Education Cuts Among Concerns For Bennington Voters

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(Host) The airwaves and newspapers are full of the back-and-forth between candidates during this closely contested election season.

But what’s so often missing are the voices of the voters who will actually decide who our next governor and lieutenant governor will be.

So we’ve been out around the state talking to Vermonters about what’s on their mind as they decide the elections this fall.

VPR’s Susan Keese begins our series of reports from a varsity girls’ soccer game in Vermont’s southwest corner.

(Keese) It’s Bennington County’s version of a subway series: a matchup, under the lights, between Manchester’s Burr and Burton Academy and Bennington’s Mount Anthony Union High.

Dennis Madden is a property manager in Glastenbury. He’s sitting at the edge of the bleachers, watching his daughter play.

(Madden) "I could care less about politics…"

(Keese) It isn’t just that the game is so exciting. It’s the state of politics, Madden says, especially here in what many locals say is Vermont’s most neglected corner.

(Madden) "I just don’t have any faith in it. People make all these promises and it just doesn’t ever seem to happen."

(Keese) Madden is frustrated by cuts to education and what he sees as the region’s seeming inability to attract and keep good businesses. He’d like to encourage career opportunities that could keep his daughters in Vermont after college.

But he doesn’t see how his vote will make that happen.

On the other side of the bleachers, Laura Lincoln shares his worries.

(Lincoln) "A lot of talented youth are leaving. Also, health care is huge."

(Keese) But Lincoln is more hopeful for the democratic process.

(Lincoln) "I think for our state elections, yes, there definitely are some candidates that I could have faith in. I don’t know where they stand on all the issues right now. But I plan to, shortly. God bless Google! "

(Keese) The next morning in a downtown café, Bennington attorney John Toscano has big issues on his mind :

(John) "Financial management, environmental problems, global economy, militarism, genocide. These are issues that don’t seem to get play. Candidates will say they want to put people back to work but they have very little specifics. They seem to be fighting each other more than addressing concerns that we have."

(Keese) Toscano says he will vote, even though he isn’t happy with the choices

(Toscano) "I usually vote Democrat, but this year I’ll go with a Republican…. Dubie, for one. He’s got experience, which helps. Shumlin, I don’t know much of."

(Keese) Despite all the advertising that Brian Dubie and Peter Shumlin have done, some in downtown Bennington didn’t really know the men. Or how to pronounce their names.

(Man) "Schoomer?" (woman)" I think it’s Shoomlin"
(SFX) Street sounds, footsteps cross fade with bank walla and Muzak

(Keese) For the record, it’s Shumlin. Laura Block has been making calls for the outgoing Senate president. Block, an independent college counselor, was in a bank on Main Street.

She says this year’s negative campaign ads have confused the voters and deflected attention from the real issues.

(Block) "I think the issues about how to consolidate or re-organize the state educational system – those are very important questions. Given the difficulties of what we have to do here in the state economically, I feel that Peter is going to be a lot more sensitive to those."

(Nurse) "Okay now squeeze your fist and then let go."

(Keese) At the Baptist Church, a Red Cross blood drive is going on. Fred Harrington, a retiree who’s always voted, says he’s had it with this election.

(Harrington) "I don’t even think I’m going to vote ‘cause I just don’t like the way they’re campaigning."

(Keese) Visiting nurse Sharon Stewart says she’s always leaned Democratic. But this year she’s been tuning out.

(Stewart) I think I’ve succumbed to a little bit of apathy cause it just seems to be the same old rhetoric.

But after she’s given blood, Stewart says she plans to stop by the new Democratic headquarters in town.

(Stewart) "Maybe pick up some literature and see if they have anything to say that can excite me."

(Keese) For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese in Bennington.

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