Campaign Countdown: Vermont U.S. Senate

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders is seeking his third six-year term. His Republican challenger is real estate broker and Manchester, Vermont, resident Lawerence Zupan.

Sanders won the Democratic primary in August. He turned down the nomination and is again on the ballot as an independent.

Lawerence Zupan was selected by the GOP to take over the nomination from H. Brooke Paige who won the primary but chose not to run. Zupan was a close second-place finisher in the primary and had strong support in Southern Vermont.

"Everything I've done all my life is what really prepares me to represent the people of Vermont," Zupan said.

He describes himself as a solutions-oriented person. He's looking to expand opportunities for Vermont businesses by embracing 21st-century technology. "This is opening up amazing doors of new energy, new industry, new opportunity that Vermont is poised to take advantage of," he said.

Zupan grew up in the Bronx. He's owned many different businesses in his lifetime and is now a real estate broker living in Manchester.

"I feel that the people of Vermont deserve someone who's going to work full-time for them instead of running around the country campaigning for president and campaigning to promote their ideas of socialism," Zupan said.

He has been critical of Sanders' attendance and voting record in the Senate. Sanders missed 130 out of 321 votes between April 2015 and the end of June 2016 as he traveled the country chasing a presidential nomination. Since then, he's missed fewer votes but has continued to take his message around the country.

"I'm going to do everything I can to see that Republicans do not continue to control the Senate, the House and the White House," Sanders said.

He says he's focused on getting re-elected and helping other progressive candidates get elected around the country, but he's not ruling out another presidential bid. "We ended up winning over 13 million votes last time, so I'm not going to sit here and tell you it's not on my mind, that would not be truthful," Sanders said.

Sanders says his efforts have secured funding for community health centers in Vermont and across the country. But he's gained little traction on his core agenda, which includes ideas like a $15-dollar minimum wage and taxpayer-funded college tuition. Sanders says his record speaks for itself. "I think if you look back, I've been a leader in Congress on economic issues," he said.

He has also fought for government-funded universal health care and still believes the high cost of health care is a top issue for Vermont and the country. "There are too many people in our own state of Vermont who either have no health insurance or underinsured with high deductibles or co-payments," Sanders said.

Zupan doesn't believe Sanders so-called Medicare for all system is the answer. He supports an open health care market where he says competition drives quality up and prices down. "I will do everything I can to open that market up -- in cooperation with the governor and the state legislature -- to be a cheerleader for that to happen," he said.