It was the first real debate among three of the four candidates for lieutenant governor and they came to score some political punches.
Mark Johnson hosted the three-way debate during his morning show on WDEV, with the candidates joining him at the senior center across the street from the radio station in downtown Waterbury. Mary Alice Herbert, the Liberty Union candidate from Putney, wasn't present.
Democrat Matt Dunne and Republican Brian Dubie put Progressive Marvin Malek between them at the round table -- good thing.
Actually, Malek started it. He critcized the Gov. Jim Douglas team, which includes Dubie, of proposing what he said was an "irresponsible" cap on school spending. He also criticized the "team" for inadequate action on energy and extending Internet access.
But it was Dunne who really took off the gloves, ciritizing Dubie for failing to work fulltime as lieutenant governor while taking an annual state salary of $61,000. Dunne says Dubie's office in the Statehouse is usually empty when the Legislature is out of session.
Dubie responded that Dunne didn't have any idea how hard Dubie worked. He said Dunne was mistaken "if you think working hard is defined as sitting in an office in Montpelier."
Dubie got in his own zinger on the subject of dedication to a state job, charging that Dunne missed 36 percent of the votes.
Dunne said he had to balance his job with politics, but noted that every time he missed a day at the Legislature, he returned a day's pay. Did Dubie do the same, he asked.
Johnson cut off the quarrel and Malek advised, "It would be preferable for everyone to refrain from personal attacks."
-- Nancy Remsen