McMullen announces candidacy for U.S. Senate

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(Host) Burlington businessman Jack McMullen formally launched his campaign to win the Republican U.S. Senate nomination Tuesday afternoon. McMullen says incumbent five-term Democrat Patrick Leahy has been in the Senate for too long and has become part of the partisan gridlock in Congress.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) McMullen is making his second bid for the GOP’s U.S. Senate nomination. In 1998 he lost to retired dairy farmer Fred Tuttle in the Republican primary. Since that loss, McMullen has been active in Republican politics and has served on several steering committees for the party.

McMullen says he’s building a campaign budget of roughly a million dollars to unseat Leahy; it’s not clear how much of his own money McMullen plans to use in this effort. To date he has given the campaign about $70,000.

McMullen says one of his top priorities in the campaign is to highlight Leahy’s role as a highly partisan Democrat in Washington:

(McMullen) “It seems ironic because as I know Pat Leahy has a nice image here in Vermont. But he behaves differently in Washington than he does in Vermont. And because he hasn’t been held to account for 12 years, Vermonters aren’t really aware of his true agenda down there. And that’s my job to bring that forward.”

(Kinzel) McMullen says Leahy’s opposition to the president’s policies in Iraq will be another key part of this campaign. McMullen supports the president and says the invasion of Iraq has already changed the behavior of other countries in that region of the world:

(McMullen) “The fact that Libya has given up its development of weapons of mass destruction, the fact that Syria has returned 22 terrorists to Turkey to face the music, the fact that Iran has agreed to surprise nuclear inspections – and all of that without further shots being fired, as it were. I think those leaders understand that what had previously been a free ride supporting or giving safe harbor to terrorists is now a different equation. They have to calculate it and I think that’s a healthy development for us.”

(Kinzel) McMullen does face a challenge in the Republican primary. Peter Moss of Fairfax is also seeking the GOP nomination. Moss says he’s filing a $10 million lawsuit against the Vermont Republican Party because many state and county GOP leaders have announced their support for McMullen and because the party didn’t allow Moss to speak at last month’s state convention. Moss claims the actions of these leaders are making it very difficult for him to wage a strong primary campaign.

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

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