Two Republican candidates for Congress, Anya Tynio of Charelston and Justin Tuthill of Pomfret, appeared Thursday on Town Meeting Television to debate issues ahead of the August 11 primary.
The candidates are hoping for a chance to face U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., who has represented Vermont in Congress since 2007. Not participating in the forum were Republican candidates Jimmy Rodriguez and Miriam Berry.
Tynio, who ran against Welch in 2018, described herself as “a working-class person who really understands the struggles of the everyday Vermonter.” She said she hopes to focus on supporting Vermonters’ constitutional rights and reviving the nation’s economy.
Tuthill described himself as a moderate who may “reach across the aisle” on some issues. He has lived several years abroad, including in Poland, and he described Vermont’s current congressional delegation in Washington as “playing it safe, trying to make it through their careers.”
Tynio opened her comments by saying campaigning has been difficult due to coronavirus restrictions.
“It’s been very difficult with COVID-19 to get the message out as effectively as we would all like to,” she said.
Tuthill opened by talking about his time in Europe, saying the United States can learn from what works and doesn’t work overseas. He suggested, for example, that the U.S. is lagging in its social services for sick and maternity leave and paid vacation time.
Moderator Lauren-Glenn Davitian asked candidates about a range of topics, including the national debt.
“The debt of the government is the debt of the people,” Tynio said. “Tax-paying citizens really need to understand that and get on board with the fact that we will be making budget cuts to necessarily reduce this deficit so we not passing this debt onto our children and grandchildren.”
Tuthill said he’s reluctant to have too many budget cuts while the COVID-19 virus is raging.
“We also need to help these states and all these businesses, but of course we are going to see some cuts eventually down the line,” he said.
Tuthill said one way we would approach the economy is to hold large corporations more accountable for their tax burden. He said in 2018 at least 60 Fortune 500 companies paid no money in taxes on $79 billion in profits.
On the topic of health care, Tuthill said he wants to use “transparent billing” to help patients see costs, which may help drive prices down. He also said he would support “a single-payer system with a private option.”
Tynio said she is against government-payer health care systems.
“The United States government cannot afford to handle the health care needs of the entire nation,” she said. “We must maintain a private healthcare system so that we can have private health insurance handling the bulk of our medical needs.”
She agreed with Tuthill that the country needs to better examine the true cost of the services and drugs.
At one point in the debate, Tynio asked Tuthill why he chose to run as a Republican when many of his policies align with those of the Democratic Party. Tuthill said his decision was a reaction against the Democrat Party’s radical elements.
“A lot of it is how the Democrats have been acting in Congress and what we are seeing in the streets with Antifa and BLM, and I just can’t condone those type of actions,” he said. “They are burning down streets, they are doxing people, people are getting fired for their opinions — this is really what kind of makes me lean more Republican.”
Asked about whether kids should be going back to school while the COVID-19 virus is still around, Tynio said any parents with the ability to homeschool should probably do that.
“I do think that it would be difficult for us to contain any type of spread that would start in a school,” she said.
Tuthill said he’s for opening the schools because a lot of parents are going to be back at work in the fall. He also said strong restrictions will need to be in place, including having children wear masks, which he added will be very tricky especially for younger kids.
Tuthill asked Tynio about her thoughts on relations with China.
“I think there is a legitimate question on whether China has engaged in terrorism,” she said. “I think it is very important for us to take a hardline stance. I’ve read the intelligence based upon the coronavirus and am very concerned by what I see, and I do think it warrants further investigation and possibly further action.”