Milne skips GOP event in Essex; holds teleconference town meeting tonight

Scott Milne, the party-endorsed Republican candidate for governor, skipped a primary debate and spaghetti supper on Tuesday held by the Essex Town Republicans.

Milne says he didn’t participate in the event because it wasn’t “media sponsored.”

The Vermont GOP didn’t support the Essex Republican event because Emily Peyton, an independent, was invited to the debate. Peyton has run twice previously. Under GOP rules the party can’t support a candidate that has received less than 25 percent of the vote financially or in any other way.

Milne said he thought the event wouldn’t be worthwhile because two out of the three candidates in the debate would work against the Republican nominee after the primary. Peyton is seeking the Republican Party nomination, as is Dan Feliciano, a libertarian candidate, who is running a write-in campaign for the Republican ballot.

“It didn’t seem like it was in our best interest to get involved in that,” Milne said. “Republicans in Essex are important to us and to have dialog with. We think that will be better done after the primary.”

Nevertheless, Milne is preparing for a debate with Peyton, Feliciano and Steve Berry on Vermont Public Radio’s "Vermont Edition" at noon on Friday.

Deborah Billado, the treasurer of the Essex Republicans, said in an email that she was “perplexed” by Milne’s decision to back out of the debate.

“I like many others feel that this was a lost opportunity for candidate Milne,” Billado wrote. “Turns out that Mr. Feliciano the libertarian candidate walked away with the prize tonight. He was well spoken, knew all his material, very informed, pointed answers that did not leave you wondering 'what did he just say.' He had terrific ideas, very approachable, good demeanor, sense of humor ... what more can I say. This was my first time seeing and meeting this candidate and he was rather impressionable. I cannot give you any feedback on Mr. Milne as his chair was empty.

“If the Republicans of Vermont really want to take back this state they need to get in the game,” Billado continued. “There seems to be a real lack of party unity for some reason and its probably a major contributor to the low voter support we have seen for years now.”

Ninety-seven percent of the Essex Republicans supported Feliciano in a straw poll at the debate. In a statement, Feliciano said: "If Scott Milne doesn’t want to debate Shumlin, I will gladly take Milne's place in any of those debates for the General election. The people of Vermont deserve a Governor who is willing to defend his ideas and share those with voters."

Feliciano has also started to gain traction among some party stalwarts. He is backed by Darcie Johnston, the campaign manager for Randy Brock’s 2012 bid for governor, and John McClaughry, the founder of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Milne says he is disappointed that he was unable to convince McClaughry to support his campaign. “I’m a better candidate, and hopefully he’ll have time to rethink that as we get through the fall campaign,” Milne said.

The story about Milne’s decision to back out of the Essex debate hit at the same time he launched a TV ad campaign.

Milne is holding a tele-town hall meeting tonight. His campaign is robo-calling 30,000 Vermonters at 7:30. He will give a speech and then ask voters to give him feedback on his campaign stances on health care and the economy or anything else they want to talk about.

The tele-town hall meeting will be moderated by Elise and Keith Milne, the children of Scott Milne.

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Anne Galloway

About Anne

Anne Galloway is the founder and editor-at-large of VTDigger. Galloway founded VTDigger in 2009 after she was laid off from her position as Sunday editor of the Rutland Herald and Times Argus. VTDigger has grown from a $16,000 a year nonprofit with no employees to a $2.8 million nonprofit daily news operation with a staff of 32. In 2017, Galloway was a finalist for the Ancil Payne Award for Ethics, the Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award and the Investigative Reporters and Editors FOIA Award for her investigation into allegations of foreign investor fraud at Jay Peak Resort.

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