Symington: Our choice for governor

Posted

Friday, October 31
We could have had a plan in place to prepare for the possible closure of Vermont Yankee in 2012. Gov. James Douglas did not make one.

We could have insisted that Entergy ensure it has enough money to clean up after itself when it shuts down. Douglas opposed it.

We could have bought the hydroelectric facilities on the Deerfield and Connecticut rivers and made substantial investments in wind, solar and bio-fuels. Douglas did not.

We could have invested in a green economy and fight global warming by expanding Efficiency Vermont to help Vermonters save on home heating costs. Douglas chose not to.

We could have had real campaign finance reform and instant runoff voting. Douglas supports neither.

We could have had universal health care. But Douglas said no.

We could have had equal marriage rights for all Vermonters. But Douglas said no.

This is just a partial list of things that could have happened over the past six years to improve the lives of Vermonters, but didn't because of Douglas' opposition.

Douglas is proud of being a roadblock. But leadership involves more than just saying no.

Vermont now has the highest unemployment rate in 15 years and is in the worst economic shape since the early 1990s. Job growth has been stagnant, and what jobs have been created are low-wage jobs that don't pay enough to support a family.

Douglas can't take all the blame for a bad economy, but he can take the blame for constantly harping about Vermont's supposed "anti-business" climate and for doing little to support the small businesses that are now driving the Vermont economy.

For the past six years, Douglas has had an uncanny knack for taking credit for other people's work while deflecting blame when things go wrong. When it comes to taking responsibility and showing leadership when the going gets tough, he has come up short.

House Speaker Gaye Symington, on the other hand, has shown leadership and a willingness to do what has to be done.

When it was time to rebuild the Democratic majority in the House after the bitter fight over civil unions in 2000, it was Symington who led the effort to recruit new candidates and win back the house in 2006.

When Douglas submitted budgets that were unbalanced, it was up to Symington and her leadership team to fix them.

And when Democrats ran and hid when it was time to mount an effective opposition to Douglas, it was Symington who stepped up when no one else would.

Granted, Progressive-turned-independent candidate Anthony Pollina was first on the scene in the 2008 election. In the debates this fall, he has made the best case for replacing Douglas. He has good ideas. But these three candidates aren't running to be the best debater. They are running to govern this state in a turbulent time.

Symington is not the glib gladhander that Douglas is. She's not the silver-tongued charmer that Pollina is. She's not good at public speaking and her inner policy wonk often gets the better of her. But she is intelligent, hard-working, responsible and devoted to the public interest.

It's an iron-clad rule of politics that a politician can have great ideas and can be a great public speaker, but cannot affect change unless he or she wins the election. The fact of the matter is that Pollina has run for statewide office on several occasions, and a wide majority of Vermonters decided each time that he wasn't the man for the job. What really has changed since the last time he ran for statewide office in 2002, when he was the third place finisher behind Brian Dubie and Peter Shumlin in the lieutenant governor's race?

Symington, on the other hand, has a proven record. She has won multiple terms to the Vermont House. As Speaker of the House for the past four years, she has been a leader and a consensus builder.

She may be too deliberate for some people, but she believes it's important to listen to everyone and that process matters as much as policy. She doesn't think she has all the answers, and is open to ideas from all sides of the political spectrum.

On issues such as health care, energy policy, education and economic development, Symington would not be a roadblock to change. Her experience with all these issues means that, for the first time in six years, the Legislature's work won't all be for naught.

Judging from the polls, a majority of Vermonters want a change in the governor's office. It's unfortunate that both challengers have decided to run as alternatives to Douglas, but haven't done a solid job of differentiating themselves from each other.

However, being a good governor has nothing to do with personality. It's a help, but it's not a necessity. We aren't looking for a ribbon-cutter. We are looking for an intelligent, gutsy, hard-working person who isn't afraid to take on the tough jobs.

This may seem to be a begrudging endorsement, but out of the three candidates, at a time when the state and nation is screaming "change," Gaye Symington would be the best change for Vermont. That's why the Reformer endorses her for governor.


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