Salmon says he’s leaving the Democratic Party, will run with GOP

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(Host) State Auditor Tom Salmon says he’s leaving the Democratic Party and will seek re-election in 2010 as a Republican.

Salmon says the Vermont Democratic Party has become too liberal and no longer reflects the values of thousands of people across the state.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Salmon’s announcement ended several weeks of speculation about his political future.

In the past six months, he’s irritated many Democrats by supporting Governor Douglas’ fiscal policies, by calling for an end to the program that helps low- and middle-income homeowners pay their property taxes and by suggesting that the state consider allowing casinos to operate in some ski areas.

Salmon says the Democratic Party no longer represents his values on fiscal issues.

(Salmon) "I’m changing my political affiliation to align myself with the party more committed to the realities of our fiscal condition and who I think have the abilities to manage the very real and troubling economic and social condition which confront us not only today but over the next decade."

(Kinzel) Salmon’s father served as governor for two terms in the mid-1970s. The younger Salmon told reporters that the party has drifted far to the left over the past 30 years.

(Salmon) "The party that my father was governor in and the party that I had planned to join is not the party that I grew up in. So, in many ways, I’m not leaving the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me and tens of other thousands of people in a reunion with the Progressive Party."

(Kinzel) Republican Party Chairman Rob Roper immediately welcomed Salmon to the GOP.

(Roper) "I’m very gratified to see that he decided to join the Republican Party. I know I’ve been working since I’ve been chair for the past three years to express exactly that message to the people of Vermont, that the Republican Party is the fiscally responsible party. We’re the ones who are looking out for the overall well being of the state of Vermont and everybody in it."

(Kinzel) Democratic Senate President Peter Shumlin said Salmon is certainly entitled to follow his conscience. But Shumlin says calling the Democrats the party of tax-and-spend liberals simply isn’t accurate:

(Shumlin) "Let’s look at the record. Our tax package included a tax shift with a very small tax increase. We reduced income taxes for the middle class and raised taxes on the wealthiest Vermonters, who we felt could make a contribution during these tough times to those most in need. That’s just a prudent fiscal choice. I would argue that that’s a fiscally conservative choice."

(Kinzel) Salmon says he has every intention of seeking re-election as a Republican and that it’s unlikely he would run for governor if Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie decides not to seek the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2010.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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