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Progressive Dean Corren Would Bring Single-Payer Mission To Lt. Gov's Office

Courtesy Dean Corren
Progressive Dean Corren plans to mount a serious challenge to Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott

The legislative fight for single-payer in Vermont traces its roots back to the early 1990s, when a newly minted representative from Burlington introduced a bill to abolish the private insurance market and replace it with a universal, publicly financed health care system.

The representative’s named was Dean Corren, a Progressive Party stalwart who would go on to serve four terms in the Vermont Legislature. And it’s no accident that Corren’s return to politics coincides with what will be the most pivotal legislative biennium yet for the single-payer effort.

“The main reason I’m motivated to run now is because we are at this cusp of being on the verge of developing a real health care system for Vermont. And this has been a long time in coming,” Corren says.

The Progressive Party is sitting out the race for governor again this year. But Progressives are hoping to mount a serious challenge to Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott. And candidate Corren says the push for single-payer would benefit from another cheerleader in statewide office.

Corren is a 59-year-old Burlington resident who works as Chief Technology Officer at a renewable energy company. And he says he’d use the lieutenant governor’s office to amplify Gov. Peter Shumlin’s case for a single-payer system.

“The office has the freedom to go around the state, take input from people and also explain how this new system will work,” Corren says. “And I think that’s very important to getting a whole sense of community around Vermont behind this new plan for health care.”

Corren’s prospects against the popular two-term Republican incumbent are dimmed by the fact that he’s in a three-way race that includes a liberal Democrat who shares many of his views. But Corren says that as a Progressive, he’ll offer a fresh choice to the Vermont voters that prefer to split the ticket on the top two statewide offices.

And Corren says that while he’ll help Shumlin bolster the case for single-payer, he’ll simultaneously push for a more progressive tax structure – an economic area in which his party remains at odds with the Democratic governor.

Corren is also a proponent of having a Vermont state bank, something he says he’d use the office to push for.

“I offer the voters an additional opportunity, which is to elect someone from a different party from the governor, who is totally free to be critical of the governor… and yet not be a pull to the right wing, but be a little bit more of a pull to the left, and I think that’s the direction the people of Vermont are going in,” Corren says.

Corren is seeking to raise $17,500 from 500 different donors by next Thursday – the bar he’ll have to clear to qualify for public financing. Corren formerly worked as a staff member for then Congressman Bernie Sanders, and is a longtime member of the Burlington Electric Commission.

Morgan Daybell, vice-chairman of the Vermont Progressive Party, says Corren will be at the top of a ticket that includes at least three other candidates for statewide office and about 20 House and Senate hopefuls.

Along with incumbent State Auditor Doug Hoffer, Progressives have nominated Ben Eastwood for secretary of state and Don Schramm for state treasurer. Daybell says it’s possible the party will have a candidate for attorney general before next Thursday’s filing deadline.

In the Senate, where the party has Chittenden Sen. David Zuckerman, and P/D fusion candidates in Chittenden Sen. Tim Ashe and Washington Sen. Anthony Pollina, Daybell says the party hopes to pick up one more seat with a yet unnamed candidate.

In the House, Progressives will look to build on the five seats they hold now. Daybell says open seats in the Rutland-Bennington district, where Robin Chesnut-Tangerman is running, and Orleans-2, where Carl Davis is a candidate, offer particularly fertile ground for Progressive pick-ups.

Daybell says the emergence of single-payer as a key issue in Vermont elections is serving to benefit a Progressive Party whose members were among the first to champion the issue. And he says the weak showing by the Vermont GOP – Republicans have yet to field a candidate for any of the give statewide offices held by Democratic incumbents – means that Progressives have an opportunity to distinguish themselves on a grander political stage.

“And I think what Progressives are able to do is start to make the case that we can be the opposition party to the Democrats, and really pull the debate in our direction,” Daybell says.

The Vermont Statehouse is often called the people’s house. I am your eyes and ears there. I keep a close eye on how legislation could affect your life; I also regularly speak to the people who write that legislation.
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