Vt. Democrats for US Senate debate in Brattleboro

Published: Jul. 22, 2022 at 6:29 PM EDT
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BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (WCAX) - The three Democrats vying for their party’s nomination to fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Patrick Leahy squared off in a debate Friday in Brattleboro.

The candidates differed very little on the issues, but in some ways, voters have a clear choice -- an experienced politician or a fresh face.

Organizers of the debate say they hosted the event for two main reasons. One, to increase voter engagement -- and hopefully turnout at the polls. And two, to provide a platform for the candidates, especially the two lesser known ones to get their message out.

Dr. Niki Thran and Isaac Evans-Frantz have never been elected to a statewide office in Vermont. In contrast, Rep. Peter Welch has made a career in politics. The debate took place at the Brattleboro Reformer newspaper’s offices and was moderated by Sue Allen of the Bennington Banner.

Topics included ending the filibuster, gun control, the Supreme Court, and canceling student debt. Few difference were highlighted but Thran says her background as a doctor will serve her well in Washington. “We need more scientists and intelligent policy makers who are making decisions based on science and not on emotion,” Thran said.

Welch is by far the front runner in the race when it comes to money and statewide name recognition. Thran had no criticism of the congressman but added, “Honestly, it is very hard to fight the money and the establishment.”

Evans-Frantz, however, was a bit more pointed. “We win when people say, ‘You know what, we need to restore the confidence of the people of this county in our government,’” he said.

He says his experience comes from being a life-long community advocate and that Welch is part of the system that needs to be fixed. “Somebody who is not beholden to the corporate interests that dominate our national agenda. Somebody who hasn’t received corporate PAC money for 15 years,” Evans-Frantz said.

Welch brushed off the accusation both in the debate and after it was over. “I started out as a public defender on Bridge Street in White River Junction and my professional career is in the citizen legislature,” Welch said.

The eventual winner of the race, whether it’s a Democrat or one of three Republicans vying for the seat, will have big shoes to fill. Senator Patrick Leahy has held the seat for nearly five decades. “We are all Vermonters here and it is about doing what you can to help,” Welch said.

Early voting is already underway in the state. Voters hit the polls for the primary on August 9th.

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