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UPDATE: Three Democrats vie in Bristol-area contests

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Posted on August 8, 2016 |
By John Flowers



Editor's note: Originally, the wrong story was posted under this headline; the correct story appears below. We apologize for the error.

BRISTOL — Three Bristol-area Democrats will be whittled down to two on Aug. 9 in the race to see who will represent the Addison-4 district in the Vermont House.

Addison-4 features two seats representing the towns of Bristol, Lincoln, Monkton and Starksboro.

The Democrat ballot for the Aug. 9 primary election includes incumbent Rep. Dave Sharpe of Bristol; Monkton selectboard Chairman Stephen Pilcher; and longtime Registered Nurse and union activist Mari Cordes of Lincoln.

The two Democrats who prevail in Tuesday’s runoff will go on to face two Republicans in the General Election on Nov. 8: Incumbent Rep. Fred Baser of Bristol, and Monkton business person Valerie Mullin.

The Independent asked the three primary contestants to provide short statements about their campaign priorities and the concerns they have heard from voters while campaigning in recent months. Here, in alphabetical order, is a brief biography on each candidate and how they responded:

Mari Cordes, 57, has for the past 15 years worked as an RN at the University of Vermont Medical Center. She has lived in Vermont for around 30 years, settling in Lincoln in 2003. She and her family live in an off-the-energy-grid home off Downingsville Road in Lincoln. Cordes has delivered testimony at the Vermont Statehouse on several occasions on behalf of the UVM Medical Center’s nurses’ union on such issues as health care reform, paid sick days, and safe hospital staffing levels for patient care. She helped create the Equal Care Coalition, to advocate for the elimination of health insurance policy exclusions for transgender patients. She currently serves as treasurer for 350VT, a grassroots group that advocates for remedies to climate change.

“I’m so impressed by how our communities are motivated by the national elections, and are engaged in pushing for people-powered change locally,” she said of her impressions on the campaign trail. “I am energized to lead this change. These issues have emerged as top priorities: Education/Act 46, health care for all, tax equality and economic justice, and preservation of our natural environment. They are inter-related as one priority: Community strength and wellness. A community based educational system from early- to higher-education will create jobs and reduce entry into the criminal justice system. Health care for all (not for corporate profit) will improve health, greatly reduce astronomical costs to our state, business and educational budgets, and prevent medical bankruptcies. We must take bold action now on the biggest threat: Climate change.”

Stephen Pilcher, 61, has lived in Vermont for more than 40 years. He earned his bachelor’s degree in math from Middlebury College in 1977, then attended graduate school at the University of Vermont, which set him up for a lengthy career in computer engineering. For 35 years, Pilcher worked for a variety of small tech companies in and around Vermont, including Irvine Sensors, Ascension Technology and Microprocessor Designs.

He settled in Monkton in 1986, and became involved in public service. He has served as the Monkton selectboard chairman since 2013, is a member of the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union’s Act 46 Study Committee, and is Monkton’s alternate representative to the Addison County Regional Planning Commission and Addison County Solid Waste Management District.

“As a first-time candidate for state Representative, my focus has been going door to door in Monkton, Lincoln, Bristol and Starksboro,” Pilcher said. “I have been impressed and inspired by many of the wide-ranging interests of district voters. We’ve discussed school unification, fossil fuel build-out, conservation of working landscapes, dyslexia, current use, marijuana legalization and gun control, among other topics. While each community is different, many common themes have emerged: The need for better management of state projects, especially Vermont Health Connect; the continued burden of property taxes; creating sustainable jobs that pay a livable wage; maintaining our current excellence in education; and decreasing our impact on climate change. The coming legislative biennium should focus on determining the fate of Vermont Health Connect; planning how to meet the goals of our Comprehensive Energy Plan; using results-based accounting to review the effectiveness of programs already in place; and creating local infrastructure to help foster small business growth.”

Dave Sharpe, 69, is seeking his eighth consecutive two-year term representing Addison-4. He currently serves as chairman of the House Education Committee, which recently played a large role in drafting Act 46, a new law aimed at streamlining public education governance. Prior to this biennium, Sharpe had spent many years on the House Ways & Means Committee, the legislative panel instrumental in crafting the state’s tax laws. He continues to serve on the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Committee. He previously served on Bristol’s selectboard and planning commission, and is currently a member of the town’s historical society and  recreation club.

The Sharpes owned and operated Hill Automotive in Bristol for 18 years. In 1991, Sharpe began teaching automotive technology at regional technical centers, first in Middlebury and then in Essex Junction. He retired from teaching a few years ago.

Sharpe has said that if re-elected this year, he wants to run for Speaker of the Vermont House.

“It is great to be campaigning and have an opportunity to listen to so many thoughtful citizens share their concerns and consider possibilities for the future,” Sharpe said.

“I have heard the need for improvements in education without costing property taxpayers additional tax dollars,” he added.  “As chair of the House Education Committee, I would focus on improving the delivery of special education, and increasing the utilization of our career and technical centers. We also need to do a better job educating and inspiring our citizens of all ages from low-income homes to succeed in high school and beyond to keep our economy vibrant and to allow them to get good paying jobs. We also need to contain the rising costs of health care, which impact both governmental and personal budgets.”

Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]

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