Part lesson, part debate, the state's candidates for Attorney General square-off in the classroom at Johnson State College Monday.
Every monday State Senator and professor Bill Doyle invites politicians in to discuss the issues directly with students. Monday, the students asked Vermont's would-be top lawyers how they'll handle nuclear power, corporate person-hood and the war on drugs.
The candidates - Incumbent Democrat Bill Sorrell, Republican Jack McMullen and Progressive Ed Stanak - spent much of the hour-and-a-half discussing the handling of Vermont Yankee. The state voted to shutter the nuclear facility, but lost its first battle in federal court.
Sorrell and Stanak say it's worth four to eight million dollars to continue the court battle. "The reason we have appeals courts is to review decisions from below, and so, we are hopeful," explained Sorrell.
I think Vermont Yankee should've been shut-down, never should have opened to begin with, but I've been opposed to nuclear power plants since 1978," said Stanak.
McMullen counters that a new suit may be winnable but money is better spent elsewhere. "We lost fairly convincingly at the trial court level," he said, "this case, it seems to me, is a loser."
All three say marijuana laws need to be loosened, but to different degrees. McMullen says small amounts should be decriminalized for the first few offenses. Sorrell favors full decriminalization while Stanak calls for full legalization and taxation.
The candidates share significant common ground on most issues.
Stanak is the most open to advocacy from the AG's office, and promises to fight for issues tied with the occupy movement. "The Attorney General's office is responsible for the active administration of justice in Vermont," he said in his opening remarks.
McMullen says he'll focus on curtailing crime and fostering reform rather than imprisonment. Several of his positions resemble those of Chittenden County Prosecutor T.J. Donovan who challenged Sorrell in the primary this summer. "Good ideas just because they come form the other party don't necessarily exclude themselves from my consideration," he said.
Sorrell leans heavily on his nearly 16-year track record. "I have a long record of achievement," he said, adding that Vermont is safer and cleaner because of his efforts. But, he'll need to convince voters like these that he's the right man moving forward to earn another term.
When students brought up the issue of a possible ban on tasers following the death of Macadam Mason this summer, Sorrell said he couldn't offer too many details because the case just landed on his desk Monday. He did say a moratorium would be an over-reaction.
Stanak says he agrees with a ban; McMullen did not weigh-in.
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