Milne promises more balance’
By Neal P. Goswami
VERMONT PRESS BUREAU | July 24,2014
Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo
Republican gubernatorial candidate and Barre native Scott Milne speaks to a large gathering during his formal campaign announcement at the Aldrich Public Library in Barre on Wednesday.
BARRE — Republican Scott Milne promised to steer the state away from Gov. Peter Shumlin’s “ultra-progressive agenda” and in a more moderate direction as he formally launched his campaign for governor Wednesday.
Milne, a Pomfret businessman who runs Milne Travel American Express, addressed several dozen supporters at Aldrich Public Library in Barre during his campaign kickoff event, including former Republican Gov. James Douglas and Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott.
“With a new governor, with more balance in our capital and a more moderate course, we can do better,” Milne declared.
With just $20,000 in the bank, Milne trails Shumlin, a two-term Democrat, by more than $1 million in campaign funds. But Milne, painting Shumlin as a radical leader ushering in an untested health care system, said Vermonters will identify with his moderate approach.
“You may have heard that we’re running a little bit of a contrarian campaign, and we’re going to stick to that. Our goal is to run a campaign of ideas,” he said. “I promise to provide the voters of Vermont with an alternative to the present administration, which has failed by steering the ship of state into uncharted waters, making promises it cannot fulfill and, I would argue, ignoring the basic needs of Vermonters.”
Milne said he will not “vilify the governor” or attack his character, but promised to highlight Shumlin’s “ultra-progressive agenda and government that he has created.” He outlined a governing strategy for the state more like that of Shumlin’s predecessor, Douglas, who introduced Milne at the event.
“We share a common set of values that are more tempered, more cautious and not as headstrong about the need for exuberance and rapid, radical change,” Milne said. “I believe Vermonters respect traditions. For the most part we practice cautious, understated optimism. Our government should not take unnecessary risks, particularly when we’re spending money we don’t have, raising taxes we can’t afford, creating programs that have no proven likelihood of success, and if you agree with me, you want to end this unbridled experimentation with our government.”
Noting his low-key campaign, Milne said he is not interested in stunts or slogans, a lesson he said he has taken from the business world.
“I come from the world of business where flashiness and boasting can maybe win for a day or a week, but in my experiences, never in the long run,” he said.
And Milne acknowledged how difficult it will be to topple an entrenched governor whose campaign coffers are overflowing. He said Shumlin must be challenged and not handed another two years without a race.
“I start this race fully appreciating the slope of the hill that we have to climb. Incumbency is itself a powerful advantage, as is a huge bank account. I could have stayed out of the campaign for governor,” Milne said. “I love Vermont, and I want to see people succeed. For that reason, I’m compelled to challenge the incumbent and his agenda. He must answer for his unkept promises and his mistakes. The bubble of his rhetoric must be deflated and seen for what it is.”
Douglas, the popular former governor known for his cautious policies, attacked Shumlin more directly. He said the state is continuing its recovery from the Great Recession but is hampered by a reputation for being unfriendly to business. He also noted the state’s shrinking workforce and an outward migration of residents.
Douglas’ strongest criticism was saved for Shumlin’s proposed government-run, publicly financed health care plan that the governor hopes to implement in 2017. The state’s federally mandated health insurance exchange remains plagued by problems, and now Shumlin is seeking to implement his single-payer “scheme,” Douglas said.
“It was a sort of combination of incompetence and confusion, I guess, but they’re going to try for more,” he said. “We don’t know how it will work, we don’t know how much it will cost, we don’t know how we’re going to fund it. Other than that it sounds like a great idea.”
Douglas said Vermont should continue to work on health care reform but “not throw the system on its head.”
Milne, according to Douglas, would help the state address its challenges in a more responsible way.
“He’s the kind of leader we need to confront our stagnant economy and put Vermont back on track to create more jobs and provide relief to working families. He’s from outside the bubble. He’s unaffected by the stale air of the State House. He understands the struggles of the average Vermonter because he’s confronted them himself,” Douglas said.