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Explore our coverage of government and politics.

New GOP Chair Keeping Close Eye On Shumlin

John Dillon
Vermont GOP Chairman David Sunderland after he was elected on Saturday.

The newly elected chairman of the Vermont Republican Party got an early start setting the tone for his chairmanship today in an open letter to Gov. Peter Shumlin.

The letter came in response to statements on Monday when Shumlin said he will attempt to get waivers for the state from the federal Medicare and Tricare programs in favor of getting all Vermonters enrolled in his proposed single-payer health care program.

In the letter, Sunderland cited’s report of the remarks and expressed concern that Shumlin’s plan was “to kick Vermont’s senior citizens off of Medicare and to disallow Vermont’s honored veterans from continuing their health care coverage through Tricare."

Sunderland asked Shumlin to clarify his comments, adding that “The Vermont Republican Party stands ready to defend our seniors and veterans against any takeover of the federal healthcare plans they currently have and enjoy.”

The letter is in clear opposition to plans sought by the Democratic governor, but also shows a clear break between the Vermont GOP and the talking points championed by the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party nationally. That group seeks to cut government entitlement programs while the Vermont Republicans, in the new letter, expressed a willingness to fight for Medicare.

Sunderland was elected Saturday in favor of more conservative John MacGovern. MacGovern was endorsed by outgoing chairman Jack Lindley and conservative operative Darcie Johnston, who coordinated Randy Brock’s 2012 campaign against Shumlin before focusing her efforts on Vermonters for Health Care Freedom, lobbying against Shumlin’s reforms.

Sunderland won endorsements from the generally more moderate Lt. Gov. Phil Scott as well as many Republican state legislators. His election is seen as a larger shift for the party toward a moderate stance that is sometimes at odds with the Tea Party principles.

Update 11/13/13: Gov. Peter Shumlin responded to Sunderland's letter with a letter of his own. It said, in part: "I am sorry you were confused by my comments. Let me be clear: I will not take away health care from seniors or veterans or force them off Medicare or Tricare." Read the full letter here.

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
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