Vermont’s gubernatorial candidates battled over a number of key issues in their second debate of the campaign.
The debate highlighted major differences between incumbent Democrat Peter Shumlin and Republican Randy Brock on health care, wind power, and the state’s recovery from Irene.
This second debate, hosted by Waterbury radio station WDEV, was dominated by questions about health care. Shumlin favors a publicly financed Single Payer system while Brock supports more competition in the private health insurance market.
Shumlin argued that a consumer driven competitive model doesn’t work for health care.
"What you fundamentally misunderstand is in my view Randy is health care is not shopping for a television," said Shumlin. "You don’t shop for a heart attack, you get a heart attack you get breast cancer you get cervical cancer, your first thought is not where can I go I’m having a heart attack, where can I go to get the best cost effective health care."
Brock responded that Shumlin was offering "false choices" to voters.
"We haven’t had a free market in health care in 50 years thanks to government intervention one, two 80 percent of health care that you get is neither catastrophic nor is it urgent," said Brock. "The best companies in America right now are moving much more toward free market health care in which there is choice and competition."
The two candidates also differed on how to evaluate future large scale wind projects. Shumlin said community support is the key and he pointed to a vote in Lowell that backed a major project in that community.
"If a community who hosts a wind project votes not to have it in their community I don’t think we should build wind in that community. I’m a big believer in local control."
But Brock argued that neighboring communities deserve to have a say in this process.
"When you put a 400 foot wind tower on top of a mountain that mountain is visible for miles. The effect of the noise and other activities generated by that turbine are felt for miles. They don’t stop at a town’s borders."
In the last few weeks, Brock has been very critical of what he says is a lack of planning by Shumlin in the event that FEMA doesn’t reimburse the state for most of the damage to the State Office Complex in Waterbury. That approach drew a terse response from Shumlin.
"I understand that Randy’s job is to try to build a case in the next six weeks to fire the governor and bring on a new governor. I understand campaigning, I understand the silly season," said Shumlin. "All I ask is that we not politicize Irene."
Brock bristled at Shumlin’s allegation.
"I’m telling Vermonters the truth and I think Vermonters deserve to know the truth," said Brock. "The governor has the outlines, the back of the envelope contingency plan that he outlined a couple of weeks ago but the point at which he should have the contingency plan is when we started. Now that’s not politicizing anything, that’s a fact."
The two candidates will meet in four more debates before Election Day.