Hingtgen to focus campaign on health care

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(Host) Burlington Representative Steve Hingtgen, who’s seeking the Progressive Party’s nomination for lieutenant governor, unveiled an unusual campaign strategy on Monday. Hingtgen plans to focus on one issue for his entire campaign.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Hingtgen, who’s served three terms in the Vermont House, told reporters at a Statehouse news conference that his campaign for lieutenant governor will focus almost entirely on the issue of health care. Hingtgen says he’s taking this step because he believes Vermont faces a health care crisis.

While Hingtgen plans to speak about other issues in the next six months, he says his only priority in this race is to present a plan to Vermonters that will provide universal access to health care using a government based, tax funded system:

(Hingtgen) “I will discuss all those issues during this campaign but not until we’ve talked about health care, not until we acknowledge that this is the year for health care. This is the year I will challenge voters to expect more from politicians, to expect every candidate to make health care reform their number one priority. My campaign is here to guarantee that this is the year the empty rhetoric stops and the action begins.”

(Kinzel) Although Republican incumbent Brian Dubie has not formally announced his plans to seek re-election, it’s widely believed that Dubie will seek another term in office.

GOP officials are pleased than Hingtgen is running because they believe his candidacy will take votes away from the Democratic nominee, thereby replaying the situation in 2002 when Dubie won the race with roughly 41 precent of the vote in a three-way contest with Democrat Peter Shumlin and Progressive Anthony Pollina.

The two Democrats seeking the Party’s nomination for lieutenant governor say they’re not concerned about having a Progressive in this race. One candidate is former state senator Cheryl Rivers:

(Rivers) “And I am confident that even though of course the entry of a third party candidate in the race is a disappointment it’s not an insurmountable barrier this is a winnable race.”

(Kinzel) The other candidate is another former state senator, Jan Backus:

(Backus) “Will he take Democratic votes, I think. He’ll probably – because he’s relatively unknown – he’ll be making his case more to Progressives. And there is a Progressive Party, it’s small but it’s growing. But I don’t think he’ll pull the Democratic support that Pollina got in the last election.”

(Kinzel) Hingtgen says he plans to actively campaign once the Legislature adjourns and he says he hopes to qualify for public financing for this contest.

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

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