Shepard hits the road in RV to meet voters

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(Host) Republican U.S. House candidate Mark Shepard is traveling around the state in a refurbished RV to meet as many voters as he can in the next 7 weeks.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel caught up with Shepard recently to discuss the state of his campaign against former Adjutant General Martha Rainville.

(Kinzel) There’s no doubt that Shepard faces an uphill battle to defeat Rainville for the GOP nomination.

Rainville has been endorsed by the Vermont Republican Party and has raised nearly ten times as much money as Shepard.

Shepard is feeling the money pinch. He has less than $15,000 in the bank and last week had to lay off his second campaign manager.

(RV motor sounds)

(Kinzel) Shepard insists that he’s not discouraged by this situation as he arrives just outside of Montpelier in an RV plastered with campaign signs.

The candidate is on his way to a campaign stop in White River Junction, but he’s got a problem.

(Clunking sounds in RV)

(Kinzel) The automatic steps leading into the RV are stuck. Shepard, who’s an electrical engineer, opens the front panel of the vehicle to fiddle with the fuse box in an effort to disable the steps.

(Sounds of tinkering)

(Kinzel) Shepard is stymied and calls a local dealer for advice. He learns he can disconnect the automatic steps if he crawls under the RV and cuts several wires.

Although he’s dressed in a white shirt and dress pants, Shepard dives under the RV to perform the task as his campaign phone rings in the background:

(Sounds of engine clunking and phone ringing)

(Kinzel) The candidate is partially successful and then discusses the strategy of using the RV in his campaign:

(Shepard) “It gives us an opportunity certainly as a family to be together which we like that, but also it gives people a chance to experience who I am. And it’s much different than we could create all sorts of images of who I am on TV if we had the money. But that isn’t necessarily who I am. When somebody gets to meet you, they look you in the eye and they know who you are. And that’s what I want to happen. And I want to know who they are.”

(Kinzel) On the outside of the RV there’s a huge sign that reads – “Tell 10 and we’ll win”:

(Shepard) “People often say, well you can’t win you know, you’ve got to have big money to win.’ Well we’re putting a message out that you tell 10 friends, they tell 10 friends and you do it again and we’ve won. That’s the key.”

(Kinzel) Shepard acknowledges that he’s the underdog in this race but he quickly points out that he had to defeat a candidate endorsed by the Republican Party when he first ran for the state senate in Bennington County in 2002.

(Shepard) “I think people are still looking for something. In my conversations with people you know I know that this race of mine is against time.”

(Sound of RV engine starting)

(Kinzel) Having temporarily fixed the mechanical problems with his RV, Shepard races off to his campaign event in Windsor County.

The question of whether this unconventional campaign strategy will succeed in a high profile Congressional race won’t be known until voters issue their opinion on September 12th.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

(Sound of RV driving away)

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