Campaigns Make The Most Of Newspaper Endorsements

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(Host) As the campaign season draws to a close, newspaper endorsements are rolling in.

The state’s largest newspapers have split on their choices for governor. The Burlington Free Press backs Democrat Peter Shumlin while the Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus support Republican Brian Dubie.

As VPR’s John Dillon reports, both campaigns are making the most of their editorial support.

(Dillon) The Burlington Free Press in an editorial earlier this week called Democrat Peter Shumlin a bold leader who has an impressive record as leader of the Vermont Senate.

The editorial that appeared in both the Herald and Times Argus makes the same point. But then the papers endorsed Brian Dubie because they said a Republican governor is needed to balance a Democratically controlled Statehouse.

Eric Davis is a retired professor of political science at Middlebury College. He says the newspapers engaged in a role reversal of sorts.

(Davis) "First of all the Free Press consistently endorsed Jim Douglas during his entire time as governor. And on many legislative issues, the Free Press seemed often more sympathetic to the governor than to some of the arguments the Democratic Legislature was making. Yet in this year’s race, the Free Press has endorsed Peter Shumlin. In the Herald-Times Argus the situation seems sort of the reverse. The Herald-Times Argus editorial page has been quite critical of many of Jim Douglas’ proposals to the Legislature regarding, for instance, school finance. Yet they endorsed Brian Dubie."  

(Dillon) Davis says newspaper endorsements have more value for the lesser-known candidates on the ballot.

(Davis) "I would argue that in terms of affecting voters’ choices, newspaper endorsements are more important for the down-ballot races than they are for the governor’s race. In the governor’s races, voters have a lot of opportunities to get information from all sorts of choices."

(Dillon) Still, both major party candidates for governor are touting their newspaper support. Peter Shumlin’s web site headlines his most recent endorsement from the Valley News. The paper covers Windsor County – seen as a key battle ground in the race. And Dubie’s campaign has highlighted the support he’s gained from the St. Albans Messenger in Franklin County.

Meanwhile, energy issues continued to play out in the campaign. Shumlin appeared on VPR’s Vermont Edition and underscored his opposition to a new license for the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.

Yankee is reportedly close to reaching a new power contract with state utilities. But Shumlin said even if the plant were sold to another company, he wants it retired when its license expires in 2012.

(Shumlin) "I don’t know how many times I can say as clearly as I can say: Vermont Yankee is an old tired nuclear power plant that must be shut down in 2012…. It’s not an ownership issue."

(Dillon) Vermont is the only state where the Legislature gets to have a say in nuclear plant operations. Lawmakers last winter rejected a bill that would have allowed Yankee to operate for another 20 years.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.


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