5 Republicans set sights on lieutenant governor seat

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Five Republicans with the hope of being the state's next lieutenant governor are seeking the GOP nomination for the seat in Tuesday's primary, with two better-known names and three newcomers on the ballot.

Travel business owner Scott Milne of Pomfret says he'd be Gov. Phil Scott's ally in the Statehouse and help attract and grow business.

Communications consultant and healthcare advocate Meg Hansen of Manchester has garnered conservative support.

Among newcomers, Dana Colson Jr. of Sharon joined the field through gubernatorial candidate John Klar's "Agri-publican" coalition.

Farmer, writer and actor James Hogue of Milton is pushing for a statewide bank and better support for farmers.

The fifth Republican on the ballot, Dwayne Tucker of Barre, has said he's focusing on his run for state Senate and supports Milne, so he's not included in this profile.

The candidates, in alphabetical order:

DANA COLSON JR.

A Vermont native and the owner of a welding business in Tunbridge, Colson has engineering and business degrees. "I'm not a career politician or millionaire. However, my roots run deeper than their pockets," Colson told Seven Days.

He has also endured every parent's worst nightmare: His son Austin was found fatally shot in Norwich in 2018. In January, a person of interest in Austin Colson's death was sentenced to federal prison after pleading guilty to a weapons charge in U.S. District Court. The Vermont State Police investigation into the shooting death remained open as of Thursday, police spokesman Adam Silverman said.

Following his son's death, Colson got involved in a community policing initiative in Tunbridge, according to his campaign website. His campaign platform includes fighting for crime victims' rights, increasing drug education through the Law Enforcement Against Drugs (LEAD) program, establishing a secure rehab facility that could also serve as a diversion and job training program, and fully supporting the state police major crimes unit, drug task force and crime lab.

"We need to end our system of catch and release of criminals. It only works for fishing," Colson said on his website.

Colson also supports Second Amendment rights, on the grounds that rural Vermonters cannot expect 24-hour protection from thinly-staffed state police, and he is hopeful the state's high court will overturn the ban on high-capacity magazines.

On climate and environmental issues, Colson opposes a carbon tax, but supports fuel efficiency and weatherization efforts, renewable energy projects "when properly sited," and separating city sewer and stormwater systems to keep sewage out of rivers and lakes.

MEG HANSEN

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Hansen first studied to be a doctor. But realizing that wasn't for her, she studied fashion design in Italy and worked in that industry; then, she graduated from Dartmouth with a masters in modern media, culture and politics, and pursued a writing career.

Hansen says promoting prosperity by cutting taxes and removing regulations is "the moral way forward" to a better economy.

"Vermont has one of the strictest regulatory burdens in the nation," Hansen said. "These expensive, cumbersome, and extensive land use regulations are responsible for shackling economic growth."

Hansen is critical of climate change proposals before the state, including the Global Warming Solutions Act and the Transportation Climate Initiative.

"The legislative proposals on the table ... conflate all human impact on the environment with pollution. I disagree with this argument," Hansen said.

"Proposals informed by climate alarmism, if passed, will worsen the incredibly high cost of living, further driving out middle class families, young people, working professionals, and business owners from Vermont," Hansen said. "We should focus on fixing our structurally weak economy, disproportionately large size of government bureaucracy, punishing tax and regulatory systems, and the lack of upwardly mobile careers."

A vocal critic of OneCare — she says it lacks accountability, led to rationing of care and "has demonstrably worsened access and the quality of healthcare" — Hansen wants to loosen regulations that she says support monopolies in the state's healthcare system. She also wants to end insurance-related laws that all but handed Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont a monopoly in the state's individual-small group health insurance exchange.

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As a woman of color and an American of Indian immigrant heritage, Hansen says racists need to be punished for using their position in society to hurt others.

"But I disagree with the concept of systemic racism, which alleges that the United States was founded on the tenets of white supremacy," she added. "Propagating such views will only bitterly divide and destabilize our society. Indeed, our founding ideals and systems paved the path to ending slavery and discrimination."

"With the British equivalent of a U.S. [medical degree] and experience leading a health policy think tank, I'm uniquely suited to help Vermonters recover from a pandemic," Hansen said. "As an Indian American woman living under-represented southern Vermont, I would bring much needed diversity of ideas and lived experiences to this position."

JIM HOGUE

A farmer, actor and writer for The Vermont Independent, Hogue told Vermont Public Radio that he supports a public bank for Vermont.

"I also have a relationship with some farmers who are following a new protocol for growing soil, and water, flood mitigation, water quality," Hogue told VPR. "And I would use the lieutenant governor's position to work with those farmers and the Agency of Agriculture and get things moving in that direction."

On the COVID-19 pandemic, he told VPR, "I am against the current, present COVID-19 protocols. I have been following who's done what around the world. And I don't believe that the masks do any good." While social distancing is "common sense," he said, he's not convinced masks are effective.

As for the need to address police use of force, Hogue told VPR he has been "very impressed with the way the Vermont police act in general" and does not see a need for change in general. He told the network he would not "absolutely" ban chokeholds. While he's not sure about body cameras for police officers, he approves of citizens filming police activities.

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"I think it's a very good idea to film the actions of the police," he told VPR. "They're public servants. I don't know about a policeman wearing a body camera, that goes against my sense of an intrusion of privacy for both the police and the the other person.

SCOTT MILNE

While he's known for his close call in 2014 — he fell 2,434 votes short of beating Gov. Peter Shumlin — Milne says his global business background, as the head of Milne Travel, gives him an advantage.

"We still don't know how bad [COVID-19] is going to be and how it's going to turn out," he said. "I think we need nimble, thoughtful people that aren't coming in with preconceived notions or preconceived agenda that's funded by the special interests ... [people who] have a history of being able to think outside the box."

"I think [Vermont has] a governor who's kind of the last man standing for the the moderates in Vermont, and then we've got a very progressive legislature. I'll be clearly adding a little bit of leverage, I hope, to our moderate governor," Milne said. "I believe that for Vermont to be the best it can be over the next two years, Gov. Scott needs an ally or a partner, not an adversary. "

With regards to the fiscal crisis in the state college system and opportunity to redesign the system, Milne said had he won and implemented his plan for the system in 2014, the system would be in better shape.

"We had a very comprehensive education reform plan that we put forward," he said.

"The crisis that brings me into this race is our economy and our jobs," Milne said. "And my primary focus ... going to be to really focus on that."

Milne said he wants to be "an advocate and ally" on climate change, but he doesn't see the Global Warming Solutions Act as the way forward.

"I'm not in favor of opening up Vermonters to lawsuits from special interests. However ... I do think there's a opportunity for Vermont to leverage its brand and to attract companies that are developing new technologies," he said.

On OneCare, Milne says the experimental model needs more time for a decision on whether to expand it or shelve it.

"I don't think we want to be, you know, jumping to another horse in the middle of the race. We have to wait and see," he said.

Milne, like Democratic Lt. Gov. candidate Debbie Ingram, has previously faced legal trouble. In 2014, when he was running for governor, he said that during an 18-month period in college, he was arrested twice for driving under the influence and once for possession of a small amount of marijuana and cocaine— and that he learned from it.

"Though I was academically successful, I was making poor choices. These were embarrassing and powerful life lessons of which I am not proud," he said of the experience in 2014.

Greg Sukiennik covers Vermont government and politics for New England Newspapers. Reach him at gsukiennik@reformer.com.


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