During a debate Tuesday, Democratic gubernatorial candidates Rebecca Holcombe, Patrick Winburn, David Zuckerman and Ralph Corbo sparred over the tumbling economy, climate change, social justice, and health mandates, including mandatory shots and wearing masks.
Corbo, of Wallingford, is a postal worker who made headlines by interrupting Gov. Phil Scott during his State of the State address. Zuckerman, of Hinesburg, is the current lieutenant governor. Winburn is an attorney from Bennington, and Holcombe, a resident of Norwich, is the state’s former education secretary.
Throughout the debate, the candidates discussed where the state could spend more money, what to do with health care, and how to deal with environmental and social justice issues.
Holcombe said she would like to see universal health care.
“I absolutely think we need to move to universal health care, and this question underscores how important it is to elect a governor who has strong executive experience to get the job done,” she said.
Winburn also said he supports universal health care.
“Well my plan is health care for all,” he said. “I think that health care is not just a human right, it’s a moral responsibility. … It should be for everybody. There shouldn’t be any connection to your employment.”
Zuckerman and Corbo expressed similar support for expanded government health care.
Some candidates talked up the potential for a “progressive income tax” to boost the economy.
“We’re gonna have to do the difficult thing like what Gov. Richard Snelling did back in 1990 when he instituted a progressive income tax,” Corbo said. “We raised the rate on the top 5 percent of the wealthiest Vermonters which helped us overcome that we were in from the 1987 recession at that time.”
Winburn also spoke in favor of this tax.
“I don’t believe that we can cut our way out of recession,” he said. “We need investments, we need infrastructure, we need more workplace development and the way we can help pay for that is by taxing pot, having a progressive income tax, the wealthy benefited in the good times and I think they can pay their fair share during the hard times.”
On social justice issues, Zuckerman said white supremacy is real and pervasive.
“We have to recognize that racism and white supremacy are part of a multi-generational systemic issue that has affected all of our economy and all of our citizens in disproportionate ways as you mentioned like in housing and wealth accumulation,” he said.
Holcombe also said racism needs to be addressed with policy changes.
“I would also do implicit bias training for all the agencies just as we did at the Agency of Education,” she said. “I would evaluate every single policy proposal that came to me through the eyes of equity to make sure that we are truly sharing opportunity and not re-enforcing the inequities that we already have.”
On the environment, Corbo said he is for a green economy.
“You have to think outside the box, you have to think about turning the entire economy of the state into something of a green peace economy, maybe something on the order of becoming the organic garden breadbasket of the whole East Coast,” he said.
On the coronavirus, Holcombe and Zuckerman said they would be in favor of health mandates. Holcombe grilled Zuckerman on whether he would take a strong enough stance in support of higher vaccination rates. Two years ago, regarding vaccination policy, Zuckerman said the pharmaceutical industry hasn’t always had a great safety record with its products, and he used the example of the industry’s role in the opiate crisis.
On Tuesday, Zuckerman gave his support for mandatory vaccines.
“I support vaccines and I will follow medical professionals’ advice on making the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory,” he said. He also reiterated that he had previously voted in favor of taking away Vermonters’ philosophical exemption from vaccines for children to attend schools.
Holcombe implied she would be in favor of forcing Vermonters to wear masks statewide. She called Scott’s COVID-19 lockdown “lukewarm at best.”