Time To Vote 2018: Here Are Vermont's Candidates For U.S. Senate

Oct 31, 2018

The winner of this race joins Sen. Patrick Leahy in representing Vermonters for a six-year term in the U.S. Senate.

Time To Vote 2018 — Attorney General | Auditor | Governor | Lieutenant Governor | Secretary of State | Treasurer | U.S. House

What does the senator do?

The U.S. Senate is colloquially referred to as "the world's most exclusive club." Each state gets two senators, regardless of size. Those senators serve on committees, introduce legislation and vote on bills.

In recent weeks, the U.S. Senate has been in the spotlight as they confirmed a Supreme Court Justice.

Who's running for U.S. Senate?

There are nine candidates for U.S. Senate on Vermont's ballot in the 2018 general election:

  • Folasade Adeluola
  • Russell Beste
  • Bruce Busa
  • Edward S. Gilbert Jr.
  • Reid Kane
  • Brad J. Peacock
  • Bernie Sanders
  • Jon Svitavsky
  • Lawrence Zupan

With so many candidates in this particular race, we're setting up the U.S. Senate guide a little differently than the other races. For each candidate, we're highlighting 5 "things to know." Some topics are covered by multiple candidates, some are unique to the specific candidate. For more on their positions, check out their websites.

Scroll to learn more about the candidates.

Credit Photo: Angela Evancie / VPR File

  • Independent candidate
  • First time seeking elected statewide office in Vermont
  • Town of residence: Shelburne
  • Website

Here are 5 things about Folasade Adeluola:

1. Adeluola has referred to herself as a "Clintonian Democrat," and she feels that Sen. Bernie Sanders will pursue another presidential run in 2020 and that Vermonters deserve more than a "part-time senator." Another reason she said she's running? Because Vermont is now the only state that's never had a woman represent it in Congress.

2. She said she isn't against the concept of a Medicare For All health care system — which Sanders has introduced in the Senate — but she feels it wouldn't work from a financial standpoint.

3. Adeluola said she supported President Barack Obama's immigration reform, but she takes issue with the current administration's policies around immigration: "I am an immigrant American and what President Trump is actually doing, you know, it is something that I get so very very saddened about," Adeluola said, citing the family separations in particular as "un-American." 

4. Adeluola said she feels we're failing young people that struggle with opioid addiction and work needs to be done to eliminate stigma around the opioid crisis and make medical treatment available. 

5. She said she supports gun owners, but also supports the new laws that Gov. Phil Scott enacted earlier this year. Additionally, Adeluola said background checks are a must and that so-called "assault weapons" don't belong in our communities.

Want to hear more from Folasade Adeluola? Listen to an extended interview here.

Credit Photo: Angela Evancie / VPR File

  • Independent candidate
  • First time seeking elected statewide office in Vermont
  • Town of residence: Burlington
  • Website

Here are 5 things about Russell Beste:

1. Beste said he supports a number of Sen. Bernie Sanders' stances, but said he doesn't think the incumbent's higher profile since the 2016 election cycle has necessarily benefitted Vermonters. In general, Beste also feels we should have term limits to allow more options for who gets to represent the state.

2. "We haven't been very proactive in bringing jobs here," Beste said. He suggested we boost the existing industries we have in Vermont (craft beer, farming), but he is also interested in what jobs we could create here in technological fields.

3. Beste said that he'd support what he describes as "a managed health care bill," where there are baseline services provided, that can then be built upon. How does he suggest we pay for that? "A progressive tax, especially on the wealthy and super wealthy," he said. According to Beste, that's the group that has the money that needs to be invested in a system like this.

4. "I think it's very important for us to recognize that our country was built upon immigration," Beste said, explaining why he disagrees with the Trump administration's plans to put limits on legal immigration. He did though say we "need to manage" immigration into the U.S.

5. He feels strongly about getting money out of politics, especially considering how many free internet platforms are available today. Beste also said he thinks he'd support overturning Citizens United.

Want to hear more from Russell Beste? Listen to an extended interview here.

Credit Photo: Angela Evancie / VPR File

  • Independent candidate
  • First time seeking elected statewide office in Vermont
  • Town of residence: Readsboro
  • Website

Here are 5 things about Bruce Busa:

1. Busa said he chose to run because he had a hard time finding a person to throw his support behind. He noted that he isn't part of the current Washington scene and his ability "just to throw another thought in there from outside of the system."

2. Busa said he'd need more information on Trump's plan to reduce the number of people who can legally immigrate to the United States: "I'd have to see the whole nine yards of his numbers and all, but I support legal immigration,” Busa said, citing his own family history. Still he said he'd want to know more about why President Donald Trump wants to make cuts to legal immigration "and weigh it against where we are."

3. As far as a border wall, Busa said: "I believe in borders and if the border's being breached, I believe in that we should take efforts to fill the gaps. And I’ll see what’s on the table — how much it costs, how big it's going to be, and go from there. But if it's reasonable, I do believe in a secure border."

4. "I'm really confused about why in the world people want Donald Trump to be in charge of my health care. I'm very much against that," Busa said. "I'd rather have my own health care — and I separate health care from sick care." He said he supports studying how the various things we consume impact the human body, in an effort to "cut down on the overdrain of our sick care system."

5. Busa said he's opposed to the state's new gun laws. He also sees a link between incidents of gun violence in schools to the institutions having "abandoned the scientific method to teach indoctrination into something that contradicts our Declaration of Independence."

Want to hear more from Bruce Busa? Listen to an extended interview here.

Credit Photo: Angela Evancie / VPR File

  • Independent candidate
  • First time seeking elected statewide office in Vermont
  • Town of residence: Barre Town
  • Website

Here are 5 things about Edward S. Gilbert Jr.:

1. "Vermont could use a federal representative that is more on the working side with the administration, rather than the resistance," Gilbert said. He said he feels this is a strategic approach, especially since Vermont could make good use of federal funding.

2. Gilbert said he supports a simplified tax code that would allow Vermont's businesses to grow. Speaking of taxes, he said he is particularly against an "unsustainable" tax on carbon: "The carbon taxes, I feel, would devastate a lot of the small business owners that are trying to get to that next level."

3. Vermont has a statutory commitment to increasing renewable energy, and Gilbert said he would "support a diversified energy portfolio" that is strategically planned. While he expressed specific support for solar energy, he is less on board with putting wind turbines on ridgelines.

4. Gilbert said the legal immigration process "can be streamlined" and made more cost-efficient. He also said he supports President Donald Trump's proposed border wall.

5. As far as gun control, Gilbert described himself as very supportive of the Second Amendment and said he takes some issue with the "knee-jerk reaction" to events beyond our state borders when Vermont itself is historically pretty safe.

Want to hear more from Edward S. Gilbert Jr.? Listen to an extended interview here.

Credit Photo: Angela Evancie / VPR File

  • Liberty Union candidate
  • First time seeking elected statewide office in Vermont
  • Town of residence: Hartford
  • Website

VPR reached out to Reid Kane, but was unable to schedule an interview.

Credit Photo: Angela Evancie / VPR File

  • Independent candidate
  • First time seeking elected statewide office in Vermont
  • Town of residence: Shaftsbury
  • Website

Here are 5 things about Brad J. Peacock:

1. Peacock — a farmer and military veteran — said affordability is the biggest problem facing Vermont, especially with our aging demographics: "Keeping our youth here is vitally important." He said he'd prioritize developing our rural economy, including providing broadband and infrastructure improvements.

2. While Peacock said it was Bernie Sanders who inspired him to get into politics, he's running against the incumbent because "Vermonters deserve a full-time senator, who is laser-focused on the needs of improving and growing our state. And, you know, that doesn't really have a higher ambition for office."

3. "Legal immigration is vitally important to our economy," Peacock said, though he noted he supports enforcement of current immigration law and border security. He said if elected, he'd support immigration reform legislation (and said this could also be a way to get legal citizenship for current undocumented workers on Vermont farms).

4. Peacock said the ultimate goal of Medicare for All is appealing, but he said there are things to figure out in the near-term (like universal primary care, coverage for kids, negotiating prescription drug prices). He believes money for such programs could be found by addressing government inefficiencies, or in the case of universal primary care, trying a regional approach rather than going it alone.

5. Peacock said he isn't totally on board with the process that resulted in Vermont's new gun laws (specifically Peacock said there should have been more hearings). But as far as the legislation itself? "Overall I think it's reasonable," he said.

Want to hear more from Brad J. Peacock? Listen to an extended interview here.

Credit Photo: Angela Evancie / VPR File

  • Independent candidate
  • Incumbent; seeking third term; previously served in the U.S. House; ran for president in the 2016 election cycle
  • Town of residence: Burlington
  • Website

Here are 5 things about Bernie Sanders:

1. Sanders said he considers climate change to be a foreign policy issue. In the wake of the recent global climate report, Sanders said President Trump's policies are not helping the situation. "We have got to — right now — do everything we can to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy-efficiency and sustainable energies, like wind, solar, geothermal and other technologies." In particular, he said we need to make it easier for people to make use of solar energy.

2. About two months ago, Sanders introduced the Stop BEZOS Act. Since then, Amazon announced an increase to their minimum wage, but Sanders said the government needs to keep pushing for this change across the board: "We have got to pass a national minimum wage of $15 an hour."

3. Sanders supports "common sense gun safety legislation," including expanded background checks and enforcement to keep guns out of the hands of some people who shouldn't have them. But when asked if he was advocating for a gun registry, Sanders wasn't sure: "I can't answer that right now. ... I haven't looked at the implications."

4. Medicare For All is a bill that Sanders introduced last year that would provide publicly-funded universal health care. The president criticized this plan recently (though Sanders points to a Washington Post fact check of Trump's claims). Sanders said this plan would expand coverage for seniors, eliminate deductibles and co-payments, and overall would lower U.S. health care costs.

5.  A Senate term is six years, but the next presidential election is 2020, and people are curious about Sanders' plans in two years. As far as another presidential run, Sanders said earlier this month that "no decision has been made." During the VPR - Vermont PBS Debate, Sanders acknowledged his presidential run took him outside Vermont and Washington, and that he missed Senate votes as a result — though he said he made sure to be present for "key votes." But Sanders vowed: "I always represent the people of Vermont."

Want to hear more from Bernie Sanders? Listen to an extended interview here.

Credit Photo: Angela Evancie / VPR File

  • Independent candidate
  • First time seeking elected statewide office in Vermont
  • Town of residence: Bridport
  • Website

Here are 5 things about Jon Svitavsky: 

1. Svitavsky is social worker who said he has started multiple homeless shelters in the state. "I've been a political activist for almost 50 years," he said.

2. The opioid crisis has touched his immediate family, and Svitavsky said helping those with addiction is a priority. "I like to practically approach things," he said, adding that he's developed a plan to increase public awareness for available resources and best practices for helping someone seek treatment.

3. "I certainly support it," Svitavsky said of universal health care, but he said the key issue is figuring out a realistic way to fund it — and he admitted he doesn't necessarily know what that way would be. He also said he is a fan of the Affordable Care Act, passed under President Barack Obama, and sees that legislation as something that could be built upon.

4. Speaking of President Obama, Svitavsky appaluded the environmental progress the former president made with "going green" during his tenure — and, in turn, chastized President Trump's environmental actions, such as solar tariffs and withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement.

5. "There are a number of folks, myself included, who really feel like Sanders is really one of the central reasons Trump was elected," Svitavsky said, who also voiced a concern that when it comes to Sanders, "it's just rhetoric." He noted that Sanders has "pie-in-the-sky proposals," which Svitavsky said are pointless if they can't be funded and become reality. 

Want to hear more from Jon Svitavsky? Listen to an extended interview here.

Credit Photo: Angela Evancie / VPR File

Here are 5 things about Lawrence Zupan:

1. In addition to being what he describes as "a solutions Republican," Zupan said that he's "a Republican who loves the United States of America." In constast, he said he believes incumbent Sen. Bernie Sanders loves socialism more than he loves America.

2. Zupan said the U.S. has for too long been "the weak man at the table" when it comes to international trade negotiations. So regarding the new tariffs imposed by the United States, Zupan said, it's less about whether they are effective or not: "I like the fact that President Trump has rolled up his sleeve and showed an American bicep to the world." He did add that he supports free trade, so we would need to wean ourselves from tariffs eventually.

3. "Government can't do anything as well as private enterprise," Zupan said. Having social safety net programs is a "luxury," according to Zupan. When pressed on which social service programs he'd eliminate, Zupan clarified that "there's none of them in their entirety that we should get rid of ... but there's many of them that have been expanded to the point of unreasonability." Zupan's examples of this: the welfare and health systems. 

4. There's a goal for Vermont to be at 90 percent renewables by 2050, but Zupan has a more ambitious goal: "I think that if we find the ways to champion the technologies that are emerging right now, we can be rid of fossil fuels if we choose to be by 2035. And it's not going to be by draining the taxpayer and forcing them to subsidize industries that cannot stand on their own two feet." He added that he opposes a carbon tax.

5. He said he supports the nomination (and now confirmation) of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. Zupan said that's because presumption of innocence is a tenet of the United States and he doesn't think there is evidence to corroborate Christine Blasey Ford's allegations against Kavanaugh.

Want to hear more from Lawrence Zupan? Listen to an extended interview here.

Keep going! Time To Vote 2018 — Attorney General | Auditor | Governor | Lieutenant Governor | Secretary of State | Treasurer | U.S. House

AND REMEMBER: Vermont's 2018 general election is Tuesday, Nov. 6.