Candidates for Vt. governor square off on WCAX

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) The four Democrats and two Republican gubernatorial candidates on the Aug. 14 primary ballot participated in Channel 3's candidates forum Tuesday night.

The four Democrats hold similar positions, so they sought to show voters how they stand out. For Republican challenger Keith Stern, he tried to reach voters who are disgruntled with Gov. Phil Scott after his first two years on the job.

After drawing straws to determine the question order, the candidates did their best to stand out. Brenda Siegel used the platform to promote her progressive plan to fight opiate addiction which includes safe injection sites she says will prevent overdoses.

"People are dying every day in our state due to opiate use disorder. We don't have a choice but to do better," Siegel said.

Water quality advocate James Ehlers said he'll utilize the state treasurer's short-term plan to fund clean water efforts. But he wants to jump-start the funding needed to clean Vermont's impaired waterways by penalizing polluters.

"There is also the need for additional dollars and that's going to come from regulating the polluters," he said.

Christine Hallquist left her job heading the Vermont Electric Co-operative to run for governor. She wants utilities to string fiber optic cable to bring high-speed internet to everyone. Past governors have tried and failed to fully connect the state, but Hallquist said her plan has worked elsewhere.

"When you do it that way the cost is about a third of the way it's done today and that will be paid for through the tariffs that are charged just like we do with transmission lines," she said.

Fourteen-year-old Ethan Sonneborn is eligible to run for governor. He said his policies make him the right candidate for the job.

"I think Vermonters should take me seriously because I have practical, progressive ideas and I happen to be 14 -- not the other way around. I think that my message and my platform transcends age," Sonneborn said.

On the Republican side, Gov. Scott acknowledged that signing new gun laws disappointed many Vermonters. He focused on his fiscal plans that helped deliver victory for him in 2016.

"I'm not going to apologize for being a fiscal conservative. I believe we have an affordability crisis in this state and we're going to have to face it," the governor said.

Scott's primary challenger struggled to answer some questions but promised to cut state spending by eliminating top government posts, including the lieutenant governor. His closing statement was aimed squarely at Scott.

"The governor has betrayed our trust. He's broken campaign promises. He takes fellow Republicans for granted. He makes deals with Democrats and Progressives to protect his political career. He doesn't speak for you. He most definitely doesn't speak for me," Stern said.