Freilich, Leahy Have Pointed Exchange In Only Debate

08/04/10 5:49PM By Patti Daniels
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(Host) Daniel Freilich doesn't have much campaign money and he has even less name recognition.

But he's still set his sights on defeating six-term incumbent Senator Patrick Leahy.

As VPR's Patti Daniels reports, the two men had some pointed exchanges in their only debate before this month's primary.

(Daniels) Freilich lives in Wilmington and is a physician and U.S. Navy veteran.

He says he's running for the Senate to change a political system that's so tilted toward the privileged. In a debate on VPR, he pointed to Leahy's $5 million campaign bank account as evidence of his argument.

(Freilich) "My question is how can you rationalize taking special interest money from pharmaceutical companies, from health insurance companies, from finance, banking, etc.?"

(Daniels) Leahy says he doesn't accept money from groups whose principles he disagrees with. And he says none of his votes in the Senate have been influenced by political contributions.

Leahy says he's spent his 36 years in the Senate trying to balance the needs of Vermonters with the politics of Washington. He says the new health care law is an example of compromising to get something done.

(Leahy) "Unlike Dr. Freilich, who would have voted against the health care bill, I think the health care bill we did pass is a great step forward. Every single Republican voted against it. Dr. Freilich apparently would have, too."

(Daniels) Freilich believes the law makes only incremental progress toward addressing what he believes is wrong with American health care.

He says he would have held out for a single-payer system, although Leahy says he supports it, also.

Freilich says he respects Leahy's years of service.

(Freilich) "But I've learned the full truth. And the full truth is that if one continues with the current status quo in America, we are going to be a second-rate power and there will be an enormous amount of continuation of needless pain. And this has to change. If you vote for Senator Leahy you are going to have a continuation of the legally corrupt system of accepting special interest money."

(Daniels) Leahy rejects that. He says he's used his seniority in the Senate to steer federal money to the state and boost the economy.

(Leahy) "It's clear from my conversations with Vermonters from all across the state ... that jobs and our economy are their number one concern. I've worked tirelessly to help save jobs, create new jobs in Vermont. In fact I've brought in a billion dollars worth of jobs in the past few years."

(Daniels) Leahy agreed to only one debate before the August 24th primary. He says that's because Freilich has also filed to run in the general election as an independent.

For VPR News, I'm Patti Daniels.

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