Dunne and Minter: No Fireworks and Few Differences at Forum | Off Message

Dunne and Minter: No Fireworks and Few Differences at Forum


Democratic candidates for governor Sue Minter and Matt Dunne before business group - NANCY REMSEN
  • Nancy Remsen
  • Democratic candidates for governor Sue Minter and Matt Dunne before business group
Raucous debates have become routine for presidential candidates, especially Republicans. In marked contrast, the two Democrats seeking Vermont’s gubernatorial nomination offered tame talk on issues to a business crowd Monday morning.

It was tough to discern differences that would help voters decide between them.

The Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce hosted a breakfast question-and-answer session featuring  Sue Minter, former secretary of the Agency of Transportation, and Matt Dunne, a former state senator and Google manager. House Speaker Shap Smith (D-Morristown), who announced he was running, then suspended his campaign because of his wife’s cancer diagnosis, was in the audience.

The two Republican candidates for governor, Lt. Gov. Phil Scott and Bruce Lisman, a retired Wall Street executive, participated in a similar event in February.

With the first question, moderator Lauren-Glenn Davitian, executive director of CCTV Center for Media & Democracy, asked the candidates how they might invest $1 million to spur economic development.

Minter, reflecting her experience responding to Tropical Storm Irene and addressing the backlog of work needed on the state’s roads and bridges, suggested infrastructure would be her priority. She said that road and sewer upgrades in downtown Barre spurred private investment there.

Minter also talked about improving customer service in state government and enhancing workforce training.

Dunne noted that $1 million wasn’t much money, and that other sources should be leveraged. He agreed the state needs to develop critical infrastructure — which he defined as including telecommunications links as well as concrete.

In response to a question about what a governor ought to do about climate change, Dunne said he would establish an energy efficiency fund, with the money raised through a $100 million bond issue. He would focus investments on downtown multiunit buildings. Dunne said the benefits of such a program would include putting people to work, improving rental housing and reducing the state’s carbon footprint.

Minter’s response to the climate change question focused more on being prepared for disasters. She wants to elevate an emergency planning position to the governor’s cabinet.

The pair agreed the tax code needs an overhaul and both said they supported legalization of marijuana.

Minter staked out a stronger position on requiring universal background checks for gun purchases. She defended her stance, saying, “We have a very serious epidemic of domestic violence. We need to have a Vermont where women are safe in their homes.”

Dunne steered clear of proclaiming support for universal background checks, saying instead, “I am open to anything that will reduce gun violence.”