Time To Vote 2016: Here Are Vermont's Candidates For U.S. Senate
The winner of this race joins Bernie Sanders in representing Vermonters for a six-year term in the U.S. Senate.
What does the senator do?
The U.S. Senate is colloquially referred to as "the world's most exclusive club." Everything from U.S. involvement in the Syrian conflict to the confirmation of Supreme Court justices passes through the U.S. Senate.
This year, the Senate could shift from Republican-majority to Democratic-majority, depending on the outcomes of a few races around the country.
Who's running for U.S. Senate?
There are five candidates for U.S. Senate on Vermont's ballot in this general election:
Four of the five candidates in the U.S. Senate race spoke with Vermont Edition about their candidacy and their stances on various issues.
Where are they on the issues?
- EB-5 - Diamondstone | Leahy | Milne | Trudell
- Guns - Diamondstone | Leahy | Milne | Trudell
- Syria - Diamondstone | Leahy | Milne | Trudell
- Supreme Court nominee - Diamondstone | Leahy | Milne | Trudell
- ... and one more thing - Diamondstone | Leahy | Milne | Trudell
- Liberty Union candidate
- Town of residence: Dummerston
- Diamondstone co-founded the Liberty Union party in 1970
- Has not held elected office in Vermont. Ran for U.S. House in nearly every election from 1978-2000; has run for governor four times since 2002; this is his fourth campaign for U.S. Senate.
- Party website
On EB-5: Diamondstone indicated that he is unfamiliar with the EB-5 visa program, but states that he is philosophically opposed to policies that increase production.
"I'm talking about reducing production, and they're talking about increasing production. We need to produce less, not more. We just need to divide the work up differently, with 20 hours of work for 40 hours pay."
On guns: Diamondstone supports background checks but connects his stance on gun policy to the Liberty Union's anti-war platform.
"I think that whatever weapons the government has, the people should be able to have – except for atomic weapons, nuclear weapons, because there's international law that prohibits that. But if the government has a tank, we should have tanks. If the government has machine guns, we should have machine guns. But mind you, I said I want to totally disarm."
On Syria: When asked if the U.S. should play a role in Syria, Diamondstone said, "We already are playing a role."
"We're the ones who started that war, by financing the ... revolutionaries as we did in Libya. It's the same story over again. We keep financing revolutions to overthrow the people we don't want, like [Muammar] Gaddafi and now what's-his-name in Syria."
On Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland: Diamondstone supports approving Garland.
"There's no reason not to approve [his nomination] except the recalcitrance of the Republican majority."
One more thing: Diamondstone supports the national legalization of drugs.
"I'm one of those people who favors the nationalization or the socialization of the drug industry at all levels and in all areas … The first step is that the community takes over the distribution and the production and the importation. The important part is the nationalization of the industry. The second part of it is, well, why not? Why should it not be legal?"
Want to hear more from Pete Diamondstone?
- Democratic candidate, incumbent
- Town of residence: Middlesex
- Incumbent U.S. senator; first elected in 1974 and re-elected to six terms
- Prior to serving in the U.S. Senate, Leahy was Chittenden County state's attorney
- Campaign website
On EB-5: Leahy supports reforms to "lax oversight" in the EB-5 program, but argues the program works when it's used properly.
"I've seen it when it's done the right way. We've seen it in [a] number of businesses in Vermont; one of them right near where we are right now is Sugarbush. They follow the rules."
On guns: Leahy supports purchase restrictions for people on the no-fly list, and those with major felony or domestic violence-related restraining orders. He supports universal background checks.
"I don't know why we are selling weapons that normally you see in a war zone. You're not going to get the ban through [Congress] and I understand that. But why somebody should have to have a 30-round clip in their weapon? We don’t allow that in deer season in Vermont. We limit the number of rounds you can have in a clip to [give] the deer a chance. I'd kind of like to give human beings a chance."
On Syria: Leahy does not support committing U.S. troops to the conflict and says nations in that region need to work together to end the Syrian civil war.
"I think [Syrian president] Bashar Assad should be tried as a war criminal. And what he has done with the cluster bombs, the barrel bombs and others against innocent civilians – this is a war crime. By any standard, it's a war crime."
On Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland: Leahy wants hearings to be held so the Senate can vote on Garland's nomination.
"I think [Republican leader Sen. Mitch] McConnell … wants more Republicans elected to the Senate so he can continue to control [it] like that. It's arbitrary. It's wrong. Every single senator stood there on the floor of the Senate, raised their hand and said, 'I'll uphold the Constitution, so help me God.' Well, they're not fulfilling that. Every Democrat's ready for a vote, the Republican majority has said no."
One more thing: Leahy responds to possible voter concerns about his health or age by describing his various activities, including hiking, snowshoeing and scuba diving.
"On the few times Marcelle and I get a vacation, we are avid scuba divers … When I'm down swimming at 75 to 80 feet down with 8-foot-long sharks, I don't think people question my age."
Want to hear more from Patrick Leahy?
- Republican candidate
- Town of residence: Pomfret
- Has not held elected office in Vermont. Ran for governor in 2014, and for state representative in 2006.
- Milne is president of his family's travel business
- Campaign website
On EB-5: Milne supports the program as a tool in immigration policy, but wants to see major reforms and disclosure of problems that led to alleged EB-5-related fraud.
"There's a lot that needs to be learned about EB-5 before we talk about shutting it down or fixing it, because it's got big problems. And it goes to the root of career politicians, propped up by big special interest money, election after election. EB-5 is a tip of that iceberg."
On guns: Milne says Vermont's gun laws "are fine and don't need to change."
"I've taken a pledge to say I'm not going to support gun law changes within 120 days of one of these mass tragedies, because I don't think it should be something that's done in a knee-jerk reaction."
On Syria: Milne does not support putting boots on the ground, and favors working with international partners.
"We should have instituted a no-fly zone when we had a chance. At this point, it's too late to put in a no-fly zone. We need to work with NGOs and try to set up some safe havens to avoid the humanitarian catastrophe. We [have] got to avoid getting sucked into a global confrontation."
On Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland: Milne supports hearings for Garland, and says presidents should be shown deference in nominations.
"I believe that presidents should have great deference in nominating and getting Supreme Court justices appointed. I'm clearly in favor of Merrick Garland or anybody getting a fair hearing. I haven't been through those hearings, but my sense is I would support Garland after those hearings."
One more thing: Milne calls the police shootings of unarmed black men "a huge problem."
"I support and sympathize with Black Lives Matter … Every organization could have some different tactics, but clearly we have a problem and it needs to get more sunlight shone on it."
Want to hear more from Scott Milne?
- Independent candidate
- Town of residence: Derby
- Has not held elected office in Vermont. Has run for U.S. House three times since 2006.
- Trudell is a pilot and aerial photographer
- Campaign website
On EB-5: Trudell wants to end the EB-5 program, and accuses Leahy of supporting the EB-5 program but providing no oversight, which Trudell calls "inexcusable."
"I got to say, the Newport crater, which is what they're calling it, that is appalling … In addition to the money, what we have here is a physical result of this scandal, which is inexcusable. So I'm saying let's do something about Newport, Vermont."
On guns: Trudell supports background checks but says Vermont's crime rate is low and that gun violence is not a pressing problem in Vermont.
"Most people in Vermont … that use guns hunt to bring more food to the table. So gun violence doesn't seem to be a problem in Vermont… If I had my druthers, I'd take a look at the whole issue. I'd look at the black market. We try and trace the money and we try and spend more resources on tracking these gangs because that's the real problem here."
On Syria and terrorism: Trudell wants the U.S. to stop "proxy" involvement in Syria and says the solution to the global terrorism is to build cooperative efforts between nations.
"We have been supplying proxies — which may have also included ISIS — to fight Assad, who is Russian-backed. So this is a complicated, stupid mess but it is a civil war and we're on record as being against the current regime and against the Russians."
On Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland: Trudell supports moving forward with the nomination process, but hasn’t looked into Garland's credentials as a nominee.
"I haven't taken a close look at his record. But after I did, I would consider voting for him if I had the opportunity to. We need a Supreme Court and it shouldn't be subject to political maneuverings."
One more thing: Trudell wants to grow the statewide public transportation system and says it's a myth that mass transit can’t work in rural areas.
"Obviously we are the poorest rich country in the world. We're falling apart. There are thousands of articles that have been written over the past 10 years about our crumbling infrastructure. So we need to rebuild America. It's that simple. It's a consensus."
Want to hear more from Jerry Trudell?
Editor's note: Cris Ericson, the candidate for the U.S. Marijuana Party, has not responded to repeated requests for interviews from VPR.
Ericson resides in Chester, has run for U.S. House before, and has run for governor six times since 2004; she has not held elected office in Vermont. More information can be found at Ericson's campaign website.
Time To Vote: Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8.
- To check your voting status, poll location and more, visit the Vermont Secretary of State's "My Voter Page."
- See who's on your ballot with 7 Days' Vermont 2016 Ballot Generator.
- Check out the Vermont House & Senate candidates with VT Digger's Legislative Guide.
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