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Local media is vital to Vermont's political process. Issues that aren't on the radar in the press rooms of New York, Washington, D.C., or Los Angeles are often of the utmost importance to Vermonters, and it's our local media that can and does hold our candidates accountable on those issues. We have a unique advantage in our less populous state: the opportunity for local journalists to play an active and robust role in our democratic process. No candidate for public office should shrink from that opportunity. Small is beautiful.

In Vermont, we have always led when it comes to freedom of speech and expression. We believe in an informed citizenry, and have always been ahead of the curve in facilitating as much. Why should we settle for anything less when electing our representation in the U.S. Senate? That's why I'm calling for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders to come home and debate me.

Since his first campaign for President, Sen. Sanders' connection to Vermont has been little more than a convenience. Not only did he neglect 115 of 163 roll-call votes in 2016, he's ignored the state as a whole, including our press. Sanders may rail against corporate media, but now that he's a national figure with corporate media attention, he consistently avoids Vermont's papers in favor of those same major networks. He went well over two and a half years without speaking to Vermont's largest independent newspaper, Seven Days, both during and after his presidential campaign.

I would never ignore my constituents' press like that. I'm willing to talk to Vermont's local media — before and after the election. As your Senator, I'll never give more than a third of my interviews to any out-of-state outlets.

To help our local press inform our local citizens, I'm calling for debates conducted by Vermont media in late September and early October. This is hardly asking for much: in Texas, Republican incumbent Ted Cruz, who ran for President and has national name recognition like Sen. Sanders, has agreed to three debates with his Democratic challenger — all of them much earlier than the last-minute debates Sanders wants us to settle for.

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If Sen. Sanders is too busy to return to Vermont to debate me, I'd be happy to fly out to Iowa or California to debate him, or anywhere else he might be campaigning. But if Sanders could miss 37 out of 38 votes in a single quarter while running for President, then he can surely take a day off from out-of-state travel to defend his record for Vermont, earnestly participate in our legitimate and empowering democratic process, and hold himself accountable to the people he claims to want to represent for a 6-year term — can't he?

Our campaign would be glad to see this criticism rendered moot by Sanders' swift reversal of his chronic unavailability, both by accepting a serious debate schedule and by engaging with our local press. He'd be a better public servant if he did. Vermonters deserve the opportunity to hear my ideas and contrast them with Sanders' while they still have time to decide.

I am running to represent Vermonters and Vermonters alone. What's at stake right now is the future of Vermont, because it's all about Vermont.

Lawrence Zupan of Manchester is the Republican nominee for United States Senate.


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