Vermont lieutenant governor candidates meet for 1st in-person debate

Published: Sep. 25, 2020 at 12:37 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 25, 2020 at 5:18 AM EDT
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WAITSFIELD, Vt. (WCAX) - The latest VPR/Vermont PBS 2020 Poll has Vermont lieutenant governor candidates Molly Gray and Scott Milne in a statistical dead heat. Out of 586 Vermonters, 35% said they will support the Democrat Gray, and 31% would support the Republican Milne. Thursday evening, the two faced off for their first in-person debate this campaign season.

The debate was hosted and livestreamed online by VTDigger and held at the Mad River Barn in Waitsfield.

The candidates took turns answering reader-submitted questions on climate change, taxes, health care and even the protests in Burlington.

Each candidate was also given the opportunity to question each other. Gray started by asking Milne why he did not show up to community forums her campaign invited him to. The events were moderated in part by newspapers in local communities. Gray quoted Milne from a previous campaign when he said in part that voters need maximum opportunity to hear directly from candidates. Milne said he wouldn’t reconsider attending the forums that are still scheduled.

The former candidate for governor followed up with a question about Gray’s policy plans if she were to be elected. A campaign email from Milne claims Gray’s promises-- like expanding broadband, universal primary care, a green new deal, paid family leave and more funding for the Vermont State Colleges System-- will cost taxpayers more than $500 million.

“We’re going to align our budget with our greatest needs and we’re going to work to be a partner for the governor, whomever that may be, for the Legislature and for communities as we recover stronger from COVID-19,” Gray said.

Milne also attacked Gray on her inconsistent voting record. Gray said she registered to vote in Vermont and voted for Barack Obama in 2008. She says she voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 but says she, “wasn’t able to have [her] vote counted because [she] was overseas." She said she’s not proud of her inconsistent voting history, not voting in elections in 2010, 2012, 2014. She blamed her various jobs and homes across Vermont, the country and the world, working with the Red Cross.

“There’s no excuse for not voting, but that is my truth,” she said.

Gray hit back, asking Milne if he was aware of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request made to the attorney general’s office, requesting emails, calendars and other documents connected to Gray’s campaign. Gray works as an assistant attorney general. She says it takes weeks to produce, costs taxpayers money and state employees time. Milne says no one from his campaign requested the documents, and he wouldn’t disavow the move.

“The FOIA request process is transparency, I talk about transparency in the lieutenant governor’s office, transparency is incredibly important,” Milne said.

WCAX News will have a full report on where the lieutenant governor candidate’s stand on the top issues in the state, on Tuesday, Sept. 29.

Copyright 2020 WCAX. All rights reserved.

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