Former GOP House Leader Says He May Run For Governor

11/04/09 5:50PM By Ross Sneyd
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(Host) A former Republican leader in the Vermont House says he may get into the race for governor as an independent.

VPR's Ross Sneyd has the story.

(Sneyd) Michael Bernhardt served in the Vermont House in the 1980s and he likes to joke about his place in history at a time that Democrats were beginning to dominate state politics.

(Berhnardt) "I have the dubious distinction of being the first Republican minority leader in the history of the state of Vermont. There's one for the trivia books."

(Sneyd) But Bernhardt says his view of the 2010 governor's race is anything but trivial. He worries the state is headed for a financial catastrophe.

(Bernhardt) "I'm anxious to hear how people plan to address the fact that our state is facing potential bankruptcy. Our unfunded obligations, the grants and commitments we've made to people are unsustainable. ... So that issue must be the central issue of the 2010 campaign."

(Sneyd) Bernhardt blames the Democrats who control the Legislature for passing what he considers an excessive budget over Governor Jim Douglas' veto this year.

Although Republicans have closed ranks behind a candidate - Lieutenant Governor Brian Dubie -Bernhardt hasn't joined them. That's because Bernhardt doesn't think Dubie has proven he's up to the fiscal crisis.

(Bernhardt) "While the lieutenant governor has a record, there are a lot of folks who haven't heard him talk on how he's going to handle that. So it's raised some concern."

(Sneyd) Bernhardt is 72 and retired, although he serves on the District Environmental Commission that serves his hometown of Londonderry.

He says he doesn't know when he'll decide. But if he does run, he won't challenge Dubie in a Republican primary. Bernhardt says he'd run as an independent.

For VPR News, I'm Ross Sneyd.

(Host outro) Michael Bernhardt has run for statewide office twice before. He unsuccessfully challenged Madeleine Kunin's re-election for governor in 1988. Two years later, he lost a challenge to then-Lieutenant Governor Howard Dean.


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