Politics

‘They deserve to have someone who represents their views’: US House candidate Louis Meyers targets moderates

Dr. Louis Meyers speaks during VTDigger’s debate between U.S. House Democratic primary candidates at the Double E Performance Center in Essex on June 28. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

When Louis Meyers, a South Burlington resident who’s a physician in Rutland, looked at the Democrats running for Vermont’s seat in the U.S. House earlier this year, he noticed that none of them seemed to represent moderate Democratic voters. His solution: to run for the seat himself. 

Meyers is up against two comparably well-known officials, state Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint and Lt. Gov. Molly Gray, for the Democratic nomination. Two other candidates, Kesha Ram Hinsdale and Sianay Chase Clifford, have already dropped out of the primary race. All except Gray identified as progressive Democrats and had sought the endorsement of the Vermont Progressive Party.

“Working in Rutland for the past nine-plus years, I know that there are people who are more moderate in their views,” Meyers said. “When you get outside of certain pockets in Burlington and Bennington, places are more moderate, and I just felt like they deserve to have someone who represents their views in the campaign.” 

On the campaign trail, Meyers has not shied away from defending the Biden administration. Meyers told VTDigger that President Joe Biden is “not getting enough credit” for bringing together NATO in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In a debate hosted by WPTZ earlier this month, Meyers defended Biden’s decision to allow more offshore oil and gas drilling over the next five years, and added his support for nuclear power. Unlike the other candidates, Meyers has also said he does not think the federal government should continue to fund free testing, vaccination and treatment for Covid-19. 

On his campaign website, Meyers calls himself a “realistic Democrat,” stating that he would have preferred that the Federal Reserve raised interest rates sooner, and he wished federal stimulus checks issued during the Covid-19 pandemic had been targeted at people who “truly needed the help.”

Meyers has been a physician at Rutland Regional Medical Center since 2013. He has also held positions at Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin, and at Engleside Internal Medicine and Mount Vernon Family Practice in Alexandria, Virginia. Before becoming a physician, he was a probation officer in Washington, D.C. Meyers holds a master’s degree in social work from Catholic University and a medical degree from George Washington University Medical School. 

He entered politics in 2016 with a bid for lieutenant governor, but then switched to a run for state Senate in Chittenden County, the first of three unsuccessful bids for the office. 

Although his opponents in the U.S. House race have more traditional political experience, Meyers said his experience as a physician adequately prepares him for the position.

“(Congress) is collegial,” he said. “In my profession, when another physician asked me for help, I have never turned them down. And I think I could say the same when I've asked them. So I think that working with other people in your profession is part of what we do.”

On his campaign website, Meyers describes preferring “honest, straightforward communication” over “dogma and censorship.” To him, that means placing less emphasis on slogans than on traditional campaigns. 

“I could go around saying I’m for Medicare for All, but I really recognize that that’s not going to happen. It’s a bit dishonest,” he said. “So I think people need to hear some truths, and often those are a little bit more complicated. It’s not the best politics, but it’s the way I feel like I have to go.”

Democratic candidate Dr. Louis Meyers waits for the start of VTDigger’s debate between U.S. House Democratic primary candidates at the Double E Performance Center in Essex on June 28. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Meyers said he takes a similar approach as a physician. When a patient in dire condition enters the emergency room, he said, “I don't tell them that we're going to cure you during this hospitalization, because we can't. What I do tell them is there's some things we can do in the next two or three hours here in the emergency department to help stabilize you and then you come to the hospital for two or three days and we can get you feeling better, at least back to where you were before.”

If elected, Meyers intends on joining the Problem Solvers Caucus, an independent group with an even number of Democratic and Republican members, which focuses on finding bipartisan solutions to issues facing the country. 

“Yesterday, a woman told me to get off her lawn when I told her I was a Democrat,” he said. “She didn’t even know where I worked, she didn’t know what I stood for, just that I was a Democrat. … That kind of hatred and anger is tearing our country apart.”

As a physician, accessible health care is one of Meyers’ top priorities. He said he planned to target health care monopolies such as the University of Vermont Health Network, the nonprofit medical system that owns the state’s largest hospital, its accountable care organization and dozens of other hospitals and medical practices. 

“It’s made life difficult for patients and for their physicians and other providers,” Meyers said. “It’s reduced or at some point completely taken away the autonomy of physicians, so they’re no longer necessarily making the best decisions for their patients and are forced to make the best decisions for their company or corporation.”

Meyers supports Medicare for All and the Affordable Care Act, but said it would be important to focus on small changes in health care that may have a greater chance of passing in Congress. 

“When I look at the trajectory, we are going to have a national health plan,” he said. “But we’re just not going to get there in the next couple of years. It’s going to take some time. But in the meantime, there are things we can do to make life easier for people.”

Another factor that influenced Meyers’ decision to run for Congress this year was the Russia-Ukraine conflict. If elected, he hopes to be a part of the House Armed Services Committee. 

“Unlike even the governorship here in Vermont, as a congressperson you’re going to be tasked with helping shape foreign policy and foreign aid in the United States and the world,” Meyers said. “I have some strong feelings on that and some knowledge of the foreign policy and also felt that should be an important part of the campaign.”

Dr. Rick Hildebrandt, Meyers’ colleague, said Meyers’ ability to connect with others would be an asset if elected to Congress. 

“I've gotten either stories or emails from people just commenting on how much they appreciated his time and attention because they were in a tough spot or they were having a problem,” Hildebrandt said. “He just really took the time to understand not just the medical diagnosis they're dealing with, but also them as a person and trying to help them through the situation.”

Meyers says he does not intend to be a career politician, and would not run for U.S. Senate if a seat opened in the coming years. 

“I would be very happy to remain in Congress, keep my head down,” Meyers said. “I’m not going to be a show horse. I’m not going to try to get on MSNBC every night, or Fox. Just work on some of these issues, and when I leave after what would probably be a fairly limited time, feel that I made a difference for Vermont and for the country.”

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Jenna Peterson

About Jenna

Jenna Peterson is a student at the University of Southern California, where she is majoring in journalism and political science. She is news editor at the Daily Trojan at USC and was an editor of the Burlington High School student newspaper when it received a special New England Newspaper & Press Association award for successfully fighting a censorship effort by school administrators.

Email: [email protected]

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