Candidates hold competing news conferences

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(Host) Vermont’s leading candidates for the U.S. House held competing news conferences today.

Democrat Peter Welch focused on health care, when Republican Martha Rainville proposed a campaign spending limit.

VPR’s John Dillon has more:

(Dillon) Peter Welch went to a Burlington street corner to talk about health care. He stood outside the Oasis Diner -the place where Democrats a year ago launched health care reform efforts.

Welch pointed to the bipartisan support for the Catamount health plan that passed the legislature this year. He said states are stepping in where the federal government has failed on health care.

(Welch) “We can make progress. We’ve shown that in Vermont. Other states have taken leadership. They’ve shown it. What we have a stonewalling, by the Republican congress and by George Bush – who is literally taking us in the wrong direction. Five million more Americans without insurance is disgraceful. And it’s unacceptable. It’s unnecessary and it can be changed.”

(Dillon) Welch says Medicaid and Medicare programs should be expanded to cover more of the uninsured.

He’d like the federal government to be more flexible in allowing states to come up with their own reform plans. And he wants to cut the cost of prescription drugs by requiring the government to negotiate lower drug prices.

As Welch focused on health care, his main Republican opponent was calling for a limit on campaign spending.

Martha Rainville wants her primary opponents, and Welch, to sign a pledge not to spend more than $1 million apiece in the race.

(Rainville) “I would be very surprised and a little disappointed if my opponents don’t sign on to this as long as all of us do. One of the areas of common ground we’ve had is the dismay at the big money and big politics involved in running a campaign.”

(Dillon) Rainville also challenged her opponents to condemn outside attacks, and to promise to stay focused on issues.

(Rainville) “If an opponent doesn’t sign this pledge, then Vermonters can still count on me. I will not attack an opponent. I will not condone third party attempts to do so.”

(Dillon) But Rainville said if the other candidates do not agree to a spending limit she will not hold herself back unilaterally.

Welch said he would be happy to discuss the proposal with other campaigns, and he promised to continue to focus on issues.

But he said the race will cost more than $1 million dollars.

(Welch) “Just because there is so much at stake and there is already so much money coming into Vermont. And we’ve only begun to see what’s going to happen on the other side. But the outcome of Congress could turn on one two or three seats, including this one here in the state of Vermont.”

(Dillon) According to latest campaign finance, Welch has raised more than twice as much money as Rainville. She had raised about $315,000, compared to $735,000 for Welch.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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