Drug abuse, energy policy and more highlight debate for U.S. House seat

The three candidates for Vermont’s lone U.S. House seat took to Zoom Thursday evening to discuss the biggest issues facing voters — and offered a variety of differing perspectives and policy positions.

The debate, hosted by VTDigger, featured an establishment favorite Democrat nominee, a conservative Libertarian nominee, and an independent running as a Republican.

Appearing together were anti-war activist and former Marine Liam Madden, who won the Republican primary, Libertarian Party candidate Ericka Redic — who was a close second to Madden in the GOP primary and a favorite among conservative voters — and Democrat Becca Balint, the Vermont Senate president pro tempore.

Early in the debate, Madden and Redic each shared personal stories about struggles with drug abuse.

Drug abuse

Guy Page

Ericka Redic

When a question about drug policies came up, Redic noted that Vermont has some of the highest drug abuse numbers in the nation. She said her own struggles with abuse in the past equip her to take on this matter as a U.S. representative.

“What I actually think prepares me the most for this position was my time working with people in recovery,” she said. “I celebrated 13 years in sobriety this year and I have worked with hundreds of other women and people to get sober, stay sober.”

Redic said her nephew, who is a border patrol agent on the southern border, has helped her to grasp the drug trafficking challenges the nation faces. As a result, she says she would commit substantial federal resources to secure the border, in an effort to mitigate drug abuse nationwide.

“Record amounts of fentanyl are coming across our border, enough to kill every single American,” she said. “The size of two grains of salt is enough to kill a single human being, and when you have to have 40 grams of that to be prosecuted as a trafficker, that’s literally enough to kill 20,000 people.”

Madden also shared a personal experience — his brother died of an opioid-related overdose earlier this year.

“Which was set off through the prescribed use of so-called non-addictive pain killers,” he said. “And I think almost any family in Vermont has been affected by something similar.”

Liam Madden

Madden said drug abuse can be addressed not just with new financial investments but also by addressing our culture.

“The physical and social environments that we live in are no longer providing protection from despair and lack of purpose that fuels addiction,” he said. He added that he would like to “instill into our education system the kinds of experiences, the kinds of rights of passage that ground people’s lives in purpose and connection — because the best way to deal with addiction is with connection and purpose.”

Balint said she would focus on a “harm-reduction first” policy. She offered praise for Jenna’s Promise, a support home located in Johnson, for helping people overcome addiction and get back to leading productive, healthy lives.

“We don’t have enough attention, even here in Vermont, on harm reduction,” she said.

Balint suggested she would support programs that provided clean syringes to addicts in safe environments to help get people off of drugs.

“We’ve passed a law in the state Senate last year making it easier for people to get access to syringe services, and again that is something that reduces harm, and that always should be our focus,” she said.

Energy policy

A question was posed to each candidate on a policy proposal that would include, for example, time limits on environmental reviews of industrial projects.

Wikimedia Commons

Becca Balint

Balint went first, siding with environmentalists.

“We should be doing everything that we can to reduce our use [of carbon-based fuels]. And yes, I would have signed on to the letter [a letter against limiting the duration of environmental reviews],” she said.

Redic said that energy independence should be a top priority, and that additional bureaucratic barriers would hurt Vermonters.

“I can’t fathom after the government has shut down our businesses for two years, as businesses are struggling to come back and people are still struggling financially, the idea that anyone in an elected office would then say “you know what we’re actually going to make it even more expensive.”

Madden said his opinion on environmental reviews would depend on the specifics being proposed.

He further stated that supporting healthy farming practices are an example of a productive method to mitigate climate change, as opposed to only focusing on carbon reduction.

“[Sustainability] means, first and foremost, creating thriving and regenerative farms and farm families and restoring life to the oceans, the soils, the forest, the rivers, and transitioning to new energy systems,” Madden said.

In past interviews with TNR, Madden suggested nuclear power is a sensible carbon-free alternative to the construction of wind and solar facilities, which are often controversial.

More issues were covered in the whole debate

On the issue of campaign financing, Balint was put on defense about a large campaign donation that came from a single donor: Nishad Singh, head of engineering for cryptocurrency exchange FTX. Balint said she was not aware of the donation and did not support such funding.

The entire debate can be viewed online here.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North. Send him news tips at bielawski82@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Images courtesy of VTDigger Youtube, Guy Page and Wikimedia Commons
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8 thoughts on “Drug abuse, energy policy and more highlight debate for U.S. House seat

  1. Liam Madden and Becca Balint are more-of-the-same lefties, bowing to the leftist agenda, regardless of their Party affiliation. That’s why, this year, as a long-time Republican, I will be casting my vote for Ericka Redic on the Libertarian line on the ballot. NOT the Democratic/Progressive Balint and certainly not the false “Republican” Madden. I will be voting for the Libertarian/Republican Ericka Redic and I urge all my friends to do the same. We need a change! Seems like Redic is the only candidate who “gets it” about what is best for Vermont and Vermonters. I am as tired of RINOs as I am of the far-lefties. Seems to me the choice is clear. And especially in the case of Liam Madden — he sneaked onto the Republican ticket while telling us Republicans in public that he was NOT a Republican. Does he really think that earns him my vote?? Vote for Ericka Redic as an L/R. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. We need to send a woman to Congress who is not just a clone of the left-wing man currently holding that seat. That is what the other two candidates are imho.

  2. Since 2020, election debates and government business is done over the internet on applications that have to be downloaded. Since we live a State that doesn’t have internet access in a number of areas, (after throwing how many millions at State-wide broadband?) Also, there are a number of citizens (voters) that don’t have the ability or time to access the internet for these meetings. All by design. Vermont is a cesspool of corruption.

  3. Struggling people do not have the luxury of worrying about the planet.
    The very first thing people think about is putting the basics together to form their lives: Food, Shelter, Heat, Transportation, a decent job, perhaps education to get a better job, their medical care, providing for the kids is a top priority for families.. ya know- survival.
    THIS is all a mind consuming struggle to put together now.

    It’s frankly quite insulting to keep hearing these tone deaf Democrats beating their Climate Change drums when people can’t even pay for all the food they need every week.
    It’s shows us how completely out of touch with Reality these people are.
    These are the people that created this disaster.
    What we need to do is stop what we are doing right now- because it’s clearly not working.
    That means run in the opposite direction and vote in Real Republicans to stop the trainwreck of our nation, our states and our lives.

    And on the drug addiction.
    Many people are battling addiction because of despair, look at what is going on around us!!

    Our Traditional Family Unit has been destroyed in this country.
    Having our kids raised in daycare centers by cheap labor passing through while the parents that love them work as mules for the government.. THIS has played a major role in why we are here today.
    We are creating broken human beings because their real needs were not met.
    We are producing empty vessels ready to be filled with propaganda and this does not create whole, happy people ready to go find meaningful purposes in life.

    We need to restore the family and create energy abundance again to reduce the cost of living so that people can create meaningful happy lives- not just work 60 hours a week to barely survive.
    THAT is Not the American Dream to exist that way..and many people are choosing not to- with drugs.

  4. Two points seem clear; Senator Balint again articulates her endorsement of the left’s policy vision …a policy vision that has generated pervasive disappointment amount the constituency …and… Erick Redic provides a compelling conservative counter point to this status quo. Her vision represents what a lot of us folks want. .

  5. We keep electing progressives, so we keep driving away the prosperity that brings economic freedom. Socialists like Balint suppress prosperity in favor of governmental control. Free people are harder to suppress, I guess.

  6. Wake up Vermont, the only one interested in Vermonters is Ericka Redic,
    as you can Becca and Liam are just the left agenda followers……….

    Vermont has a ” cancer “, it’s the liberal Democrats killing the state, with debt
    and liabilities !!

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