Liberal Republican challenges in Rutland-3 primary
By Gordon Dritschilo
Staff Writer | August 24,2014
Dean Powers said that while he has campaigned for President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, and his primary political goal is cutting carbon emissions, he still considers himself a Republican.
“I believe in small government and I believe that welfare is a problem, both for people and for corporations,” he said. “That’s why I’m a Republican.”
Dean added, “I know I’ve got some liberal views. I’m a liberal Republican, but I still believe, at the end of the day, the government should be small, the Second Amendment should be protected and we shouldn’t be supporting people who are able to work.”
The 32-year-old Castleton man is challenging Rutland District 3’s two Republican incumbents — Rep. Robert Helm and Rep. William Canfield — in the district’s first Republican primary in a decade. The district includes Castleton, Fair Haven, Hubbardton and West Haven.
The two winners of the primary will likely be unopposed in the general election, as no other names are slated to be on the ballot.
Powers said he is unemployed, though he previously lobbied for health care reform with the Maine Small Business Coalition.
“I live with my parents,” he said. “I’m not working right now. I’m just campaigning.”
Powers said he decided to run because of “the environment.”
“Protecting the environment is a top priority,” he said. “It’s a weakness of mine, something I’m particularly concerned about.”
Powers said he would like to see the Legislature do something to cut carbon dioxide emissions, but that he was short on specific proposals.
“There are some good ideas out there, I guess,” he said. “I’m supportive of anything.”
Powers said he also thinks the state budget could be cut, but that he would “have to get there to see where” to make cuts.
Canfield, 61, of Fair Haven, has served five terms and says he cannot recall a primary challenge since his first race in 2004. He said his proudest accomplishment of his most recent term was a bill dealing with producer responsibility for disposal of household batteries.
“It’s going to be the manufacturers getting together with an association and they’re going to cover the cost,” he said. “Right now, you have to wait for hazardous waste disposal day. With this, you won’t.”
Canfield said the industry has until January to submit a plan to the state, and that the program will hopefully take effect in 2016. He said while he also hopes to get something done regarding the recycling of milk cartons, he expects next session to be dominated by health care reform.
“I’m looking at what other states might be doing and going in with an open mind,” he said.
Canfield said he has become the ranking member of the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee, and that experience makes him invaluable to the district. He also said he has spent eight years on the Governor’s Veterans Advisory Council.
Helm, 64, also of Fair Haven, has served 12 terms. He said of late his principal accomplishments have been to “chip away at little parts and pieces” of the budget.
“That’s where I spend most of my time, internal stuff nowadays,” he said. “Appropriations and not spending takes up most of my time. ... All in all, the budget’s still out of control. The Republicans are a minority, very much so. The agenda is controlled by the other party.”
Like Canfield, Helm said health care is going to be the main challenge of the coming term.
“The thing I’m going to try to do about it is make people understand they are in, financially, so far over their head there is no way to do it properly, or at all,” he said, adding that Vermont simply lacks the tax resources.
“We have no growth in this state,” Helm said. “We’re old. ... Our young folks are heading south. I don’t know who they think is going to pay for this.”
Like Canfield, Helm said he was running on his experience.
“I can’t seem to pull myself away when things are such a mess as they are,” he said. “I think I know the ropes. I think I know my way around that place. I think that’s what the constituency needs.”