In Case You Missed It: Shumlin vs. Brock on WPTZ

In a debate last week, WPTZ moderators let the two gubernatorial candidates go at each other with new abandon.

Gov. Peter Shumlin, the Democratic incumbent, and Randy Brock, the Republican challenger, appeared to relish the opportunity to plunge the needle in sensitive areas, and both came away bleeding.

Brock lost his cool and went defensive twice: Once when Shumlin raised questions about his business plan and another when the governor said his Republican rival wanted to raise property taxes on middle class Vermonters.

When Shumlin gave Brock a hard time about his “business in a box” plan that he said would cost $6,500 for unemployed workers, the state senator sputtered: “You didn’t listen to what I said. That’s not what I said. You didn’t read my plan. I didn’t say that.”

Nothing Brock said seemed to penetrate the governor’s shield of nonchalance.

Watch the WPTZ debate. The candidates ask each other questions at 31:44 minutes into the hourlong exchange.

Brock came back with questions about the governor’s property transactions in East Montpelier, which he characterized as a “heck of a deal.” Shumlin said he was happy to have the opportunity to talk about it because the purchase had been “extraordinarily misrepresented in the press.”

The governor described the purchase, in which Tom Hagemann, a campaign contributor and Texas defense attorney who specializes in corporate fraud campaign, gave him a reduced price on the 27-acre parcel, as an exchange among old friends. Shumlin and Hagemann are “best friends.” They vacation together and their children are good friends, he told the WPTZ audience. “We are as close as any two people can be,” the governor said.

“Most people don’t spend $35,000 and gain $113,000 over night,” Brock retorted.

“That’s because I’ve improved the property,” Shumlin said. “Phil Scott built a road. We put in a septic system. We built the foundation.”

Brock questioned: “All I can say is, you got a heck of a deal, and you ought to be doing that for the state of Vermont.”

“I am every single day,” Shumlin replied coolly. “I am doing that for the taxpayers every single day that’s why we’re growing jobs and economic opportunities under my watch.”

Shumlin characterized Brock’s comments on VPR about the income sensitivity program for Vermonters making $30,000 to $50,000 as “your plan to raise their property taxes because you see it as an entitlement program.”

“That’s not what I said at all,” Brock retorted. “What I said was when the income sensitivity program was originally designed, it was designed as a program to help people who perhaps — seniors for example — who have seen their property taxes increase over time simply because land value has increased, but their incomes remained fixed. It’s morphed into much larger program that does resemble an income tax. What I said was, we need to look at our entire tax code.”

After Brock’s explanation, Shumlin looked right at the camera and said: “All I can say is, if you you’re a middle class Vermonter, watch out. What I’m hearing is, Randy is willing to reduce income sensitivity on property taxes, the one thing that is making property taxes affordable.”

Brock: “Governor, that’s not what I said.”

At that point, the WPTZ clock ran out on the question.

But there was no time limit on the blowback on Brock’s parsed responses. The Vermont Democratic Party immediately issued a terse press release with the subject line: “Brock Denies His Own Statements During Gubernatorial Debate.”

Brock ran away from his “business in a box” proposal, claiming he never told unemployed Vermonters at a press conference, “Suppose you are unemployed and you want to buy a franchise. What would you do? You would go and buy a franchise.” (“Brock in a Box” Seven Days 3 Oct. 2012).

Again, Brock denied his previous statement on income sensitivity, when in fact he stated, “It’s now morphed into what is really a middle class tax entitlement.” (“Brock Says His Message On Economy” Vermont Public Radio 1 Oct. 2012).

Was Brock equivocating with his refrain: “That’s not what I said”?

On that question Andy Bromage, of Seven Days, had the final word.

So, did Brock say he’d eliminate income sensitivity in the property tax? The VPR story sure makes it sound like he did, but now he’s saying it’s only one of several options for overhauling Vermont’s tax code. He’s not saying he’d do it, but he sure isn’t taking it off the table, either.

Correction: We originally misidentified the author of the Seven Days story as Paul Heintz.

Anne Galloway


  1. Robert Roper :

    “I am every single day,” Shumlin replied coolly. “I am doing that for the taxpayers every single day that’s why we’re growing jobs and economic opportunities under my watch.” Actually, not so much…

    The most stunning part of the debate was when Shumlin said in his opening statement: “I said when I ran that we would, together, get some tough things done to create jobs and opportunities for Vermonters…. Coming out of the worst recession we had two challenges: unemployment and underemployment. Guess what? Twenty-two months later, Vermont has the fifth lowest unemployment rate in America.”

    Yeah, but, guess what? Twenty-two months ago, when Shumlin came into office, Vermont had the FOURTH lowest unemployment rate in America. And, as of October 19 and the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Vermont has slipped to SIXTH. The man has taken us backwards, yet he looks Vermonters in the eye and spouts our ranking as if he is responsible for some great, crowning achievement. The fact is that over the past six months, as national unemployment rates have come down, Vermont’s unemployment rate has gone up 17% from 4.6% to 5.4%, while at the same time the total labor force in the state shrank from 359,922 to 356,684.

    And, yes, Shumlin was very nonchalant about looking the people of Vermont in the eye and feeding them a line of total bull. Where’s the media to call him on it?

  2. Is Brock a rich guy like Shumlin is? I would like to see someone who is a regular person with an average income be governor- someone who knows what it’s like to be terrified that there isn’t enough money to pay for a roof over one’s head, heat, and food. I’m sick of people who have no idea what that feels like representing the rest of us, who are by far the majority. Imho.

  3. Fred Woogmaster :

    The “two party system” – and the obscene money that fuels the engine of each party – has a stranglehold on the electorate. Independents, who I believe now represent close to 60% of the population have very limited voting options. Vermonters are witnessing the power of money and the application of individual wealth in this election more than ever before. I intend to write in the name of Annette Smith for Governor who wants to fight for the return of authority to all Vermonters. A wasted vote, a futile act? The two party system, while immensely successful in gaining control of our body politic, is representative of a minority; the voices of the unaffiliated, the majority, are drowned out. At this moment I intend to vote for Annette Smith – and feel good about it!

  4. Pat McDonald :

    Ellen, here is a quote from a WCAX campaign closeup video interview with Randy’s wife, Andrea which might respond in part to your inquiry about Senator Brock:

    “Randy Brock was born in Philadelphia. He excelled in school and went to Middlebury College, after which he served in the Vietnam War as a captain. When he returned to the United States he tried to start a business in Fort Knox, Kentucky, but at that time racism was rampant. No one allowed Brock to rent space in their buildings, so he bought a trailer and moved his business to Vermont.

    “He opened a business in the second bedroom of a trailer, in a trailer park in Middlebury. From there, he grew a business of over 100 employees here in Vermont and over 1-thousand employees all told,” she said.

    Brock then began consulting for Fidelity Investments, which eventually led to a 13-year career as the Vice President for risk oversight. From 2005 to 2007 Brock entered the political scene, serving as Vermont’s 28th Auditor. He ran for re-election against Tom Salmon in 2007 and lost. Two years later he made another run for a Franklin County Senate seat and won — a position he was re-elected to in 2010 and still holds today.”



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