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The Echo - Third-Party Progress in Gubernatorial Race

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The Echo - Third-Party Progress in Gubernatorial Race

Independent candidate gains grass-roots fueled momentum

John O'Brien

Anthony Pollina is working to validate Vermonter's hopes in a three-party system. The Progressive turned Independent is running against house speaker and Democrat Gaye Symington and incumbent Republican Jim Douglas, who has held the office since 2003. Despite opposition from the major parties, Pollina has still managed to beat out Symington in the most recent polls.

Candidate for the people

Pollina's announcement to run came weeks before Symington entered the race, forcing many to speculate as to why the Democrats didn't support the left-leaning Independent, and unite against Douglas under one candidate.

"We asked for a meeting with the Democratic state committee many months ago," Pollina says. "They refused to meet with me to talk about how we could work together, so that's rather unfortunate."

He finds supporters asking him why the Democrats chose to run a candidate at all, to which he can give no answer.

"There's always this thing like, ‘Are you splitting the left?'" he says. "I actually don't see it that way at all."

Pollina cites the candidates' differences on many issues including the economy, universal health care, and agriculture initiatives in the state. It is important for voters to know the candidates' positions well, thus allowing them to pick the candidate that will help them the most, Pollina says.

"I don't spend my time campaigning to try and get Democratic votes," he says. "You reach out to Vermonters. I want to get the votes of those who traditionally vote Republican. That's Douglas's base. That's who I intend to beat."

Despite the opposition from Symington and Douglas, Pollina has run a campaign that aims to empower people and to inspire real change in the state.

"I want this campaign to help people wake up and think about voting for the person, not something based on party labels," Pollina says.

Earlier on the campaign trail, reports of financial difficulties surfaced in The Burlington Free Press and other publications, but Pollina maintains that campaign economics are the least of Vermonter's concerns.

"You know, I go all around the state, I've never yet met a voter that came up to me and said, ‘Well gee Anthony, we need to ask you how much money you have in the bank.' I mean people don't care," he says.

The campaign has its banners, bumper stickers, lawn signs, a van, and most importantly, people working, Pollina says. With these necessities, the campaign has been running smoothly, without the need to television advertisements and the cost of airing them.

A heated three-party race

A recent poll conducted by Rasmussen Reports shows that Pollina has gained ground with 25 percent of the vote. Douglas held 40 percent and Symington carried 20 percent of those polled. Pollina's numbers have improved since the last WCAX poll was released, while Symington's and Douglas' have declined.

"To have an Independent candidate who's now ahead of the Democrat, that's pretty significant," he says.

Pollina is confident at this point of his gubernatorial campaign, citing momentum as essential to a winning candidate. With Symington and Douglas spending money attacking each other on television ads, Pollina has been all over the state talking to Vermonters at small gatherings and meet-and-greet backyard picnics.

"It's a grass-roots level campaign," Pollina says. "People really are fed up with attack ads. It's people spending money to tell you what's wrong with somebody else. What's important to me is connecting with people on a personal level."

Pollina has achieved the endorsements of the National Education Association and the VT State Employees Association, as well as the support of the Gun Owners of Vermont and the Abenaki Nation. The candidate says the endorsements from these groups were earned by his seeking and discussing the people's views on the issues.

"What they tell me is that I'm the only candidate that took the time to actually go and visit with them a couple of times," he says, "not just to visit with the head but to sit down and talk with some of them."

Attempting to debate the issues

Williston Central School hosted the WCAX gubernatorial debate on Saturday, Oct. 18.

Outside the event, few people braved the cold evening air to support their candidates before moving inside to watch. Ross Laffan of Rochester, Vt. was one of several supporters brandishing bright red Pollina signs at the school's entrance.

"[Pollina] runs his campaign from the bottom up, and he believes in giving the people the means to support themselves," Laffan says.

The event, moderated by WCAX anchors Marselis Parsons and Kristin Kelly, featured a majority of questions e-mailed by viewers. Candidates were asked about their positions on the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, legislation regarding sex offenders, job growth, health insurance, and crumbling roads and infrastructure.

Symington and Douglas spent a majority of their "alloted" time attacking each others policies. Pollina used these attacks to differentiate himself from the fray and the "bickering" traditional party candidates, he says.

Douglas also warned of increases to income tax as a result of Pollina's health care plan, which would endanger families already dealing with economic strain. Both claims were refuted by Pollina in response, who has called many of Douglas' statistics from the debates false.

"I feel like we've essentially won the debates, just by the applause and the response that comes around after," Pollina says.

With less than two weeks to Election Day, Pollina plans on continuing his efforts around the state in the hopes of maintaining his momentum.

"People need to know that I've done my best to give people specific ideas [on the issues]," he says. "Most importantly, people need to know that, in fact, we can win.


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