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Governor candidates battle for GOP support - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Governor candidates battle for GOP support

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MONTPELIER, Vt. -

Tuesday's primary will settle which challenger to Gov. Peter Shumlin's re-election campaign will have the backing of Vermont's GOP.

For a couple of candidates, a loss won't mean the end of the race.

Four candidates seeking to unseat Gov. Peter Shumlin hope the backing of the state's Republican Party will improve their long-shot November odds in one of the country's bluest states.

"I have a very good shot of changing the radical-progressive agenda of the Shumlin administration by winning," said Scott Milne.

Milne, a Pomfret business man, is the best known of the bunch, but still lacks strong name recognition, especially compared with the governor.

Republican Political Analyst Mike Smith says Milne's TV ad campaign will boost his profile before the general election.

Milne skipped a couple of GOP debates, but Smith says limiting his exposure to the primary debate spotlight is a shrewd move.

"He is the top-tier name and what you don't want to do is to give publicity to other who are not top-tier names," said Smith.

Mark Twain look-alike Steve Berry of Wolcott entered the race after 2012 Republican nominee Randy Brock decided not to run again.

"Nobody dislikes Mark Twain," said Berry.

He wants to open up the state's health care exchange to more carriers and allow residents to buy coverage out-of-state.

He proposes asking all of the accounting businesses in state to look for waste in the system allowing them to keep 10 cents on every dollar saved.

"I believe the state of Vermont is actually critically wounded and that's financially and morally," said Berry.

"You have to play the game so to speak," said Emily Peyton.

Following two unsuccessful runs as an independent, Emily Peyton of Putney filed as a Republican this year.

She wants to see the state cash in on agricultural hemp, take a more flexible approach to education and contain health care costs with a greater focus on alternative medicine.

Her positions defy any party label.

"Essentially I think both parties haven't served us and I'm an independent," said Peyton.

Dan Feliciano's name won't appear on the Republican ballot Tuesday.

He filed as a Liberterian candidate, but says he wants voters to write him in as the GOP nominee because others have not been critical enough of Vermont's planned transition to single-payer health care.

"I don't think this write-in campaign speaks highly of his ability to attract Republicans," said Smith.

Feliciano, a business efficiency consultant from Essex, says Vermont's budget can be slashed by 10 percent and thinks school choice could put a pin in Vermont's inflating K-12 costs.

In concert, he says the two moves could lead to lower property taxes.

"So we cut spending, we have school choice and we don't target the businesses as a money grab, we'll do much better and create a stable environment," said Feliciano.

"I'm running as a Republican, if I lose in the primary I'll be supporting the Republican candidate afterwards," said Milne.

Milne says his race is over if he doesn't win the Republican nod Tuesday, unlike Peyton and Feliciano who would likely continue under different banners.

He sells himself as a moderate while painting the governor as a radical-progressive.

"I think a big tent and ideas are healthy for democracy," said Milne.

He says the health exchange rollout is a mess. Though skeptical of single-payer, he doesn't condemn the idea.

He says repairing the business climate starts with the tone at the top, but Milne won't unveil specific proposals on health care, the exchange, property taxes, and dealing with Vermont's rising educational costs until September.

Whoever remains in the race after Tuesday will square off against Gov. Shumlin in November. Shumlin says he'll launch his campaign after Labor Day, but he's already been busy fundraising for months.

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