SHAFTSBURY — The two candidates running to represent the citizens of the Bennington-3 district in the Vermont Legislature debated on Thursday evening, and while the two Democrats agreed on much, they were able to draw lines to differentiate their campaigns.
David Durfee is a member of the Shaftsbury and Mount Anthony Union School Boards and is the general manager of Wild Oats market and co-op in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Tim Scoggins is a retired data analyst and project manager that worked on underwater acoustics research involving Navy anti-submarine warfare at the Applied Research Labs of the University of Texas at Austin and has been the chairman of the Shaftsbury Select Board since 2014. The Banner profiled each candidate earlier this month.
The candidates are vying to fill the vacancy left by Rep. Alice Miller, D-Shaftsbury, who is retiring this year at the end of her 11th term. Bennington-3 covers Shaftsbury and much of Sunderland.
"I'm a pragmatist, I'm for what works," said Scoggins. "I don't come in with a set agenda on any issue, I evaluate each issue on the merits. I try to figure out what is the best course, given the information we have, and what's going to be best for the community. I really feel like I can be a strong voice for Shaftsbury in the legislature, I think I've demonstrated that I can focus and get results and I think I have a record of leadership on the Select Board."
Scoggins framed his platform around economy, environment, and education, which he joked he would call the "Three E's," if not for the appearance of sloganeering. "These ideas are not just things that I set out today and wrote up because they sound good," he said. "These are things I've been working for and have been involved with since I came to town." Scoggins volunteers his time to serve on the Regional Economic Development board that is developing a regional economic plan with Windham County, and said that he's followed the education system very closely since moving to Vermont, including the implementation of Acts 46 and 77.
On the environment, Scoggins described it as one of the state's biggest assets, and stressed the importance of keeping its waters clean. He said that he understands the importance of combating global warming, but said that he was hesitant about Vermont "going it alone," in regards to the state's goal of reaching 90 percent renewable energy by 2050. To reach that goal, he said, the use of gas-powered vehicles will need to decrease drastically, which he would support as a policy for the whole country, but he worried that if Vermont pursued that alone, it would just lead to people leaving Vermont.
Scoggins also expressed support for funding the expansion of broadband infrastructure, touting the ECFiber project, which serves 24 towns in the northern part of the state. "That kind of thing can happen here," he said.
"I would describe myself as a pretty textbook liberal Democrat," said Durfee. "If the Koch brothers are for it, I'm probably against it. If it's something that Fox News ridicules, I'm probably for it. Now, that's not universal, I happen to be in favor of free trade, for example, which I think the Koch brothers would probably line up there too, but we've seen what happens when you decide to suddenly start a trade war. But, by and large I'm probably straight down the line in favor of things like investment in public transportation."
Durfee said that as someone who operates a small business, he understands the difficulties faced by Vermont's shop owners. At the same time, he said, "When somebody comes to me and says that business owners can't afford, for example, a new law that would add two-tenths of a percent to the payroll tax, I can say, from my experience, that's not true. I've been in your position and that's not the case.
Durfee said that arguing big government versus small government is framing it the wrong way. "We have government," he said, "and the question is, should it be here to help those who already have fortune or the less fortunate, and I come down on the side of the latter, the less fortunate."
The debate was hosted by We the People of Shaftsbury and took place at Cole Hall. There were about 25 people were in attendance. Moderator Carl Korman, of We the People, gave each candidate about 10 minutes to introduce themselves and their platforms, and then took questions from the audience.
The two candidates shared a moment when they realized that both had been supporters of independent candidate John Anderson in the 1980 presidential election.
The primary election will take place on Aug. 14, and the general election will take place on Nov. 6. There are not any declared Republican or independent candidates for the seat, although independents have until Aug. 9 to file nomination papers for the Nov. 6 ballot.
Miller praised both candidate's qualifications and history of service to the community, joking that the House Legislative leadership had credited her with an "A+" succession plan. "I think both of them are sensational and would represent Bennington 3 in the best of ways," she said.
The full video of the debate will air on Catamount Access Television, and will be available on the station's YouTube page.
Derek Carson can be reached at email@example.com, at @DerekCarsonBB on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 122.