This letter is by Liam Madden, of Bellows Falls. He is a candidate for Vermont’s U.S. Representative.
Becca Balint has recently backed out of two debates in the Rutland and Manchester areas. The first was a forum on energy policy in Rutland, hosted by local renewable energy businesses, and the other a debate in Manchester — put on by the community TV station. And for another debate, in Bellows Falls, she declined to attend altogether.
By reneging on the Rutland and Manchester debates, Balint is denying western Vermont voters a chance to see the candidates present their views side by side, for ease and quality of comparison. My speculation is that because she has been given an enormous boost of name recognition, afforded by the over $1 million in out-of-state, cryptocurrency-linked lobbyist money that substantially funded her primary campaign, to her logic, then why bother to be present for potentially uncomfortable questions?
Debates — where more grassroots candidates can connect with voters on their merits, instead of through costly ads — serve to level the electoral playing field. Now, it seems Balint wants to hide out of the public spotlight and run out the clock of the election season, knowing that every time she appears on a stage with her opponent, me, she stands to undermine the advantage her out of state funders have afforded her in public attention.
She’s right that debates, by giving the public the opportunity to hear from all candidates, will level the playing field by making the election more about ideas than money. But it’s odd for someone, who claims to care so deeply about the health of democracy, to avoid local, intimate, and good-faith debate, in favor of impersonal ad campaigns funded by out-of-state millionaires. The least you could do, Senator Balint, is return the emails of people who organized events for you, events you agreed to attend, which you abruptly backed out of when you couldn’t exclude other candidates. I thought the motto of the Balint campaign was “courage and kindness.” What’s kind about dropping all contact with constituents after agreeing to attend a forum? What’s courageous about avoiding debates?
When Senator Patrick Leahy said of me, “I wish the officials in the White House and Pentagon … had a fraction of Liam’s honesty and courage,” he may have foreshadowed the defining difference in this election, honesty and courage.