Republican Lieutenant Governor Primary Race 2020: Meg Hansen
Meg Hansen is one of the five candidates seeking the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor. She is the former executive director of the health care think tank “Vermonters for Health Care Freedom.”
VPR’s Mitch Wertlieb spoke with Meg Hansen, and their interview below has been condensed and edited for clarity. VPR is seeking interviews with all of the candidates for lieutenant governor.
Meg Hansen: I would bring diversity to the Senate, not just because I'm a young woman or I'm an Indian American - of course those things are very important - but also geographic diversity. My personal and professional life are rooted in southern Vermont[and have been] for the last 10 years. You know, middle-class families, Vermont workers, especially in rural parts, especially in southern Vermont, the Northeast Kingdom, tens of thousands of homeowners feel unheard, unrepresented. So helping expand economic freedom - that's basically why I feel called to run for this position.
Mitch Wertlieb: Let's say you are elected as lieutenant governor. You're a Republican. Gov. Phil Scott, is a Republican. But if if he was defeated, if a Democrat or a Progressive won, would you be able to work with that governor, even though you might have philosophical differences from a political standpoint?
Well, absolutely. When you are elected to an office, you have a duty to serve everybody and you have a duty to work with everyone who is in office. At the same time, I wouldn't compromise on my own personal convictions and values. I would defend that. But at the same time, I would be very open to listening to others and coming together. I work with anybody across any party line in order to be able to do that and serve the people.
Vermont is undergoing a massive economic shock from the COVID-19 pandemic. So is the entire country. How can we rebuild and recover while at the same time keeping Vermonters safe?
Absolutely. That's very important to keep Vermonters safe and healthy. Now that we have the data, we can refine and modify our approach as we try and reopen our economy. The fatality rate for people under the age of 70 is 0.04% for children and teenagers under the age of 18. It's practically zero, whereas people who are over the age of 70, 80, they have a very high risk of hospitalization and even death. What we need to do is focus our resources on at-risk populations, vulnerable populations, and help them, especially nursing homes where we've seen the maximum number of cases.
Protests are continuing nationally and here in Vermont against racism and police brutality. And I'm wondering how you would effect change in our state when it comes to law enforcement. Would you push for any changes in how law enforcement is performed in Vermont?
I would just like to clarify here that there is a difference between what happened as far as George Floyd's horrifying murder is concerned, and then the protests that began as a result, but now have taken on a whole life of its own. Accountability is absolutely critical. Upholding the rule of law is absolutely critical. But using that to paint all police departments as having a problem, I think that's very problematic. Abolishing or defunding police departments, it's not something that I support because it would really put at risk Americans who live in high crime neighborhoods.
What about changes short of defunding the police: banning use of chokeholds or body cameras for police, that sort of thing?
I've spoken with retired and current law enforcement officers. And my understanding is that when you don't get training and when you aren't able to recruit the best talent, which is what's happening everywhere, that's when it causes these problems. So we should treat the underlying problem. The underlying problem is not having enough funding to have upgraded training resources and boost recruitment. When you have good people, highly qualified people who are well-trained, then it eliminates opportunities for abuse. You can put short-term solutions in place all you want. That's just like putting a Band-Aid on a broken limb. It's not going to solve the problem. The real problem is boosting the morale of our law enforcement officers, supporting them with proper resources for training and getting the best talent. And that's when you know that you you will get bad actors coming in and abusing that position of authority to hurt regular citizens.
Meg Hanson, unlike some state Republicans in positions of power, most notably our governor, Phil Scott, you are a supporter of President Trump. Do you think you're on the same page as Vermont Republicans in supporting the president?
I don't think that's a fair description to say Vermont Republicans, because what does that mean, right? Some people are libertarians. Some people are social conservatives. Some people are free market-focused. I've always believed that debate and discourse, disagreement - these are signs of intellectual vigor. And it means that the party is thinking about important issues and talking about it. I'm very clear about why I support President Trump. I support economic freedom, upward mobility, creating jobs. And so I look at the fact that before COVID, the Trump administration was responsible for record low, historically low unemployment rates for women and minority groups.
While I agree with you that the numbers were there, there was very low unemployment before COVID-19 hit, among all groups, but to say that President Trump was responsible for that low unemployment, the data is not there to support that, because under President Obama, who did bring us out of a terrible recession when he took over office, those numbers were trending down anyway under him. And isn't it true that President Trump inherited those improving numbers from the previous administration?
So I've heard that argument. But I've seen the numbers myself, and I know that when you talk about unemployment in terms of deregulation, that's what I'm talking about. More than tax reform, more than tax cuts, it's the deregulation that removes the shackles on the economy. The Obama administration did not pioneer or push for the kinds of massive deregulation that the Trump administration has. And that is the reason why the numbers became as low as they were. Perhaps they were trending downward. But the reason they became extremely low is because of deregulation. And that is exactly what I'm calling for, to do in Vermont. And so that is the basis of my support for him.
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Vermont’s primary election is on Aug. 11, so VPR is reaching out to candidates in contested races for governor, lieutenant governor and the U.S. House to find out why they're seeking to serve, and where they stand on the issues of the day. Find our full coverage here.
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