Governor’s Race Heats Up Early

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(Host) This year’s gubernatorial race has gotten off to an unusually intense start as candidates try to position themselves in the minds of Vermont voters.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Unless there’s a tough primary race, usually political campaigns in Vermont do not wage a high energy media effort until after Labor Day, but this year things are very different.

It’s the first time in twelve years that Vermont has had an open race for governor and the candidates are involved in a vigorous effort to define themselves and their opponents.

The campaign of Republican candidate Jim Douglas has been very active sending a flurry of faxes to newsrooms all across the state accusing Democratic candidate Doug Racine of “flip flopping” his position on a number of key issues. Racine says he’s disappointed that Douglas is running such a negative campaign:

(Racine) “Vermonters are trying to evaluate the candidates and say, all right what kind of governor would Doug Racine be? Or what kind of governor would Jim Douglas be? And what I’m saying to Vermonters, I’m the kind of governor who’s going to roll up his sleeves we’re going to try different ways of solving our problems. What Jim is saying, the kind of governor he would be is somebody who wants to simply attack opponents and offer nothing but a negative message. I think Vermonters deserve better from him.”

(Kinzel) Douglas denies that he’s waging a negative campaign. He says he’s merely educating the public about Racine’s voting record:

(Douglas) “All I’m doing is repeating press reports and statements the candidate has made himself. I’ve offered no commentary beyond that. I’m just putting out the record for people to see and let them draw their own conclusions.”

(Kinzel) It’s clear that the theme of what Douglas calls Racine’s “flip flops” is going to be a major part of the Douglas campaign strategy:

(Douglas) “We certainly have seen a tremendous inconsistency. I don’t think he knows whether he wants to move left or right in order to capture certain constituencies. I think the people will understand that as the campaign goes along.”

(Kinzel) While Racine disputes the specific charges that Douglas has made, he also says there’s nothing wrong with revisiting his position on a particular issue:

(Racine) “Issues change and circumstances change. What kind of leader would I be if I said to Vermonters, ‘Well I’ve listened to a lot of things. I don’t know that I was right on this issue, but I’m going to stick to my position no matter what I hear.’ That’s not leadership.”

(Kinzel) This campaign has also featured some very early TV ads. Douglas has been running ads for about a month because he says he wants to be certain that Vermonters become familiar with his overall campaign message.

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

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