Gubernatorial candidates series: Con Hogan

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(Host) Independent gubernatorial candidate Con Hogan is traveling around Vermont in a Winnebago this summer and fall. Hogan says the office on wheels symbolizes his approach to this campaign.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports from the campaign trail.

(Sound of a Winnebago motor.)

(Kinzel) It’s very hard to miss Con Hogan’s mobile office when it passes by. It’s a thirty-two foot long, cream colored Winnebago covered with a huge Hogan for Governor sign hanging down on each side of the vehicle.

Inside is the driver’s compartment with two large seats, an office space with two couches, and a desk with a computer and a cell phone. In the back of the vehicle is a small bedroom with a door that allows the candidate to take cat naps on the road.

Hogan says his campaign office on wheels is a perfect fit for his small independent effort to become Vermont’s next governor:

(Hogan) And I’ll tell you there’s an energy that goes with it because it forces you to go out and meet the folks in their own communities. You’re not dealing with them long distance, so that’s why. And so far we’re having a great time with this and we’re meeting a lot of good people.

(Kinzel) Hogan is traveling all over the state in an effort to meet as many people as he can. He’s taking this approach because he won’t have the money to launch big media campaigns like his Democratic and Republican opponents, and because he’s convinced that this grass roots strategy can be successful:

(Hogan) I have to make this a very localized campaign, but not just because I have to. This feels right, this is two-way communication. This isn’t just me sending people a message through the media or sending mail. This is getting information and feedback back from Vermonters that you really understand what’s on their minds.

(Kinzel) Recent polls show Hogan with about 5% of the vote in a three-way contest with Democrat Doug Racine and Republican Jim Douglas. Hogan is convinced that his campaign efforts will produce a slow but steady rise in these polls:

(Hogan) I just don’t think there’s tremendous fire on behalf of the other two party candidates. My problem is that not enough people know me yet and that’s my job to get people to know who I am and I’ve got the experience to do this.

(Kinzel) On a recent summer afternoon, the Hogan vehicle made a quick stop at the headquarters of a small commercial bus company in East Montpelier. The large warehouse building included a huge repair bay where several school buses were in for maintenance work.

Inside a small cluttered office, where a fan did little to relieve the heat of an unusually warm day, Hogan found the Powerball lottery was the key concern of the office manager:

(Manager) I got a question for you.”
(Hogan) “Go for it.”
(Manager) “What ever happened to Powerball? Was that put in the bill this year ?”
(Hogan) “No -“
(Manager) “I know you came out against it.”
(Hogan) “I did. I’m against what I call casino gambling. On the Powerball, I’m beginning rethink it through a little bit. As long as it stays in the form of a lottery, I’m comfortable. I get uncomfortable when it begins down that slippery slope into the sports betting and all the other kind of stuff that goes along with it.

(Kinzel) As Hogan left the building he stopped and greeted a group of drivers who were getting ready for their next shift:

(Hogan) “I’m Con Hogan and I’m running for governor. So my job is to get folks to know who I am. Can I give you a brochure that tells you a little bit?”
(Driver) “Sure.”
(Hogan) “Have you made up your mind about who you like in this race yet?”
(Driver) “Nope.”
(Hogan) “Good, that’s all I can ask. I can’t ask for more than that.”

(Kinzel) Following this brief campaign stop, Hogan criss-crossed central Vermont on his way to a small fund-raising event in Burlington. He’s hoping to generate interest in his campaign by running a series of radio ads, continually updating his web site and logging a lot of miles in his Winnebago.

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

(Host) Next in the series, VPR’s John Dillon visits the gubernatorial campaign of Doug Racine.

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