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Candidates make their final rounds before Tuesday election

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Posted on October 30, 2014 |
By John Flowers



ADDISON COUNTY — Voter turnout for the upcoming Nov. 4 General Election in Addison County is likely to depend a great deal on where you live.

Turnout is likely to be highest in the communities that will decide contested races in the Addison-1, Addison-3, Addison-4 and Addison-5 House districts. Interest is also likely to be robust in the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union towns of Bristol, Monkton, New Haven, Starksboro and Lincoln, which will decide a $32.6 million bond issue that would substantially renovate Mount Abraham Union High School.

On the other hand, voter interest could be on the lighter side in communities like Salisbury, Orwell and Leicester, which won’t field any local referenda and are represented by incumbent legislators who are running unopposed. Rep. Willem Jewett, D-Ripton, is unchallenged this year for another term in Addison-2, as is Orwell independent Alyson Eastman, the lone candidate for the Addison-Rutland seat being vacated by incumbent Rep. Will Stevens, I-Shoreham. And incumbent Democratic Sens. Claire Ayer of Addison and Christopher Bray of New Haven are unopposed in their respective bids for new terms representing Addison County, Huntington and Buel’s Gore.

But election officials are still hoping that county contests for sheriff and high bailiff — along with races for governor, lieutenant governor and other statewide offices — will prove enough of a magnet to get a lot of folks to participate in the democratic process.

The Addison Independent asked the leaders of Addison County Democrats and Republicans to comment on the four House district races as we head into the home stretch of campaign 2014.

ADDISON-1 HOUSE RACE

Democrats Betty Nuovo and Amy Sheldon, along with independent candidates Calvin McEathron and Thomas Hughes, are competing in the race for Middlebury’s two House seats. Incumbent Rep. Paul Ralston, D-Middlebury, is not seeking re-election after two terms.

Nuovo, the other Addison-1 incumbent, needs little introduction. She has served a combined total of 27 years in the House, making her by far the county’s most senior legislator. She is currently a member of the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee.

Sheldon, an environmental consultant, graduated from Middlebury College in 1988. She was the Middlebury Area Land Trust’s first executive director, is a former member of the Middlebury Planning Commission, and continues to serve as an alternate on the District 9 Environmental Commission. In 2010, the Middlebury Town Democratic Committee narrowly picked Ralston over Sheldon to take then-Rep. Steve Maier’s place on the Nov. 2 ballot, after Maier had resigned to take a job in state government.

McEathron is a Middlebury College junior, and Hughes is a former UD-3 school board member who manages the Crown Point State Historic Site for the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation. Hughes has in recent weeks declared his ambivalence about being elected and has instead encouraged his supporters to vote for McEathron.

“I think (Nuovo and Sheldon) will do very well,” Addison County Democratic Committee Chairman Bob Zeliff said of his party’s two entries in the race. “Amy will add some new perspective. Betty is experienced and thoughtful.”

Democrats have held both Addison-1 seats for more than a decade, and there haven’t been any Republican challengers in the district for the past couple of election cycles. And while his party isn’t fielding any challengers in Addison-1 again this year, Addison County Republican Committee leader Bryan Young said he has heard some good things about McEathron.

“I continued to be impressed (with McEathron),” Young said, adding the young candidate’s fiscally conservative views should be appealing to GOP voters.

“He’s independent in his thinking and I think he would be a great asset to Middlebury.”

McEathron has not said whether he would caucus with the Democrats, Republicans or neither, if elected.

ADDISON-3 HOUSE RACE

Incumbent Reps. Diane Lanpher, D-Vergennes, and Warren Van Wyck, R-Ferrisburgh, are both running for re-election for the two seats representing Addison, Ferrisburgh, Panton, Vergennes and Waltham. They are joined on the ballot by Addison Democrat John Spencer and Addison Republican Peter Briggs.

Lanpher is seeking her fourth consecutive two-year term in the House, where she has served her entire tenure on the Transportation Committee.

Gov. Peter Shumlin appointed Van Wyck to his Addison-3 seat in January of 2012, following the tragic death of Rep. Greg Clark, R-Vergennes. Van Wyck served this past biennium on the House Committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs.

Spencer has served the town of Addison as a selectman, served as the chairman of the Addison Central School and Addison Northwest Supervisory Union boards, and in various other elected positions. He worked for several decades selling farm implements and agricultural products such as milking machines.

Briggs is an Addison Development Review Board member who works on his family’s dairy farm off Otter Creek Road. He waged a successful write-in campaign during the Aug. 26 primary that allowed him to get his name on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Young has high hopes for Van Wyck to win re-election, and believes Briggs, 23, brings a young, fresh perspective to the campaign.

“I have been traveling around with him, and Warren is getting a positive reception from the voters,” Young said. “Peter is a breath of fresh air. He’s young, and has new ideas. He’s been working hard to introduce himself to residents of the district and the voters would do well to give him a look.”

Zeliff believes Democrats have a good chance to take both seats in a district that has traditionally leaned Republican. He said Lanpher has established herself as a stalwart on House Transportation and as someone very attentive to constituent concerns.

“We’re looking forward to (Lanpher) being (in the House) for a while,” Zeliff said.

He said that while Spencer is new to state politics, he has been well-known in agricultural circles for many years. And Addison-3, he noted, is a farming hub.

ADDISON-4 HOUSE RACE

Incumbent Reps. Dave Sharpe, D-Bristol, and Mike Fisher, D-Lincoln, are again running for re-election for the two seats representing Bristol, Lincoln, Monkton and Starksboro. They face competition this year from Republicans Fred Baser of Bristol and Valerie Mullin of Monkton.

Sharpe is seeking his seventh consecutive two-year term in the House, while Fisher is vying for his eighth. Sharpe is a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, while Fisher is chairman of the House Health Care Committee.

Baser is a longtime financial planner and former Bristol selectman who has competed in the past for an Addison-4 seat. Mullin is a businessperson making her first run for the House. The GOP is fielding a full slate in Addison-4 after having not run a candidate in the district in 2012.

Young believes that Baser and Mullin have what it takes to win in Addison-4, a district that has not seen a Republican elected since legislative reapportionment more than a decade ago.

“Both (Baser and Mullin) have been very busy getting out and meeting folks,” Young said.

He believes Baser’s background in business and financial planning make him “the exact candidate the district needs at the exact right time.”

He called Mullin a “go-getter” who has been working hard since announcing her candidacy back in January. Baser also announced early. Both have been touting their priorities as well as underscoring the incumbents’ records in their respective committee areas: taxes and health care.

But Zeliff argues that Addison-4 voters will want to rely on experience, and he said that term certainly applies to Fisher and Sharpe. Zeliff said Sharpe tried to pass legislation to bring more property tax relief during the past biennium, but ultimately could not get enough support. And he said Fisher should not be blamed for the failed rollout of the state’s health care exchange, which he called a federal mandate.

“I think they are well-known and understood,” he said of the incumbent Democrats. “I think we need them both back.”

ADDISON-5 HOUSE RACE

Rep. Harvey Smith, R-New Haven, will seek another term in the one-seat district representing Bridport, New Haven and Weybridge. He will face opposition this year from New Haven Democrat Susan Smiley, who is making her first legislative bid.

Smith, former president of the Addison County Farm Bureau and a longtime farmer, was first elected to the House in 1998 and served through 2006, the year in which he was defeated by Bray, who has since moved on to the state Senate. Smith won the seat again in 2010. He has primarily served his legislative career on the House Agriculture Committee.

Smiley also has a background in agriculture. She and her family moved to their 150-acre farm in New Haven in 1975. They raised various crops, Angus beef and dairy products. Her professional resume includes stints with Earth’s Best Baby Foods and QAI, a large, domestic organic certification company. She currently works part-time on special projects for Middlebury-based Vermont Coffee Co.

Young said Smith remains a solid candidate.

“He goes about his (work) efficiently and quietly,” Young said. “People in the district know what they are going to get from Harvey. He is one of the best in Montpelier in taking care of his district.”

Zeliff said Addison-5 voters should also note Smiley’s agricultural background. He believes Smiley would deliver votes in Montpelier that would take the district’s interests “forward.“

ADDISON COUNTY SHERIFF

Incumbent Sheriff Don Keeler will seek a four-year term after having been appointed to the position during the spring of 2012 following the death of longtime incumbent Jim Coons. He faces opposition this year from former Deputy Ron Holmes, who is having to wage a write-in campaign after having missed the filing deadline to get on the November ballot (see related story).

HIGH BAILIFF AND OTHERS

The only other county race on the ballot will be for high bailiff, and it features Republican Charles S. Clark versus Democrat Ryan Mason. The high bailiff is an elected county officer who may serve writs that the sheriff is unable to serve. If an arrest warrant is ever issued against the sheriff, the high bailiff may arrest the sheriff. If the sheriff is confined or the office of sheriff is vacant, the high bailiff carries out the duties of the sheriff.

Also on the ballot: Incumbent Addison County Probate Court Judge Eleanor “Misse” Smith, a Cornwall Democrat, is running unopposed, as is incumbent Addison County State’s Attorney David Fenster, a Weybridge Republican. Alice George and Irene Poole are uncontested candidates for side judge.

Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]

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