Backus and Rivers plan strategies for November election

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(Host) The two Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor – Jan Backus and Cheryl Rivers – have different strategies for a fall general election campaign. Each candidate is trying to convince voters in Mondays’ primary election that they have the best chance to unseat incumbent Republican Lieutenant Governor Brian Dubie.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) It’s an election where there aren’t a lot of major issue differences between the candidates. Cheryl Rivers and Jan Backus have both served as state senators, they’ve both chaired important committees in the Senate and both are viewed as having liberal voting records during their legislative careers.

They do differ, however, on the best strategy for the Democrats to take in the general election.

Two years ago Republican Brian Dubie won the election in a three-way race with Democrat Peter Shumlin and Progressive Anthony Pollina. Although Dubie received only 41percent of the vote, it was enough to win because Shumlin and Pollina split the remaining 59 percent.

Rivers is trying to attract progressive voters in the November election and she’s being endorsed by Congressman Bernie Sanders. Even though Progressive Steve Hingtgen is running for lieutenant governor this year, Rivers thinks the Sanders connection will help bring a lot of progressives to her campaign:

Rivers and Backus debated this issue recently on VPR’s Switchboard program:

(Rivers) “I believe the winning combination is to stand clearly for what you believe in, to stand up for the issues and to talk to people as clearly about what your experience has been, what you stand for and to work really hard. And my experience has always been that Vermonters respond well to that. So you won’t see me moving to the right, you won’t see me becoming one of those mushy Democrats that causes people to vote Progressive.”

(Kinzel) Backus disagrees. She thinks Democrats should try to appeal to more moderate voters in the general election:

(Backus) “I see you kind of duking it out with the Progressive candidate. And what’s going to happen, I’m afraid, is you’re out there – these are my progressive votes, no these are my progressive votes – is that some of that middle which is so important in Vermont politics; that’s where Vermont elections are won – that’s going to move over to the Republican incumbent. All he needs to gain is nine more points and if that goes, he’s hit 50 percent and it’s all over.”

(Kinzel) Because voter turnout in the primary is not expected to be very strong, both campaigns are working on efforts to make certain that their supporters get to polls.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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