties for distribution. I would propose a minimum of five years for the really hard stuff — I’m talking crack and heroin.”
At the same time, Gage said he wanted to get people who have served their minimum sentences out of jail faster.
“Every man has to serve his penalty, but once he’s served his penalty he should be free to rejoin society,” Gage said. “It’s a balance.”
He said by building new halfway houses, the state could see convicts through to the end of their sentences for $10,000 per person annually as opposed to about $50,000 to keep them in prison. The savings, he said, could help fund neighborhood watch programs and other crime-fighting efforts in the community.
“It’s a comprehensive thing,” Gage said. “It’s not just dealing with it on the penalty.”
Looking to the budget, Gage said he is very concerned about health care, which he sees as financially reckless.
“The real cure for health care is more competition and we’re creating less,” he said