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Time To Vote 2018: Here Are The Candidates For Governor Of Vermont

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Photo: Angela Evancie / VPR File
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Incumbent Gov. Phil Scott is seeking a second term in office, but faces six challengers on the ballot this election who also want to be the state's next governor.

Time To Vote 2018 — Attorney General | Auditor | Lieutenant Governor | Secretary of State | Treasurer | U.S. House | U.S. Senate

What does the governor do?

The governor is the head of the executive branch and is the highest elected office in Vermont. When bills are passed by the Vermont Legislature, they then make their way to the governor for a signature or veto (or option three, let it pass into law without their signature).

Voters elect a governor in Vermont every two years, with no term limits — and if you're curious about Vermont's two-year gubernatorial terms, we got you covered.

Who’s running for governor?

There are seven candidates for governor on Vermont’s ballot in this general election:

  • Trevor Barlow
  • Cris Ericson
  • Christine Hallquist
  • Charles Laramie
  • Emily "Em" Peyton
  • Stephen Marx
  • Phil Scott

Scroll to learn more about the candidates.

A thin grey line.

An illustration of the Vermont Statehouse with the name Trevor Barlow
Credit Photo: Angela Evancie / VPR File

  • Independent candidate
  • First time seeking elected statewide office in Vermont
  • Town of residence: Cavendish
  • Website

On a tax-and-regulate system for marijuana:

Barlow said he'd support this kind of model "in a heartbeat," saying it's one example of new opportunities and markets the state needs to consider if we want to grow revenue overall.

"I think [the cannabis market] is a missed opportunity for Vermont as an agricultural leader to get involved in to really help with family farms, as well as generate more revenue for state programs," he said.

On Act 46 and school district consolidation:

Barlow said he is "dead-set against" school consolidation and it's a "travesty" to eliminate local control.

"If we can’t repeal [Act] 46, at least lessen the impact with regards to local control and giving people a voice in how their schools are structured and financed," he said.

And since rural schools often serve as community centers, Barlow said, offering more services there for the entire community is another idea to pursue.

On funding waterway cleanup:

While Barlow said he hasn't yet looked at the specifics to develop a financing plan, he feels cleanup is an important task to undertake and "we need to take a more holistic view of how we approach water as a state." 

"I think unfortunately, a lot of blame has been placed on farmers, which I think has been misplaced," Barlow said. "I think we need to look to the fact that especially in the Chittenden County area, there’s been a lot of economic vitality and success and I think some of this is kind of … unfortunately caused by that."

On Vermont's incarceration rate and sending prisoners out of state:

Barlow said he is against sending prisoners out of state, and opposes private prisons generally.

"I think that as a society there are always going to be ills that we need to deal with and behaviors that we need to work on with regards to making everyone a functioning, productive member — I don’t think that is best outsourced," he said. "I think it’s best done in the communities where these issues rise, where we’re most familiar," both in terms of where people's relatives or friends are located and the availability of local resources.

And a little more:

Barlow grew up in Vermont and when he moved back here, he said he was struck by the effect of opioids on his hometown of Springfield. He said he was also struck by a number of shuttered factories.

"I thought it was a tragedy that that was happening, that there’s so much infrastructure and opportunity," he said. "And we need to do more to not only help towns like Springfield, but other smaller, rural towns in Vermont.”

He said investing in regional development corporations is one way to "spur entrepreneurship" and "help fund existing businesses" to strengthen the economy. He said that money could come from the current budget, suggesting that the education fund be a source considering the declining student population.

Want to hear more from Trevor Barlow? Listen to an extended interview here.

A thin grey line.

An illustration of the Vermont Statehouse with the name Cris Ericson
Credit Photo: Angela Evancie / VPR File

  • Independent candidate
  • Also is a U.S. House candidate in this election; since 2002, has run multiple times for governor, U.S. Senate and the U.S. House; has not held elected statewide office in Vermont
  • Town of residence: Chester
  • Website

Ericson declined a pre-recorded interview with VPR.

A thin grey line.

An illustration of the Vermont Statehouse with the name Christine Hallquist
Credit Photo: Angela Evancie / VPR File

  • Democratic candidate
  • Town of residence: Hyde Park
  • First time seeking elected statewide office in Vermont
  • Website

On a tax-and-regulate system for marijuana: 

Hallquist supports a tax-and-regulate system (and as of August, the Vermont Democratic Party has officially endorsed this type of model).

"In marijuana, we're in the most dangerous place right now," Hallquist said. "I'm going to argue it from a safety standpoint. People don't know where their pot's coming from."

On Act 46 and school district consolidation:

"Act 46 has been pretty effective," Hallquist said, citing the many voluntary mergers under the law. Hallquist also acknowledged that Act 46 has been criticized but that she sees it more about how the law is carried out than the law itself.

As far as schools that didn't voluntarily merge and proposed alternative governance plans, Hallquist said that she "would be very flexible in working with those schools and communities in trying to achieve their goals."

And while Act 46 doesn't specify closing schools, Hallquist did say that "closing rural schools goes totally against my goal of growing our rural economy."

On funding waterway cleanup:

Hallquist said she supports the financing plan laid out by State Treasurer Beth Pearce and that "we will figure out how to fund it" — but she hasn't laid out specifics as far as that "how."

As far as the role farmers play in waterway pollution, Hallquist said "certainly dairy is a major issue, but I don't want to beat up the dairy farmers." She noted farmers' commitment to new solutions, which can create more pressures on top of an already difficult job. Related, Hallquist said we should figure out how to be a state that relies less on conventional dairy and lets farmers pursue revenue in other ways.

On Vermont's incarceration rate:

When it was announced in September that Vermont would move its out-of-state prisoners from a state facility in Pennsylvania to a private facility in Mississippi owned by CoreCivic, Hallquist criticized the new contract.

She said in September that her goal would be to bring all out-of-state prisoners back to Vermont and she supports building a new prison here to accomplish that (though during the VPR - Vermont PBS Debate with Phil Scott in late October, Hallquist said she didn't think building a new prison was necessary to achieve that goal).

"We have many people in prison today who really don't belong there," Hallquist said during the debate. Some examples she cited included incarcerating people for substance use or mental health disorders, or because they lack access to housing. Hallquist says her ultimate goal is to decrease our overall prison population.

And a little more:

Hallquist is the former CEO of Vermont Electric Cooperative and has said a plan for broadband in the state is "very critical for economic development" and key to keeping young people from leaving.

While past governors have promised — and failed — to deliver high-speed internet to every corner of Vermont, Hallquist said her approach to the challenge will be different. During her tenure in the utility sector, Hallquist said she served on a national association that developed a plan for getting fiber-optic cables into rural communities:

"The model is if the electric utility hangs the fiber in the electric space with their poles and their equipment," Hallquist explained, adding that it would cut costs and with the lower costs that allows it to be set up throughout the state. Hallquist elaborated that once that fiber infrastructure is in place, then the service itself could come from any provider and would allow for competition.

Want to hear more from Christine Hallquist? Listen to an extended interview here.

A thin grey line.

An illustration of the Vermont Statehouse with the name Charles Laramie
Credit Photo: Angela Evancie / VPR File

  • Independent candidate
  • Has not held elected statewide office in Vermont
  • Town of residence: Fair Haven
  • Website

On a tax-and-regulate model for marijuana:

“Plenty of people are using marijuana," Laramie said, "so yeah, we might as well tax and regulate that.”

Larmie cited his personal sobreity of nearly three decades and noted he doesn't "understand why people would use anything at all anymore" — but he said even in spite of his own experience, he supports a tax-and-regulate system. He added that he doesn’t think people should be jailed for using marijuana. 

On Act 46 and school district consolidation:

Laramie said the law should be repealed because he believes in the benefit of local control for students. However, he does think consolidation can happen within the state as far as the total number of supervisory unions.

He supports eliminating "completely unnecessary" supervisory unions in an effort to save money on administrative overhead. Laramie also supports downsizing the Agency of Education, and said he is in favor of curriculum changes that would create more "hands-on" learning opportunities for students in the community.

On funding waterway cleanup:

Laramie said revenue from taxing marijuana could be put toward waterway cleaup, as could money saved from decreasing the number of supervisory unions.

He said addressing outdated sewer systems around Vermont is another aspect of waterway cleanup.

On Vermont's incarceration rate and sending prisoners out of state:

Laramie said the total number of inmates needs to be reduced: "Let’s start taking a look at, how many are in prison for nonviolent offenses? How many are in for drug-related offenses, nonviolent drug-related offenses? Do they need to be in prison for those types of things? We have to start to treat, you know, addiction for what it is — it’s a disease and we need to try and help those people."

Laramie said it has been suggested the Windsor prison be reopened to deal with overcrowding — but he also said that possibility was something he wasn't as familiar with and would want to look into further.

And a little more:

Laramie wrote last year about his decision to leave teaching due to the poor behavior he was witnessing in schools. He said he met with Gov. Phil Scott about it, but when he didn't see the governor advocating for changes, Laramie took things into his own hands.

"As governor, first of all I would speak to all the administrators, supervisory unions. I would ensure that superintendents would be in the school a lot more," Laramie said, adding he would also make sure rules laid out in school handbooks are enforced.

Want to hear more from Charles Laramie? Listen to an extended interview here.

A thin grey line.

An illustration of the Vermont Statehouse with the name Emily "Em" Peyton.
Credit Photo: Angela Evancie / VPR File

  • Liberty Union candidate
  • Ran for governor in 2010, 2012 and 2014; has not held elected statewide office in Vermont
  • Town of residence: Putney
  • Website

On a tax-and-regulate model for marijuana:

Peyton said she's "super glad" Vermont recently legalized possession of small amounts of recreational marijuana. While this law does not create a legal retail market in the state, Peyton said she sees economic benefits to moving to a tax-and-regulate system.

"I certainly look forward to enormous revenue potentials in, from the cannabis sales," she said. "And there are a number of excellent ideas that are out there, and I think that we need to implement and then tweak."

On Act 46 and school district consolidation:

Peyton said she doesn't support it, but focused most of her conversation on what she perceives as issues with the school environment dynamic and the way success is defined: "Schools need to be much 'free-er.' Teachers need to much free-er to teach to their strengths. Children need to be much free-er from this compliance-based learning system where you look at the child as if they're a vase that you stuff information into."

On funding waterway cleanup:

Peyton said that discussing this plan required more time than was allotted for in VPR's interview, and encouraged people to speak with her directly for specifics: "When you have ideas that are worth the value of our time to think about and you're supposed to express them in a minute or two, it doesn't do them justice."

On Vermont's incarceration rate and sending prisoners out of state:

"Stop imprisoning nonviolent offenders," Peyton said, adding that there should be local mentorship programs and the opportunity to learn skills — like growing organic food or building tiny houses — for people who are incarcerated.

"We don't need anybody out of state, and we don't need probably whatever percentage aren't violent, we don't need those people in cages," she said. "And the restorative systems work."

And a little more:

Peyton and her partner run a business called Hempfully Green, and Peyton said she sees potential with hempcrete as a building material in forging a path toward addressing climate change (by using it for carbon sequestration). And she said Vermont could also use hempcrete as a material for housing projects, in an effort to provide shelter for Vermonters who are homeless.

Want to hear more from Emily "Em" Peyton? Listen to an extended interview here.

A thin grey line.

An illustration of the Vermont Statehouse with the name Stephen Marx
Credit Photo: Angela Evancie / VPR File

  • Earth Rights candidate
  • First time seeking elected statewide office
  • Town of residence: Strafford
  • Website

On a tax-and-regulate model for marijuana:

Marx is in favor of a tax-and-regulate system, especially one where "Vermonters are the ones that are growing it and selling it" as opposed to outside corporations.

On Act 46 and school district consolidation:

Marx said consolidation is "horrible" and said he has spoken out against it in his hometown.

Marx said he supports state intervention if education in an area is suffering, "but if we have towns that are successful, and the people in those towns want to pay for it, then we should be paying for it," Marx said. "And maybe the state needs to look at different ways of funding it."

On funding waterway cleanup:

Earth Rights candidate Marx said "a major change" needs to happen in the state when it comes to the environment: "One of the ways of doing that would be to get a Constitutional amendment which would give the Earth rights. If corporations are considered people, the Earth should be considered a person."

Whether addressing waterways specifically or environmental issues generally, Marx said Vermont should tax polluters so that money can be put toward environmental efforts and to generally assist Vermonters.

"Right now, if you pollute, the taxpayers pay for that pollution, and I think it should be the other way around — that polluters should pay for it and that we should tax people who are putting poisons on the earth," Marx said.

He said he's open to taxing farmers who may be contributing to pollution, but notes he doesn't think they are solely responsible for pollution.

On Vermont's incarceration rate and sending prisoners out of state:

Marx didn't elaborate much on Vermont's practice of sending inmates out of state, but he did say re-opening the Windsor prison (which had a food-growing program when open) could be beneficial for the state.

"We could be using that prison to grow food for the prisons to cut back on expenses, and we could be training people because we need farmers," he said.

And a little more: 

Marx has not accepted any donations — from either individuals or corporations — for his gubernatorial campaign.

"I think that if people saw that there is a chance that you could do something like this, then more people would step up," Marx said of his candidacy.

He also voiced support for a change to elections that would include a "none of the above" option on ballots — if that option got the most votes, Marx said, then the campaign would begin anew with a new batch of candidates. He said he considers voting "a duty" and would want to impose some kind of financial penalty for not voting.

What to hear more from Stephen Marx? Listen to an extended interview here.

A thin grey line.

An illustration of the Vermont Statehouse with the name Phil Scott
Credit Photo: Angela Evancie / VPR File

  • Republican candidate
  • Incumbent, seeking second term; previously served as lieutenant governor and in the Vermont Senate
  • Town of residence: Berlin
  • Website

On a tax-and-regulate system for marijuana:

Scott signed a bill that made small amounts of recreational marijuana legal for personal use in Vermont as of July 1, but he has been candid on his feelings about a tax-and-regulate system — basically he doesn't support implementing that kind of model until there is a roadside test to determine driver impairment. Scott said he feels further education is also necessary.

"We have an opportunity to listen to other states. ... And they have advice for us about what they would do before going to a tax-and-regulate system," he said.

On Act 46 and school district consolidation:

Act 46 passed in 2015, while Scott was lieutenant governor: "While it's not perfect, it's not something that I would have moved forward with — might have made some changes — it was a step in the right direction to achieve what we know is a growing issue in the state," he said, referencing the declining student population in Vermont. 

Scott said he thinks governance consolidation can create efficiencies that can open up opportunities for students. He said there's "an obligation" to follow the Act 46 law, but acknowledged the "contentious" nature of the situation as people deal with how things play out in local districts (like possible school closures).

Scott traces the current education situation back to Act 60, the 1997 legislation that altered school funding: "Act 60 pools all the money together. So those who are doing a great job and saving all kinds of money and doing whatever they can to provide the high-quality education without burdening the system, are paying for those higher-spending districts. And that's not fair either."

On funding waterway cleanup:

"I'm committed to water quality and water quality funding," Scott said, after noting that his office has increased spending for the issue. "I'm just not interested in providing another tax."

While he floated TDI New England as a possible funding source to put toward water cleanup (learn more about that project here), Scott said he wouldn't reveal further details about his long-term plan for water qaulity funding until his budget address in January.

On Vermont's incarceration rate:

Since Scott became governor, the more than 200 Vermont inmates serving their sentences out-of-state have been moved twice. In the summer of 2017, they were moved from a private Michigan prison to Pennsylvania's Camp Hill state correctional facility. And just recently, they were moved to a private facility owned by CoreCivic in Mississippi.

Scott said in September that he supports the latest move of the inmates to Mississippi, but that his administration didn't take the move lightly: "At the end of the day, we have to do what's fiscally responsible, as well as what's responsible for us under the Department of Corrections." Last month Scott also said he planned to continue talks regarding building a new prison in Vermont.

Scott said during the VPR - Vermont PBS Debate that while it isn't the right time now, ideally we will eventually bring our inmates all back here. Earlier this year, the Scott administration had proposed a new 925-bed prison facility, and Scott said at the debate that he supports updating Vermont facilities to provide needed services.

And a little more:

In April, Scott signed three gun bills into law — and while the VPR - Vermont PBS Poll in July showed widespread support for the new laws, that doesn't mean everyone was happy about them (there are currently two lawsuits challenging the new gun legislation).

"I had to do what I thought was right for the state overall, regardless of the political ramifications," Scott said. "I went into that with my eyes wide open, understanding that this could cost me a future election. But I chose action over inaction. And I apologize for disappointing people, but I can't apologize for what I did because I thought it was the right thing to do."

Scott said he thinks all the new laws will be beneficial in some way, particularly the one that allows removal of firearms if a person showcases certain "red flags," but he acknowledges "prevention is always hard to prove." He also feels there is misinformation circulating about the laws.

Want to hear more from Phil Scott? Listen to an extended interview here.

A thin grey line.

Keep going! Time To Vote 2018 — Attorney General | Auditor | Lieutenant Governor | Secretary of State | Treasurer | U.S. House | U.S. Senate

AND REMEMBER: Vermont's 2018 general election is Tuesday, Nov. 6.

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