Jim Hogue is one of the five candidates seeking the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor. He’s an actor who runs a small farm and writes for the Vermont Independent.
VPR’s Mitch Wertlieb spoke with Jim Hogue, and their interview below has been condensed and edited for clarity. VPR is seeking interviews with all of the candidates for lieutenant governor.
Hogue says from what he's observed, the lieutenant governor's position strikes him as mostly ceremonial, without a lot of defined powers. But he says he would try to bend the position slightly into areas where he feels he has expertise.
Jim Hogue: I've been in the trenches for many years regarding a public bank in Vermont. That would be something that I would advocate if I were in the lieutenant governor's position. I also have a relationship with some farmers who are following a new protocol for growing soil, and water, flood mitigation, water quality. And I would use the lieutenant governor's position to work with those farmers and the Agency of Agriculture and get things moving in that direction.
Mitch Wertlieb: Another part of the job is managing the Senate floor debates. That's a little more defined. I'm wondering how your approach might be different in managing those Senate floor debates compared with previous lieutenant governors?
I have to plead ignorance on that one. I didn't even know that. So I honestly would probably just follow the kind of protocols that have been used in the past.
I'm wondering how you might work effectively with the governor from a different party or a governor who differs with you philosophically on how government should be run?
As far as party goes, I find that irrelevant. As far as philosophically, I have been known to compromise from time to time in my life. I'll give an example of that. I wrote the bill, the original bill, and I worked for the compromise on the bill, prohibiting electronic voting in Vermont. And Jim Condos was a senator at the time, and we were working with William Doyle on that. And I had to make major compromises from the original bill. We worked it out very shortly, actually. It passed very quickly. And that was because I and the people working with me were willing to make some pretty major compromises in order to get the bill where it was.
And one of the things Jim Condos talks about now, is he feels that Vermont's voting booths are safe because they're not connected to the internet. Is that something that you were seeking as part of that legislation?
Yes. We were going beyond that, but knowing that fact, that they were not connected to the internet, was something that allowed us to get the bill passed the way that it did get passed.
Jim, as you know, Vermont is undergoing a massive economic shock from this COVID-19 pandemic. I'm wondering how you think we can rebuild and recover our economy while also keeping Vermonters safe?
Well, that's a big one. And I may be the only person who answers this one this way. I am against the current, present COVID-19 protocols. I have been following who's done what around the world. And I don't believe that the masks do any good.
Social distancing is kind of normal. I mean, people don't run up to people and start breathing on them when they have colds anyway. That's common sense. So apart from that, I think the masks are ineffective.
(Editor's note: There is a wide scientific consensus among experts and health organizations like the Centers for Disease Control that masks are not only effective but critical to curbing the spread of the coronavirus.)
There is another issue as protests continue nationally and here in Vermont against racism and police brutality. I'm wondering if you think law enforcement needs to change in our state of Vermont?
I have been very impressed with the way the Vermont police act in general. I've had very pleasant encounters with the police whenever I've had to have an encounter with them, whether it's been speeding or anything else. And I'm not aware of anything that needs to be changed in general about that.
But did you have a specific bent to the conversation?
Yeah I was wondering about things like: You've heard about this term "defunding the police," which means different things to different people, banning the use of chokeholds, perhaps, or mandating that all police wear body cameras, that sort of thing.
I have no opinion on the chokeholds. But I wouldn't absolutely ban anything because if you get in an altercation, you have to use what you've got to use. And what was the next one?
Body cameras for police.
I think it's a very good idea to film the actions of the police. They're public servants. I don't know about a policeman wearing a body camera, that goes against my sense of an intrusion of privacy for both the police and the the other person.
I have to say, I would have to look into that a lot more closely and talk to the police about it. But, you know, every time a citizen films the actions of the police, I'm happy to know that that happened.
In our debate with the other Republican candidates for lieutenant governor, you said that you did not support President Trump in 2016. But unless I have this mistaken, you said you have been impressed with how he's weathered multiple scandals. I'm wondering if you plan to vote for him this November?
No, I don't. And I don't believe I said how he's weathered multiple scandals. I admired the way he was able to get through the Russia hoax and the Mueller hoax. It gave me some hope that the people had seen through the push from academia and the media to to minimize Trump.
But you don't plan to vote for him in November?
No I don't.
And why is that?
There are too many aspects of his presidency that bother me. For example, he should have made much more progress in the arrest of Comey and Brennan so far, because it's been proved that the FBI created false documents and lied in order to pull him into the Russia hoax thing.
(Editor's note: The Mueller Report did not find evidence that President Trump's campaign conspired with Russia to interfere with the 2016 election. The Report did not conclude whether or not the President obstructed justice, saying it did not "exonerate" Trump. You can read more of NPR's coverage here.)
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Vermont’s primary election is on Aug. 11, so VPR is reaching out to candidates in contested races for governor, lieutenant governor and the U.S. House to find out why they're seeking to serve, and where they stand on the issues of the day. Find our full coverage here.