GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney invited state Sen. Randy Brock for a brief meeting on Wednesday at a hardware store in West Lebanon, N.H.
Romney was in Reading, Vt., for a few days to prepare for his three upcoming debates with President Barack Obama. He arrived in the small town (population 666) on Tuesday.
Brock, the Republican candidate for Vermont governor, said they had a 15-minute discussion in the back of LaValley Building Supply, where an impromptu TV studio had been set up to accommodate broadcast interviews with Romney.
The topic? The economy, and the commonality, Brock says, between the Green Mountain State’s fragile recovery from the Great Recession and that of nation as a whole.
Brock said he and Romney expressed particular concerns about jobs, the economy, taxes and unemployment. Though Vermont has the fifth lowest unemployment rate in the country, he says anecdotal evidence from audiences he queries on the campaign trail indicates that many more residents of the state have become part of the long-term unemployed or have left Vermont to find jobs elsewhere.
“Every audience I go to, I ask how many people do you know are unemployed, how many have kids leaving Vermont because they couldn’t find a job,” Brock said. About 60 percent to 70 percent of hands go up, he says. “The statistics underreport the seriousness of the unemployment concerns in Vermont. If you want to reduce dependence on government and social programs, the key is a more vibrant economy.”
Brock and Romney share friends in the financial world. Romney is one of the founders of Bain Capital, an asset management firm, and Brock is a retired executive vice president for Fidelity Investments.
Brock said Romney was enjoying his time in Vermont where he found the peace and quiet to concentrate on his oratory.
Providing peace and quiet is “probably something we do a good job of,” Brock said.
“I invited him to come back to Vermont when he has time to come and see some Vermonters,” Brock said.
Brock joked that Vermont could start an industry for quiet presidential debate preparations. “Now if we could get Obama to do the same thing, it could be a revenue producer,” he said.
The meeting was important, Brock says, because there is a distinct possibility Romney will win the presidency.
“It’s important for Vermont to develop a relationship with that person and tell him what’s happening in Vermont,” Brock says. “Putting all our eggs in one basket is probably not healthy.”