Clavelle makes Iraq an issue in governor’s race

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(Host) Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Clavelle says he plans to highlight Governor Jim Douglas’s support for the war in Iraq in the final weeks of their campaign. Douglas says this strategy shows that Clavelle’s campaign is running out of real issues.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Is the war in Iraq an appropriate and relevant issue for Vermont’s gubernatorial campaign? The answer depends on whom you talk to.

Democratic candidate Peter Clavelle says the war is a critical issue. Clavelle says Governor Jim Douglas’ support for President Bush’s decision to go to war is a growing concern for many Vermonters.

(Clavelle) “I definitely have been thinking a lot about this because as I travel across the state of Vermont and attempt to engage Vermonters in a discussion about health care, about energy policy, often times I find myself listening to Vermonters and talking with Vermonters about the war in Iraq.”

(Kinzel) Clavelle says there are several reasons why the war in Iraq is having such a big impact.

(Clavelle) “One is the number of our fellow Americans, including Vermonters, that are being killed and wounded in that war. Secondly is the diversion of massive resources – $200 billion – that we ought to be investing in building strong communities and infrastructure and creating jobs in this country. And thirdly is the personal impact that this war will have on many Vermonters that very well could be called up in the coming months.”

(Kinzel) Douglas, who has supported the president’s decision to invade Iraq at numerous press conferences, says there’s a reason why Clavelle is bringing international issues into their race for governor:

(Douglas) “My opponent has nothing to offer the people of Vermont. He’s grasping for an issue – he talks about salaries, he talks about foreign policy issues, he talks about everything except what’s relevant and important to the people of our state.”

(Kinzel) Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis says linking Douglas to the war in Iraq may be a tough connection for Clavelle to make:

(Davis) “Clavelle is trying to get voters to think about Bush-Cheney equals Iraq, Douglas equals Iraq. And I’m just not sure that that’s a process of reasoning that Vermont voters will either understand or accept.”

(Kinzel) But Davis thinks the Bush-Douglas connection on a number of domestic issues could be relevant.

(Davis) “It seems to me that if Mayor Clavelle focused on issues such as health care, the environment and tax cuts he might actually have an easier time making the points he wants to make, which is the connection between the Douglas administration and the Bush-Cheney administration, than by focusing on Iraq.”

(Kinzel) Clavelle is expected to raise the Iraqi war issue in a number of upcoming debates.

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

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