By JOHN FLOWERS
FERRISBURGH — Former Rep. Tom McGrath of Ferrisburgh has thrown his hat into an already bustling ring of candidates for the two House seats representing Addison-3, a move that will trigger a Republican primary contest in the Vergennes-area district.
McGrath’s entry into the race sets up a GOP primary in which he will compete against incumbent Rep. Greg Clark of Vergennes and former Vergennes Mayor Kitty Oxholm. The top two finishers will move on to the general election, where they will face Vergennes Democrat Diane Lanpher and current Vergennes Mayor April Jin, who is running under the Progressive Party banner.
The Addison-3 district includes the communities of Ferrisburgh, Vergennes, Panton, Addison and Waltham. Longtime incumbent Rep. Connie Houston, R-Ferrisburgh, will not seek re-election.
“Having the prior experience, I believe I can hit the ground running,” McGrath said. “I honestly believe I can do a good job.”
McGrath was first elected to the House in 1996 — as a Democrat. But only a few months into his House career, McGrath found himself at odds with the Democratic leadership, and decided to change his party affiliation to Republican.
He was re-elected in 1998 and 2000, serving on the House Institutions and House Agriculture committees.
Mid-way through his third term, McGrath resigned in order to take a senior leadership position within the International Order of Eagles. In December of 2001, then-Gov. Howard Dean appointed Waltham Democrat Tim Ryan to serve out the final year of McGrath’s term. Ryan did not run for re-election, and Clark and Houston won the Addison-3 seats in 2002.
While McGrath remains active with the Eagles, at both the local (Vergennes) and statewide levels, he has officially retired and believes he now has the time to devote to another stint in the Vermont House.
“I still have the desire to work on a lot of problems that have not gone away,” McGrath said.
High on that list of problems, according to McGrath, is Vermont’s property tax system. He continues to support the notion of making a consumption tax on goods and services the cornerstone of the state’s taxation system.
“Everybody pays it,” McGrath said of a consumption tax. “This is an idea that should not be ignored.”
McGrath said he would also put more pressure on the state to approve alternative, on-site septic systems for Addison County’s clay soils. He added he would support programs to help financially strapped dairy farmers and initiatives to protect the environment.
If elected, McGrath said he would suggest the Legislature take a careful look at the Catamount Health plan and further efforts to reform health care. He believes the Legislature may have acted to quickly last spring to approve Catamount Health without fully appreciating the potential financial consequences.
“We jumped to say we did something before finalizing a lot of the issues,” McGrath said. “A little more forethought makes the inception of these programs a little easier and more palatable to the people.”
McGrath said he feels confident going into the primary.
“I feel people will look at past history,” McGrath said. “I felt I did a good job.”