VPR News Blog
4:25 pm
Tue February 18, 2014

The Route To Relevance: GOP Hopeful Aims For Senate

Dustin Degree is hoping to make the Democratic super-majority in Montpelier a bit less super.

The St. Albans Republican announced his bid for Senate in Franklin County, currently split between Republican Norm McAllister and Democrat Donald Collins. The Burlington Free Press reports that Democrat Bill Roberts is also in the race.

Degree, a former staffer for Gov. Jim Douglas, said the Democratic rule of the state’s government is taking its toll on Vermont.

“We need to restore some balance,” he said. “I think that having a loyal opposition in Montpelier is a good thing. I just think they [the Republicans] need more numbers, and I’d like to be part of it.”

The fastest way for Republicans to gain more traction in the state, Degree said, is through the Senate. The party currently holds seven of the state's 30 Senate seats.

"If you can go from seven to 12, or seven to 13 [Senate seats], that's the quickest way back," he said. "I'm not sure that it's easy, but that's the quickest way back."

Degree sought to be part of that in a 2012 Senate run, but fell short by about 35 votes.

A major focus of Degree’s campaign announcement was the state’s economy.

While Vermont’s unemployment rates remain far lower than the national average, the workforce and total number of jobs are falling – a trend Degree said is caused by Democratic tax policies and state-regulated utility costs.

Degree, 29, said the state’s high cost of living is contributing to the “brain drain” of young Vermonters leaving the state.

“I’m of a different generation than a lot of those folks in Montpelier,” he said. “And there’s a reason why so many young Vermonters leave the state for college and never come home.”

The reason: “Overall affordability, certainly. Whether it’s taxes, whether it’s utility fees. I think if we could get some of those costs lowered, then I think you have a better chance of retaining some of those young people or attracting some new blood.”

Degree compared Vermont’s policies that he says hurt jobs and businesses to New York, where Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo created economic zones in the state that allow new and expanded businesses to operate tax-free for 10 years.

“That’s a terrifying prospect if you’re a Franklin County business owner,” Degree said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story wrongly stated that Degree worked for Jim Jeffords. He worked for Jim Douglas.