Zupan gets little traction on Main Street

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BRATTLEBORO — Lawrence Zupan's campaign trip to downtown Brattleboro Thursday afternoon was not a rousing success.

The Manchester Republican who is challenging U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders for his senate seat went door to door during a rainy Thursday afternoon, and he only ran into Sanders' supporters.

Zupan, a real estate agent who has lived full time in Vermont since 2000, encountered Sanders' supporters again and again.

Once it became clear who he was running against, he met with polite opposition and outright skepticism.

At the Hermit Rush Brewery on High Street, chief brewer and president Christophe Gagne told Zupan he wasn't welcome at the brewery because of his political views.

When Gagne questioned Zupan about what he would have done about the guns used at last week's shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Zupan said he wished he had been there with a gun.

The two men quickly engaged in a debate about gun control.

"I'm a big supporter of the Second Amendment," said Zupan, who was accompanied by his son Zachary, 22, who is acting as his father's campaign manager.

Gagne countered that Zupan wanted to be "a hero without the consequences."

In Chicago, gun control has been an utter failure, Zupan countered. "And you can put that in your pipe and smoke it," Zupan said.

Gagne said he was a supporter of Sanders, and in the past has sent him political contributions.

But despite the edgy exchange, Gagne wasn't impolite. He made a contribution of three quarters to Zupan's parking meter, since neither Zupan nor his son had any change.

At the headquarters of Strolling of the Heifers, Zupan was greeted by "ambassador" Ben Williams, who as luck would have it, had already voted.

When Zupan told him he was running against Sanders, Williams was immediately skeptical.

"That's a tough one," said Williams. "It's an uphill climb."

Williams pointed out to Zupan that Brattleboro and Windham County were strongly Democratic and liberal, and strongly supported Sanders.

"They need to hear my message," said Zupan. "My ideas will work much better for the state of Vermont. I have a better plan," he added, without saying what those ideas and plans were.

Sanders was recently recognized as the most popular senator in his home state, according to the Morning Consult, and a recent Vermont Public Radio-Vermont Public Television poll put him at 60 percent, with only 19 percent of Vermonters saying they planned on voting for Zupan.

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Zupan lost the Republican primary in August, and only owes his place on the ballot next Tuesday to the decision by the Republican who won the primary to drop out.

The Zupans made several stops downtown, visiting the Hermit Thrush Brewery, Penelope Wurr, Strolling of the Heifers, Tulip Cafe, Brilliance, Renaissance Jewelry, the Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce and Galanes Vermont Shop. Earlier in the afternoon, Zupan had visited the Brattleboro Retreat.

Zupan said he had some familiarity with Brattleboro as he had recently handled the sale of a business block in the center of town.

"The new owners are going to put some money into it," he told executive director Kate O'Connor at the chamber of commerce office.

At Brilliance, Zupan assumed the role of window shopper.

"I don't see any I don't like," he said to his son. "I have more rugs than I have space in my house," he said, while eyeing the stacks of Turkish and Afghani rugs.

After a few statements about the importance of free enterprise, Zupan went to the Galanes Vermont Shop.

Owner Dick DeGray quickly pointed to the photo above his head that showed DeGray posing with former Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Putney Democrat..

"Neither party has the answer," said DeGray, who told Zupan he was completely disgusted with President Donald Trump, something Zupan heard often Thursday afternoon.

"What do you think of Bernie Sanders?" Zupan asked.

DeGray pointed out that Sanders and his staff had been extremely helpful to Brattleboro after Tropical Storm Irene caused so much damage in the town in 2011, when DeGray was chairman of the select board.

"I don't agree with everything he says," DeGray says.

Then the discussion turned to immigration, and the large group of Central American refugees who are on their way through Mexico to the American border.

"It's just lunacy to send 15,000 troops to the border," DeGray said of Trump's plan.

Zupan said he didn't have an answer, but sympathized with Trump's plan.

"What are you going to do, just let them in to the country?" he countered.

"I want to hear what you are going to do," DeGray said. "I'm sick of hearing criticism of Bernie. Tell me what you would do."

Contact Susan Smallheer at ssmallheer@reformer.com or 802 254-2311, ext. 154.


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