Vermont Governor’s Race – A “Dunne” Deal?

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet former Vermont Governor Howard Dean and to ask him about the campaign to replace retiring Governor Jim Douglas in 2010. Dean had the surprising thought that Susan Bartlett — the longtime chair of the state senate appropriations committee — might make the best governor, even though she appears to lack the campaign skills of her rivals. Dean conceded that all five Democratic candidates would do a great job as governor and lamented that none would likely win a clear majority in the hotly contested primary race.

The five Democratic contenders, who spoke at a forum this Sunday at Middlebury, had few differences between their stances on the major issues; all agreed on the need for more jobs, affordable healthcare and clean energy. As every candidate alluded to in the debate, the most important quality in the Democratic nominee is the ability to defeat Republican candidate Brian Dubie.

In a field teeming with technically qualified candidates, one stands out for his ability to connect with voters and for the clarity of his proposals: former state Senator Matt Dunne — who currently manages Google’s community affairs program — possesses the energy and the knowledge necessary to be both a great candidate and a great governor for this state.

Several weeks ago, Dunne spoke in depth with a group of the Middlebury College Democrats. We sat down with him for over an hour and received long, practical answers to questions about everything from education to agriculture policy. He spoke with intelligence and excitement about his plan to replace the crumbling Vermont Yankee nuclear plant with two carbon-neutral biomass plants and laid out a path to provide health care access to all Vermonters.

In a race dominated by candidates who have eagerly awaited Douglas’s retirement, Dunne stands out as a rising star — someone with vision, not just the next politician in line.

Vermont cannot afford to elect another Republican. In a state with an overwhelming Democratic majority, with the Senate’s only socialist member and where two-thirds of votes cast went to Barack Obama, it’s silly to even imagine a Republican contending in the gubernatorial race. And yet Governor Douglas’ retirement marks the end of four terms in office where he presented a firm roadblock to Vermont’s ability to move forward on many issues.

In 2006, Douglas vetoed an act preventing gender identity discrimination, only to be overruled the next year. In 2009, the governor vetoed a law allowing same-sex marriage and was courageously overridden by the legislature. He has vetoed campaign finance reform several times, a resolution to replace the un-democratic electoral college with a popular vote and a renewable energy bill because of a tax increase aiming to balance the budget.

Douglas leaves his office with a $150 million budget deficit and no coherent plan to replace the Vermont Yankee plant. A Republican governor in Vermont after Douglas’ retirement would continue to serve only as a foil to the public interest and a burden on the public checkbook.

As students in such a small, politically progressive state, we have the opportunity to make a difference, and we need to take advantage of that chance to produce a government that represents our values. Brian Dubie’s administration would not represent those values, or the values of the state of Vermont.

There are still many months until the Democratic primary, and even longer until the general election in November. Now is your chance to make a difference. Join me, Bill McKibben and the thousands of Vermonters who support Matt Dunne for Governor. In such a small state, your vote — and, more importantly, your voice — truly matters.

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