GOP candidates square off in pre-primary forum

By David Gram | AP: Times Argus | August 29, 2006

JOHNSON — The two Republican candidates for the U.S. House disagreed Monday over whether Congress needs a new office to enforce ethics, with Martha Rainville saying she supports it and Mark Shepard saying it would just be "another bureaucracy."

The exchange came during a Johnson State College forum before a political science class taught by professor and state Sen. William Doyle, R-Washington. The hour-long forum was followed by a similar exchange between the party's two candidates for U.S. Senate, Richard Tarrant and Greg Parke.

The four are competing for the Republican nominations in the Sept. 12 primary. Doyle said an upcoming class would feature the two Democrats vying for their party's nomination for lieutenant governor, Rep. John Tracy of Burlington and Sen. Matt Dunne, who represents Windsor County.

Questions from students covered a range of issues, from the Iraq war and national security, to trimming the federal debt and getting more help to Vermont's hard-pressed farmers.

Rainville, former adjutant general of the Vermont National Guard, largely agreed with Shepard, a state senator from the Bennington County district, that they would like to see the Iraq war wind down soon, but don't think a firm timetable should be set.

"The time will come sooner or later that we can bring our troops home and bring them home with honor," Rainville said. But she said setting a timetable for withdrawal would "embolden those who further work to destabilize" Iraq.

Shepard disagreed with Rainville's call for a nonpartisan Office of Public Integrity to enforce ethics in Congress. "The way to deal with this is to elect people who have an ethical track record." A new office would be "just another thing for the taxpayers to pay for," Shepard said.

The two also differed on border security, with Rainville expressing more reluctance than Shepard to deploy National Guard troops on the U.S. border with Canada, as they have been deployed along the Mexican border.

Parke and Tarrant disagreed most sharply over health care. Tarrant has called for a public-private partnership that would seek to expand health insurance coverage to people who don't currently have it. Parke called for a reduced government role, saying the "law of supply and demand" should be allowed freer rein.

"When you are deathly ill or gravely ill you are not a willing buyer," Tarrant said. "It's not about free-market industry."

"I disagree vehemently with Rich on the idea that supply and demand aren't a part of it," Parke replied a short time later.

All four candidates talked up their experiences and qualifications for the jobs they are seeking. Parke, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, talked of working with U.S. diplomatic missions in the Middle East; Tarrant and Shepard about their business backgrounds, Rainville about learning leadership as head of the Guard.

"... many politicians talk the talk about doing something tangible about new jobs and it doesn't go much further. Sen. Shepard walked the walk."
"Sen. Shepard's big accomplishment, and it is a significant one, lies in the major role he played in bringing the Bennington Microtech Center into being."

Bennington Banner State Senator Endorsement Editorial, October 29, 2004

Paid for by Shepard for Congress Committee

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