Britton seeks to unseat Leahy
MIDDLEBURY —Pomfret Republican Len Britton has served on some statewide boards to which he was appointed, but this year decided to make his first run for elective office — and he is not starting small.
Britton will take on none other than Vermont’s senior U.S. senator, Democrat Patrick Leahy, who has been in office since he was elected in 1974 and who currently serves as the chairman of the senate Judiciary Committee.
“I decided to start with something easy,” Britton, 54, said with a chuckle during a recent interview with the Addison Independent. But he believes that being a political novice and a small businessman will serve as assets in his race against Leahy, the powerful longtime incumbent.
The other announced candidate in the race, Wilmington Democrat Dr. Daniel Freilich, was profiled in the Addison Independent earlier this month.
Britton is a ninth-generation Vermonter and owner/operator of Britton’s Lumber, Landscape and Feed in Taftsville. He and his wife, Kathy, have four children. He believes his background has equipped him well to represent the interests of small businessmen and women in a Congress he believes has become fiscally irresponsible and has lost its ways on issues such as healthcare reform and the war on terror.
“I’m living the same life that a lot of Vermonters are; trying to bring your kids up and make a living in a state where sometimes it’s not easy,” Britton said. “I can relate, I think, to what is going on out there in the real world.”
It’s a stark contrast, Britton believes, with Leahy, whom he calls a “career politician” and part of a Congress he said has lost touch with its constituents.
“I am a true citizen legislator, as I am sure our founding fathers intended,” said Britton, who pledged to limit his service to two terms, if elected. “If I am elected, I intend to remain part of the culture here in Vermont, because I love this state so much.”
Britton acknowledged he faces a “steep incline” in taking on Leahy. Britton plans to travel throughout the state during the coming months to gain more name recognition and tap into what he believes is Vermonters’ thirst for change in Washington.
“There is dissatisfaction with what is coming out of Washington D.C.,” Britton said. “It’s not necessarily a Republican or a Democrat thing, it’s just that we need to stop business in this country the way we’ve been doing it. I felt compelled, with the encouragement of my family, to stand up and add my voice to the public debate.”
He wants to weigh in on a variety of topics, including the economy and how federal stimulus money is being used. He believes the government is not doing enough to help small businesses.
“The help coming out of Washington, from what I saw, was not exactly helpful to Vermonters,” Britton said. “Washington is trying to stimulate the economy from the top down. They’ve bought General Motors and Chrysler, and bailed out AIG and Freddie Mack … Billions and billions of dollars later, we’ve still got 10 percent unemployment. I think if you talk to the average Vermonter out there, they haven’t felt the benefits of that stimulus.”
If elected, Britton said he would try to direct more stimulus aid “from the bottom up, getting capital into the hands of small businesses, where it can do the most good.”
Healthcare is another issue with which federal lawmakers are grappling, and Britton does not like the way things are going. He does not favor a government-sponsored “public option” for healthcare, nor does he support expanding Medicare to provide coverage to the uninsured.
“We have a single-payer system already — it’s Medicare, and it is broken,” Britton said.
“Healthcare reform right now has to be looked at through the prism of, ‘Can we afford it?; How can we afford it? And who is going to pay for it?’” Britton said.
He agrees that the healthcare system needs to be reformed, but suggested the emphasis should be on “carving down costs we can get at,” such as eliminating frivolous medical lawsuits (tort reform); continuing to computerize records; and allowing for the purchase of insurance policies across state lines.
The war in Afghanistan and the greater war on terror are also key issues in the nation’s capital, and Britton wants to weigh in. He said he does not support President Barack Obama’s decision to send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan because they are being deployed without a “clear mission and strategy.”
“If we are getting out in 18 months, what are we going to be achieving in the next 18 months?” Britton said.
“I don’t think we can build a Jeffersonian democracy in Afghanistan,” he said.
“While we are hunkered down in Afghanistan, Al Quada is taking root in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and certain places in Europe.”
He added he would focus on fighting the war on terror using special military operations, rather than major deployments of troops.
“I think we need to be very clear about what we want to do as a country and what appetite we have to spend blood and treasure in the Middle East,” Britton said.
Other topics addressed by Britton included:
• Energy. He said he wants the country to wean itself off foreign oil. To that end, he said the United States should look within to cultivate more of its natural resources (including natural gas, clean coal, shale and natural gas), as well as develop more nuclear and renewable energy options.
• Federal spending. He said that if elected, he will “comb the federal budget line by line” to eliminate earmarks and set a balanced-budget target.
“We’re broke, we’re printing money, selling the debt to China and giving our kids the bill,” Britton said of the current federal spending trend.