Gubernatorial candidates series: Doug Racine

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(Host) In his race for the governor’s office, Democratic Lieutenant Governor Doug Racine is talking to voters in a series of small meetings throughout the state. The face-to-face campaigning seem to fit Racine’s low key, informal style.

VPR’s John Dillon reports from the campaign trail in the third part of our series on the governor’s race.

(Sound of Racine talking with group of people.)

(Racine) “Andrew? So he’s out of college now?” (Audience member) “Yeah My wife works in the school system. It’s a small world. Thanks for having this.
(Racine) “Nice to see you again .”

(Dillon) Doug Racine is working the room at the Brownell Library in Essex Junction. It’s a small gathering, no more than two dozen people. They’ve come to hear the lieutenant governor talk about jobs and the economy. It’s an important issue for Essex, because of the lay-offs this spring at the IBM plant.

The business and community leaders pull their chairs in a circle. Racine says he wants to listen, not make a speech.

(Racine) “I recognize there may be people here who may be supporters, there may be people here who may be supporters of an opponent of mine. That’s all fine. Being here implies nothing at all except that we’re Vermonters and in Vermont we still have the opportunity to sit down and talk to the candidates.”

(Dillon) Racine has convened many of these small gatherings. As he expects, the questions immediately turn to the state’s business climate. Bob Miller, a local developer, says that Act 60, the state’s education funding law, has slowed development around the state.

(Miller) “With Act 60, the way it’s written, most towns do not want any growth, because any additional income that comes in taxes, they have to share with other towns. I think we really have to get back to Act 60. That’s the real culprit in the whole system.”

(Dillon) For a politician, Racine is quiet, almost shy. His style is not confrontational. Yet he challenges Miller on Act 60. He reminds him that Act 60 addressed a school funding system that the court said was unconstitutional.

(Racine) “We will not, and I don’t think we can, go back to the old days. As a matter of public policy, I don’t want us to go back there. Is it a system without flaws? Obviously not. Is it a system that’s created some disincentives? Yes. But there have to be other ways to provide those incentives.”

(Dillon) Racine is a veteran politician. He’s run five statewide campaigns for lieutenant governor. Before that, he served over a decade as an influential senator from Chittenden County. And his entry into politics was on Patrick Leahy’s first Senate campaign in 1974.

But in this campaign appearance, Racine cites his business experience, as the co-owner of a car dealership, not his political resume.

Racine’s Republican opponent, Treasurer Jim Douglas, has criticized Racine for what he says are flip flops. Douglas has hit hard on Racine’s previous criticism of the controversial Circumferential Highway in Chittenden County. The road is popular in Essex, because IBM says it’s needed to relieve traffic problems. Racine admits that he was skeptical at first, but was convinced by IBM.

(Racine) “And when I sit down and talk to IBM and they say number one the list is transportation, I sit up and I take notice. I will work with IBM to build the Circ and answer transportation needs.”

(Dillon) As the crowd breaks up, local banker BJ Scott says he usually votes Republican, but he’s undecided in this race. He says he wanted to hear more specifics from Racine, such as whether he’d cut state jobs to help the state’s deficit.

(Scott) “I’m on the fence. I mean, I believe he’s an honest man. I really do. And that to me is important. Can I believe what somebody is telling me? And I really don’t have any doubts about his integrity as a person.”

(Dillon) The governor’s race is wide open this year and polls show that many Vermonters are undecided. Doug Racine hopes that those voters will turn to an unassuming politician who doesn’t pretend to have all the answers.

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

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