Douglas,Racine search for votes in campaign’s last days

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(Host) As the election season winds down, the two major candidates for governor have stepped up their search for votes. Democratic Lieutenant Governor Doug Racine told a news conference in Burlington that he’ll work intensely on issues important to women and families. And Republican Jim Douglas took credit for the Bush administration’s decision to place a long-awaited highway project on a priority list.

VPR’s John Dillon has this report from the campaign trail:

(Dillon) It’s Halloween, so the kids at the Robin’s Nest Day Care in Burlington are planning to trick and treat. Democrat Doug Racine talks to one child who has a favorite superhero.

(Racine) “And who are you going to be? Buzz Lightyear? To infinity and beyond!”

(Dillon) Racine chose the day care center for a news conference on women and family issues. In the last weeks of the campaign, he’s focused on women’s vote. He says he’s worked hard for family leave legislation and initiatives that require equal pay for equal work.

(Racine) “This is a real effort to say to the women of Vermont to pay attention to what’s going on in this campaign. And ask yourself, who’s going to be more committed to improving the lives of women and children in this state? Who’s going to be more committed to early childcare and education? Who’s going to be more committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose?”

(Dillon) On the other side of the county, Republican Jim Douglas had a competing news conference that was also a campaign rally.

With GOP legislative leaders at his side, Douglas says he pressured the White House to put the Circumferential Highway on a priority list. The $180 million project is designed to link the suburbs around Burlington. Douglas staged his news conference at the spot where the Circ Highway would approach Interstate 89. The highway is a favorite of IBM in nearby Essex.

In September, the Environmental Protection Agency raised concerns about the Circ highway project. The EPA said the Federal Highway Administration had not studied the full range of environmental impacts, including sprawl and air pollution. The Bush administration has put the project on a preliminary list that will be reviewed by a task force convened to iron out differences between federal agencies. Douglas says the highway is needed to improve the transportation network and attract jobs to the region.

(Douglas) “The key to creating those jobs and the key to ensuring those jobs don’t continue to flow out of Vermont is infrastructure that is necessary for companies to grow and expand. That’s why I’m pleased that this project is back on track, that it will receive expedited review by the new cabinet-level task force. I look forward to continuing to work with the General Assembly of our state [and] officials in Washington to assure that on some future morning we can all gather here, cut a ribbon and get the Circ Highway underway.” (Sound of applause.)

(Dillon) The highway is now on a list of projects that may get a faster environmental review. But the list won’t become final until December.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Williston.

(Host) VPR’s Patti Daniels in Burlington contributed to this report.

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