Shepard criticizes party for Rainville support

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(Host) Republican State Senator Mark Shepard is criticizing his own party for backing his main opponent for the GOP congressional nomination.

Shepard faces former Burlington businessman Dennis Morrisseau and former Adjutant General Martha Rainville in the September primary.

Top Republicans have promised to steer money and support to Rainville.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Host) Martha Rainville has already won a key race in her bid to get her party’s nomination. That’s the shadow contest for support and money from the Republican power brokers.

The three Vermont members of the Republican National Committee have asked the national party to put its resources behind the former general.

Mark Shepard, a Bennington County Republican, isn’t happy about it.

(Shepard) “You can’t push voters out of the process, the people out of the process at one point, and expect them to rally to you on Election Day.”

(Dillon) Shepard will face Rainville in the September primary. He says voters should be free to choose without the party weighing in.

(Shepard) “You know Vermonters like to make their choice about who represents them and they don’t necessarily want something that’s pushed by DC or establishment politics.”

(Dillon) The two-term senator says he has a record of winning as an underdog, and he’s confident of success. The state party doesn’t share his confidence.

Jim Barnett, the party chairman, says only Rainville has a chance of defeating Democrat Peter Welch in November.

(Barnett) “There’s only one candidate who can win this race on the Republican side and that’s Martha Rainville. And we’re convinced of that and we think it’s very important to get behind her now because without the resources that are available with this authorization, we’re going to lose.”

(Dillon) Barnett says Rainville needs money and organizational support now, since there isn’t much time between the September primary and the November general election.

(Barnett) “This is a rare opportunity for Vermont Republicans to have a chance to win a race for Congress. We have a lot of work to do. It’s been a long time. We have to build an organization virtually from scratch and that can’t be done in six weeks.”

(Dillon) Shepard says he plans to debate Rainville several times before September. And he criticized her decision to keep donations from a political action committee controlled by a Republican congressman with ties to convicted Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

(Shepard) “If you’re going to be trying to change the culture in Washington you have to be careful where all your ties are.”

(Dillon) Barnett, the Republican Party chairman, says the attacks on Rainville for her political contributions are unfair.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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