Lt. Governor Candidates Divided by Public Financing Question

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(Host) Progressive Steve Hingtgen is the only candidate in the lieutenant governor’s race who is trying to qualify for public financing. Hingtgen says his decision indicates he’s not willing to be beholden to wealthy donors or special interest groups.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) It’s not easy qualifying for public financing in the lieutenant governor’s race. A candidate must raise $17,500 in small donations from at least 750 Vermont contributors. The maximum contribution is $50. And to insure statewide support, the law requires a candidate to raise no more than 25 percent of the total from any one county.

Hingtgen says he’s about three-quarters of the way toward reaching these requirements. The deadline to qualify is Monday July 19:

(Hingtgen) “Our campaign is focusing on trying to fundamentally reform the way we provide health care in the state. And to do so it means standing up to the insurance industry and I think that’s probably the best example of why campaign finance reform is so important. The insurance industry in the United States and in Vermont gives massive amounts of money to both the Democratic and Republican parties and directly to candidates.”

(Kinzel) Incumbent Republican Lieutenant Governor Brian Dubie says he won’t attempt to qualify for public financing because he doesn’t believe that politicians should be using taxpayer money for elections.

(Dubie) “A $400 limit is pretty humble. I mean that’s not a huge amount of money and certainly I’m going to listen to all Vermonters as the lieutenant governor and as a candidate. I don’t think $400 is really some corrupting influence.”

(Kinzel) Both Democrats seeking the office will forego public financing. Former Windsor Senator Cheryl Rivers, who was a co-sponsor of Vermont’s campaign finance reform law, says the law became ineffective when a court threw out a provision setting spending limits for specific races:

(Rivers) “It would amount to unilateral disarmament for me. I believe that the pharmaceutical industry, the insurance industry, the pbms are going to put big money into the Republican Party to try to keep me from unseating Brian Dubie.”

(Kinzel) Former state senator Jan Backus says she won’t be participating in the program because it doesn’t allow individuals to campaign before February 15 in an election year:

(Backus) “I got into this race first and I did it in response to the party really sensing a need to have a candidate because the election cycles are getting longer and longer. We wanted to let the voters and the Republicans know that we had a strong candidate, a real challenge in Brian Dubie.”

(Kinzel) Although she won’t seek public financing, Backus says she hopes to wage an effective campaign without spending a lot of money this year.

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

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