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Senate showdown: Veteran vs. newcomer - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Senate showdown: Veteran vs. newcomer

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

If you ask Republican Scott Milne why he's running for the U.S. Senate, his message is consistent and clear.

"The pervasive influence of special interest money on people like my opponent," Milne said.

He'll tell anyone who will listen that it's time for Washington's longest-serving senator, Patrick Leahy, to retire.

"We need to get special interest money out of Washington and out of propping up career politicians like Patrick Leahy," Milne said.

Different from Milne, who has never held elected office, Democrat Patrick Leahy has his political record to run on. Leahy has been re-elected six times, spending more than 40 years representing Vermont.

"I can do more for Vermont than anybody else. I don't mean that to brag. I just know the way the Senate works," Leahy said.

Leahy says among his signature achievements is helping to secure millions in federal aid money after Tropical Storm Irene, a perk of his seniority. Look no further than the Echo Leahy Center on the Burlington waterfront to see the visible impact of his influence. He also says he's proud of writing the organic farm bill, securing money for Vermonters to go to college and keeping the VA hospital in the state.

"I've never been a single-issue senator. We have some that are and they've been failures," Leahy said. "If Vermonters didn't think I was helping, my fellow Vermonters, they wouldn't elect me."

Leahy's reluctance to pass the torch is the very reason Milne says the senior senator must go. But Milne has been criticized for defining his campaign as little else than anti-Leahy. Milne says his most robust messaging on specific policy issues will come now in the final 30 days before the election.

"The opiate epidemic is directly tied to pharmaceutical industry's lobbying capabilities. Almost every issue that you look at that is infecting our country or that needs to be addressed, there is a big concern on my part that special-interest money has way too much influence on that," Milne said.

Milne, who runs an independent travel management company out of Barre, last entered the political fray against incumbent Governor Peter Shumlin in 2014. It was the closest race for governor in modern state history.

Milne says he will resurrect the idea of the centrist New England Republican in the Senate and will work to compromise on routinely partisan issues like gun control.

"I'm going to go to Washington and work to come up with a compromise that is as palatable as possible to the Second Amendment people," Milne said.

Both men have a sense of humor. And both are taking this race seriously.

Milne says don't count him out. He truly believes he can win.

"Absolutely! Positively," he said.

Leahy says he's ready to debate his opponent, after all, being an incumbent is no sure thing.

"You say that like it's an advantage; incumbents lose every year," Leahy said.

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