BENNINGTON -- If you like the economic ideas and philosophy of Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, then you might like John Bauer.
Bauer, 57, a Democrat from Jeffersonville in Lamoille County, has announced he's running for lieutenant governor, a position now held by Republican Phil Scott, who is seeking re-election to the post. A professional sound engineer, Bauer is seeking to raise $17,500 from 750 registered Vermont voters by June 12 to qualify for public funding.
"Our democracy's at risk and so I would really like to send a signal that voters in the state of Vermont don't intend to put up with it and that we actually want to have candidates who are running with the support of people, voters only," he said during a visit to the Banner's offices on May 14.
So far Bauer is the only Democrat in the race. On his website, he notes, "I have been concerned about the direction of our country for as long as I can remember. I looked at the work of Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Robert Reich and I thought, ‘That's the direction we should go. I should help them.'"
Born in a suburb of Detroit, Bauer moved to Vermont in the 1980s. He managed Jeb Spaulding's campaign for state treasurer in 2002. He helped in Howard Dean's 2004 presidential run and managed Susan Bartlett's campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2010. In local government, Bauer has served as a school board member and auditor.
"I've decided in my life now that my avocation is to talk about the problem of money in politics, the problem with the economy, which really doesn't work for most people anymore, and climate change," he said. "And I think that these issues need to be talked about loudly, and I'm going to continue to do that whether I'm successful or not as lieutenant governor."
Bauer thinks the lieutenant governor has the time and opportunity to bring people together to seek new solutions to long-standing problems.
"I believe that we've got strong leadership in the statehouse from the Democratic side, in the speaker of the house and the leader of the senate and the governor and I see that the incumbent [lieutenant governor] is really sort of a stone in the river, not actively moving in any one direction," Bauer said. "I think that with the serious issues that we face economically, with our tax situation and with our coming healthcare push, we need active leadership in the statehouse and so I want join the team and contribute."
He noted the constitutional roles of the office. "The lieutenant governor does stand in for the governor, that's an important role; the lieutenant governor runs the senate when it's in session and therefore has got a lot of close contact with legislators. Not only that, but probably most importantly ... he sits on the committee of committees, which is a group of three people ... who decides who sits on all the committees in the senate. It's very important, because depending upon whether you want legislation to pass or fail or what direction you want to take, who sits on those committees make the difference."
On economics, Bauer spoke of finding ways that Vermont residents could invest in funding promising business starting up here -- "the need to start taking the investment that goes to Wall Street and making it into Vermont, removing the barriers of Vermonters to invest in Vermont businesses." He'd like to find a way that individuals could invest part of their IRAs in the Vermont Community Loan Fund. "You can invest $1,000, and they'll give you like a point above a bank CD rate. It's not guaranteed, it's not FDIC but in 25 years they haven't stiffed anybody yet, so it's pretty safe, right?"
Much like Sanders, Warren and Reich, Bauer would like there to be a tax on Wall Street transactions. "Let's charge them one tenth of one penny for every stock that they trade. One-tenth of one penny -- meaningless to them -- millions, billions of dollars in our treasury that we could invest in our infrastructure and that sort of thing. It's a no-brainer to me. There's a lot of smart people in Washington; for some reason they can't seem to get this done. Why?"
If he is elected, Bauer intends to use his influence to take climate change seriously. At the Banner, he spoke about the potential of solar power, public transportation and electric and hybrid vehicles. "I think our real challenge is in the tailpipe, because a big part, over a third, of our carbon footprint comes out of a car. So that's public transportation, that's electric vehicles," he said. "So it may make sense for us to look at a tax advantage to buying an electric vehicle. Municipalities can now borrow money at zero percent interest to install charging stations."
On health care, he called himself a "huge supporter" of the effort to implement single-payer health care in Vermont. "I'm most interested in the benefits that we have rather than how we're going to pay for it. The governor is doing a lot of hard work trying to figure that out, and I respect the fact that he needs more time, and I support him in that," he said. "I think it's good that he's going to take his time and make sure his proposal is solid."
Noting talk of young people not wanting to stay in Vermont, Bauer said there are lots of reasons for young families to want to raise their children here.
"As far as the services we offer and how we take care of our people ... in the United States, Vermont's at the top. We're one of the safest states in the country, we have one of the best education systems in the country. Our education funding system is more fair than most every other -- it's high, but it's fairly based. Our environment is second to none and the strength and determination of the people, the sense of community in this state, those are all wonderful reasons, great reasons for people to bring their young families here and raise them here. We just passed universal pre-k. As a young parent, why would you want to be someplace else?"
He suggested a concerted effort to market the state as has been done with travel and tourism, with skiing, maple syrup and foliage highlighted. "Why don't we add the message that this is a great place to raise your family and start going out and finding people as they graduate from college?" he said. "One in 200 will consider it, so let's go talk to a couple million. I see that as an important thing that we could do."
Mark Rondeau can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @banner_religion