MacGovern says winning is long shot
By WILSON RING
The Associated Press | October 24,2012
GOP Senate candidate John MacGovern holds a news conference in South Burlington last week.
SOUTH BURLINGTON — Republican U.S. Senate candidate John MacGovern knows his effort to unseat Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont’s independent political juggernaut who has outraised him hundreds of times over, is a long shot. But he’s pushing forward, hoping an unexpected confluence of events could send him to Washington.
The 61-year-old Windsor man, who lists his profession as heading an organization of Dartmouth College grads, is seeking what is probably considered one of the safest Senate seats in the country with the barely $100,000 he’s raised so far, no support from the national or state Republican parties and little name recognition.
He says he’s running because someone had to challenge Sanders and to help the country avoid what he sees as the “fiscal cliff” caused by the federal debt that will burden future generations.
“I trust that the people of Vermont are not unlike the people of this country. They are concerned about the issues that drove me to run, primarily the debt and the issues of jobs and the economy,” MacGovern said.
He and Sanders have gone head-to-head in a handful of debates; he’s appearing on local television news shows and has had two sparsely attended news conferences. Yet he’s still crisscrossing the state, handing out yard signs and bumper stickers.
Some of MacGovern’s positions might seem odd coming from a Republican trying to defeat Sanders, a left-leaning independent who caucuses with Senate Democrats and who is still sometimes referred to as a socialist.
“Senator Sanders has raised roughly $6.8 million. To me, those are 6.8 million reasons to vote against him. Bernie Sanders ran 25 years ago against money and politics, against PAC money,” MacGovern said.
Sanders was first elected to the U.S. House in 1990. “He’s dwarfing everybody. That’s an extraordinary amount of money for Vermont,” MacGovern said.
MacGovern came out last week against the possibility that the Air Force could base F-35 fighter planes at the Burlington International Airport, a proposal favored by Sanders because of the jobs the Air National Guard brings to the Burlington area. MacGovern said he’s pro-defense and pro-National Guard. But he said the planes are a bad fit for the communities around the airport, where some have argued they would be too noisy and disruptive.
Sanders, 71, has been a fixture in Vermont politics since 1981 when he was elected mayor of Burlington as an independent, narrowly defeating the Democratic incumbent. He was elected to the U.S. House in 1990 and to the Senate in 2006, succeeding Sen. James Jeffords.
Throughout his career he’s championed the needs of the poor, the elderly, the working class and veterans while trying to hold accountable the wealthy and giant corporations. He continues to push for health care reform, better wages, housing and educational opportunities for everyone.
In addition to Sanders and MacGovern, Vermont’s general election ballot also features a slate of third-party candidates: Peter Diamondstone, of the Liberty Union Party; Cris Ericson of the party listed as United States Marijuana; Laurel Laframbroise, of VoteKISS; and Peter Moss of Peace and Prosperity.
MacGovern was born in Cambridge, Mass., and raised on a dairy farm in Harvard, Mass. He moved to Vermont in 1999. Over the years he worked with various telecommunications and electric power firms.
He was elected to the Massachusetts Legislature during a special election in 1983 and served until 1990.
He received a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College and he currently runs the Hanover Institute, which he describes as an independent group of Dartmouth alumni formed to protect their voice in an expanded governing board. He is active on the Windsor Town Budget Committee and the town’s Development Review Board.
He’s hoping to do some direct mail and perhaps run some television advertising before the Nov. 6 vote. But MacGovern recognizes how hard it would be for him to win.
“It is a huge long shot race, but I believe we live in very interesting times,” he said. “We all see it, polls up and down very volatile. It’s a presidential year. There’s going to be a very high turnout in the campaign, a lot of money is spent on get out the vote. I don’t think I’ll need to get out the vote.”