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New GOP Chair Says Cost Of Living, Taxes Are Key Issues

The Vermont Republican Party has new leadership. Party chair Jack Lindley decided not to run again and that set off a contest between former U.S. Senate candidate John McGovern and former State Representative David Sunderland.

Sunderland won the election, and some political observers have said that means the party is taking a moderate course.

David Sunderland joined VPR’s Mitch Wertlieb in our studio.

“I think the decision that was made on Saturday is more based on a vision for the future of the Republican Party in Vermont and less so on the specific ideology of the candidates. The Vermont Republicans were ready for a change and were interested in who could lead the party in a new and hopefully more successful direction,” Sunderland said.

Sunderland had the support of Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, the party’s only statewide office holder. Some criticized that he’s too tied to the elected leadership. Sunderland said there are positive aspects to that close relationship.

“We look forward to working together. Certainly, the party will maintain a certain independence from the elected officials, but I think it’s good, and I think it’s healthy and beneficial for Vermonters that we work together toward our common goals,” Sunderland said.

Sunderland said he’ll work to building the party by addressing the issues that are most important to Vermonters.

“I think that most Vermonters are concerned about the cost of living in our state. I think they’re concerned with the impact of a supermajority (of Democrats) in the Legislature, and what that has meant for the quality of life and the cost of living here, and certainly the steady stream of increases in taxes that we’ve seen over the last few years that have come from the supermajority is a concern for many Vermonters.”

Another issue that is a concern for Republicans is changes to Vermont’s health care system. Governor Peter Shumlin is working toward a goal of having the state move to a single-payer system. Sunderland sent a letter this week to the governor, asking him to clarify comments he made to a group of physicians about what will happen to people on Medicare and Tricare under such a system.

“The governor was quoted saying that it is his intent that everyone in Vermont be eventually brought into the single payer pool. And there are definitely questions on how that logistically works with those on Medicare and Tricare, our veterans. One could infer from the statements that the governor made that it is his intent that they will no longer be able to stay on their current Medicare plan or Tricare plan in the case of the veterans. I think that’s concerning,” Sunderland said.

Gov. Peter Shumlin later responded to Sunderland's letter saying, "I am sorry you were confused by my comments. Let me be clear: I will not take away health care from seniors or veterans or force them off Medicare or Tricare."

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