Republican Gubernatorial Primary Race 2020: Doug Cavett
Doug Cavett is one of four Republicans going up against incumbent Gov. Phil Scott in the party's primary. Cavett has not run for office before. He lives in Milton, works at Rhino Foods in Burlington and is a former paraeducator in the Burlington School system.
VPR’s Henry Epp spoke with Doug Cavett, and their interview below has been condensed and edited for clarity. VPR is seeking interviews with all of the candidates for governor.
Henry Epp began his interview with Cavett by asking why he thinks Vermont should turn to a new leader during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Doug Cavett: Well, first of all, it's all about the people. It really has very little to do about the governor. Even though Gov. Scott has been fine in his intentions, it's about the people. And the Vermonters that have kept our state healthy, and the way that it is right now, actually, as an example for the rest of the country.
And that goes right into the economic issues that we're going to face. Vermonters need to be able to have somebody who can market this wonderful, healthy environment and bring the big businesses that are really squirming in the bigger cities just in New England. They're not very far away. They're two, three hours away. And I have already started reaching out to, you know, the top 10-type businesses in Boston or Springfield or Stamford, Connecticut, or even New York City, to see whether we can attract somebody to come up here and settle in a safer environment and therefore providing more jobs.
We need to be able to market the wonderful, beautiful and healthy Vermont that we have.
Henry Epp: I want to talk a bit about your background. In 2010, you pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated sexual assault for assaulting a minor over a six-year period in the 1990s. Why should Vermonters vote for you, given your history as a convicted felon?
Well, first of all, we need to look at what people call the criminal justice system, which is really a criminal financial system. And the criminal financial system forces, coerces and terrorizes people into 99% plea deals. And that's the unfortunate situation that I landed in.
So, do you feel like you were coerced into pleading guilty?
Oh, absolutely. Without a doubt.
So do you deny the actions that you were convicted for?
I deny them completely, 100%.
And so why then did you plead guilty?
As I said, they really, they hold your family, the most dearest treasures of your life, in front of you. And dangle these life sentences over your head. You know, I went into all of this very naive.
And so how would you change the criminal justice system if you were elected governor?
Well, first and foremost, we need to abolish the Department of Corrections as we know it today. And we need to create a university of wellness and equity.
Most people that are caught in this system have many other issues, such as mental health issues, addiction problems, lack of education, poverty, all of these things combined with getting caught into the system, and then they're not allowed out. And it's really a destructive thing to them, to their families and to our communities.
So do you not see a role for the Department of Corrections in terms of punishing those who are convicted of serious felonies, such as sexual assault or murder or other crimes?
The punishment is already at hand, once the person enters into an incarcerative period. But what we really need to look at is the rehabilitative part of this aspect. And to know that these people are still part of our community, and they need to be welcomed into the community at large and therefore they are not liabilities, but assets of the community.
And if we can't as an overall state and community look at this and see that every human being is valuable, then we have to really reevaluate.
Well, let's talk a little bit more about that. You're currently on the sex offender registry in Vermont, and residents are advised to keep their children away from people who are registered as sex offenders. So if you were elected governor, I mean, how would you interact with the public when the public is told to be cautious around you?
I interact with the public every single day.
But I mean, as a registered sex offender, the advice for people in the public is to essentially be wary of having children around you. In the Statehouse, school groups come through. I mean, how would you navigate that?
So once again, this is part of the criminal financial system. In order to keep people funneled into the system, they create these things like the registry, and they're really not to keep anybody safer. It's really just to create the drama, create the fear and create the drive for more money and funding into their system.
I want to talk about another issue. There've been increasing calls for police reform in Vermont since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May. And there are some activists who are calling for decreasing police budgets and reallocating those funds to other social services and other funds. Do you support moving funds away from police departments, defunding the police?
I think the first thing that we need to do is change their name. Why can't we call them peace professionals so that once you change the name, the language that's involved, then you can change the behaviors and the attitudes that result from those.
And if we need to defund the police officers, yes, why don't we just fund the peace professionals? And if that includes more mental health counselors and whatnot, that would be fine with me.
Finally, before we go. You're running in the Republican primary. I'm curious, what Republican values do you align yourself with and why are you running as a Republican?
I think we need to be conservative with our money. And I don't see a big government as the answer to all of our problems. I think that, you know, government was created for the people, you know, of the people, by the people, for the people. That's what government should be. It's not government for the government.
The leader of the national Republican Party right now is the president, President Donald Trump. Do you support him?
No, I don't.
Because he has personal problems.
Can you expand more on that? I mean, so you will not be voting for him in November?
I definitely will not be. Unfortunately, he is just rude to too many people.
OK. But you do see yourself as a Republican, and [with] a future in the Republican party.
As long as we need to cut the waste in government, then yes.
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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.