Lt. gov. candidates focus on jobs at World Trade Day debate

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(Host) The two candidates challenging Lieutenant Governor Brian Dubie criticized the incumbent and each other during a debate on Monday. Dubie tried to stay above the fray and focused instead on his record over the past 20 months in office.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) The debate was part of a World Trade Day conference in Burlington. And trade was the focus of a hard-hitting attack launched by Democratic former senator Cheryl Rivers.

Rivers said that Dubie’s trade mission to China last fall backfired, because the Tubbs snowshoe company, one of the firms that were part of the trip has decided to move its manufacturing operations there.

(Rivers) “Why would a foreign government pay for a Vermont elected official to go to their country? Because as it turns out it appears they’ve gotten their money’s worth.”

(Dillon) Tubbs is owned by a California corporation and Rivers said 80 Vermonters will lose their jobs when Tubbs moves to China. She promised to focus her business development efforts within the state.

(Rivers) “You would be much more likely to see me operating in Peru, Jamaica, a swing through Londonderry and up to Holland working on making sure that Vermonters have livable wages.”

(Dillon) Dubie didn’t directly respond to River’s criticism. But after the debate, he pointed out in an interview that it was the Tawainese government, not mainland China, that paid for the trip. Dubie said that he’d try to get the state, not a foreign government, to pay for future overseas trade missions. And while he acknowledged that his Asian trip hasn’t yet led to new jobs, he said the trade mission did yield some promising leads.

(Dubie) “We’re not going to win them all. Some say the handwriting was on the walls when a Vermont company was bought by a large national company. And that’s a concern. Our job is to retain companies in the state of Vermont and if we can recruit new companies, great. Our mission was to try to help provide new markets for Vermont companies that are providing jobs in our state.”

(Dillon) While Rivers focused on her Republican opponent, she came under fire from Steven Hingtgen, the Progressive Party candidate. Hingtgen said that while Rivers talks a lot about campaign finance reform, he’s the only candidate in the race to accept public financing.

(Hingtgen) “I would challenge Cheryl Rivers to understand that if you believe in cleaning up elections, you better start with your own campaigns; that we have a perfectly workable public financing system in this state that allows candidates for governor or lieutenant governor to run clean money campaign with no out of state, no corporate, no special interest, and no party money. I’m the only candidate running for either office that’s accepted that.”

(Dillon) The three candidates also debated health care, education and energy issues. Hingtgen said he’d like to cover all Vermonters with a single-payer health care plan. Rivers also wants to design a system of universal coverage. Dubie said the state should focus on offering incentives to companies that offer health insurance to their employees.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in South Burlington.

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