Lt. governor candidates strategize in three-way race

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(Host) As the race for lieutenant governor enters its final two weeks, the three leading candidates are mapping out the strategies that they feel will lead them to victory.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Two years ago, incumbent Republican Brian Dubie was elected to his first term with roughly 41 percent of the vote in a three way race with Democrat Peter Shumlin and Progressive Anthony Pollina. This year the race is another three-way contest because Dubie is being challenged by Democrat Cheryl Rivers and Progressive Steve Hingtgen.

Dubie says he’s running on his record this year – a record that he says includes progress on permit reform, property tax reform, and a number of environmental issues:

(Dubie) “This race is a lot like buying a used car. I said and if you’re going to buy a used car I think the appropriate question would be to say is, how’s that car been running? And that’s the essence of my campaign. I’m running on my record.”

(Kinzel) Democrat Cheryl Rivers is well aware of the challenge that a three-way race poses for her. While Rivers has criticized Dubie on issues such as abortion – she’s pro-choice, he’s right to life – she also plans to highlight her differences with Progressive Steve Hingtgen.

(Rivers) “There’s no doubt that Steve Hingtgen’s candidacy can influence the outcome of this race. He can re-elect Brian Dubie and I’m hopeful that Vermonters will see that that’s the likely outcome if we don’t unite. United we win, divided Dubie’s back in.”

(Kinzel) Hingtgen refuses to be cast in the role of a spoiler. He’s made universal health care the top priority for his campaign and he thinks voters are responding to his message:

(Hingtgen) “What we need to do is just meet more folks. And we’ve been looking at the way voters have turned their attention now towards lieutenant governor – everything from hits on our Web site, to the way people turn out for events and it’s clear that the last say four days have really been the beginning of the race in many ways for some voters.”

(Kinzel) Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis doesn’t think any of the candidates will receive 50 percent of the vote in this race. That means the contest will be decided by the Legislature in a secret ballot in January. Davis also thinks Rivers has to walk a fine line with her criticism of Steve Hingtgen.

(Davis) “Some voters say those who supported Jan Backus in the Democratic Primary may find Cheryl Rivers style a bit off-putting. They may find her a little too aggressive and if she starts campaigning by making attacks against Steve Hingtgen, the people who think that her style is just a bit too aggressive may be turned off by the attacks and may end up either voting for Steve Hingtgen or maybe even voting for Brian Dubie.”

(Kinzel) The candidates will have an opportunity to contrast their positions at a number of debates that are scheduled for the last two weeks.

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

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