By David Webb - 05/20/14 07:47 PM EDT
An opportunity for the Republican Party exists in Vermont, where there is both a litmus test for the single-payer healthcare system and an outright assault on citizens’ Second Amendment rights. A congressional win for the single statewide seat would unseat an Obama incumbent, Democrat Peter Welch, and help move a politically schizophrenic state from blue to red.
I went to Burlington, Vt., this past weekend to speak at a fundraiser for Mark Donka, the early entry for the August primary on the Republican ticket.
Vermont has a total population of about 626,000 residents and 461,000 registered voters. The state House of Representatives is 70 percent Democratic and 30 percent Republican. Overwhelming odds, to be sure, but key issues matter to citizens regardless of political registration.
In his 2012 campaign, Donka spent approximately $4,000 and received around 67,000 votes, or 23 percent of the vote. The incumbent, Welch, spent $268,000 and received 210,000 votes, or about 72 percent of the vote. Donka admits he was not ready in 2012 and didn’t have the campaign team he needed. This time, with a team in place and more money, just doubling his vote total from last cycle would make this a close race.
There are two important issues that could deliver a win for the Republicans there.
Vermont is the Petri dish for single-payer healthcare. Gov. Peter Shumlin is close to the Obama administration and in full support of the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare. He also favors a single-payer system, which Obama said on the record even before he was president is his preferred goal. There is a lot of outside money pouring into Vermont, by George Soros with his open government collective and others, to push a single-payer system. Single-payer eventually fails — that is historically true. Even if it appears to work initially in Vermont, the success will be short-lived.
Here’s what we know for sure. Shumlin knows that the $2.2 billion cost of Vermont’s single-payer health plan is real and is refusing to reveal his financing plan until after the November 2014 elections. In not revealing his financing plan, the governor has ignored the healthcare law’s legally required deadline of Jan. 1, 2013, and in fact reneged on his own promise to give the legislature his plan during the 2014 session. Demonstrating unaffordability is not politically smart.
A watered-down bill, H. 596, amends Act 48, the Vermont single-payer health law — it does not hold the Shumlin administration accountable for delivering a healthcare financing plan in 2014 or 2015 as was originally proposed, and will continue to force Vermont residents and businesses into the single-payer system. Vermonters with health plans, including ERISA, and retirees with Medicare supplemental plans will now have the imposition of Green Mountain Care as the payer of last resort. Even if someone does not want or need Green Mountain Care, that person will be a covered member so that he or she can either be taxed or penalized to support single-payer.
The second issue is the Second Amendment, which is sacrosanct to Americans regardless of party.
Vermont has the 20th highest gun ownership rate in the United States, as of 2012. Forty-two percent of the Vermont population own guns. The state has historically low incident rates of incidents, especially with respect to domestic violence. According to the FBI Uniform Crime Report, Vermont’s rate of firearm murders as a percentage of all murders (per 100,000 of the population) is .75, versus the national average of 2.75. Under the newly passed H. 735, firearms can be seized after a relief order has been issued by a judge. The cost to the gun owner will be $200 for the first weapon (the bill does not specify gun) and $25 for each additional weapon for the first year. If the charges are dropped, the gun owner is not charged the full fee but may be charged a $25 administration fee. Add to this issue that liberal-run cities like Burlington are attempting to zone out carrying firearms through the city, which would affect hunters who come far and wide to Vermont during deer season. The economic impact could be significant, as hunters would likely avoid Burlington altogether.
These two issues matter to all citizens, not just on the right or on the left, and that is where a flailing Republican Party in Vermont can command the stage. Local issues have national implications, and can turn blue into red.
Webb is host of “The David Webb Show” on SiriusXM Patriot 125, a Fox News contributor and has appeared frequently on television as a commentator. Webb co-founded TeaParty365 in New York City, and is a spokesman for the National Tea Party Federation. His column will appear twice a month in The Hill.