County House candidates to debate economy in Vergennes

VERGENNES — An Oct. 15 debate on economic issues has been scheduled for the 14 candidates in contested Addison County elections for the Vermont House of Representatives.

The public is invited to the Vergennes Opera House at 7 p.m. this coming Wednesday for an event scheduled to last 90 minutes.

The co-sponsors of the event, the Addison County Economic Development Corp. (ACEDC) and Vision to Action Vermont (V2AVT.org), are referring to it as a forum.

According to a joint press release from those organizations, the evening will “focus exclusively on issues concerning the economy of Addison County and of Vermont. The format of the forum is a little unusual, and is designed to elicit detailed responses on these important issues. Candidates will be given questions in advance to allow them to think through their responses.”

The forum will consist of two rounds.

In Round One, each candidate will be allotted up to two minutes to answer the following question:

“Economic development generally refers to the sustained, concerted actions of policymakers and communities that promote the standard of living and economic health of a specific area. What do you see as the biggest challenge to economic development in Vermont, and what do you suggest doing about it?”

In Round Two, each candidate will have up to two minutes to answer one of five other questions. In addition, each candidate will be given another minute to rebut another candidate’s response.

ACEDC Executive Director Robin Scheu will moderate the event, which will also offer the four county House and Senate candidates who are running unopposed a minute to introduce themselves.

Middlebury Community Television (MCTV) will record the event and for later broadcast on its cable channel and website (middleburycommunitytv.org).

On Nov. 4, county voters will decide races in:

•  The Addison-1 district (two seats).

Long-time incumbent Democrat Betty Nuovo is being joined by three candidates seeking to represent Middlebury for the first time in the district: Democrat Amy Sheldon and independents Calvin McEathron and Thomas Hughes.

Incumbent Rep. Paul Ralston, D-Middlebury, is not seeking re-election after two terms.

Nuovo has served a combined total of 27 years in the House. Amy Sheldon, an environmental consultant, has also been endorsed by the Progressive Party. McEathron is a Middlebury College student, and Hughes is a former UD-3 school board member who manages New York’s Crown Point State Historic Site.  

•  The Addison-3 district (two seats).

Seeking to represent Ferrisburgh, Vergennes, Addison, Panton and Waltham are three-term incumbent Diane Lanpher (D-Vergennes); Ferrisburgh Republican Warren Van Wyck, appointed in February 2013 to complete the term of Vergennes Republican Greg Clark after Clark’s untimely death; Democratic challenger John Spencer of Addison; and Addison Republican Peter Briggs, who waged a successful write-in effort to get on the general election ballot.

Lanpher has served on the House Transportation Committee and was Addison-3’s top vote-getter two years ago. Van Wyck has served on the General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee since his appointment. Spencer, a former chairman of two school boards, now heads Addison’s development review board and its Town Hall Restoration Committee. Briggs is a farmer who also serves on Addison’s DRB.

•  The Addison-4 district (two seats).

Longtime incumbent Reps. Dave Sharpe, D-Bristol, and Mike Fisher, D-Lincoln, are 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 term in the House, while Fisher is vying for his eighth. Sharpe serves on 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 Addison-5 district (one seat).

Incumbent Rep. Harvey Smith, R-New Haven, will seek another term in the district representing Bridport, New Haven and Weybridge. He faces a challenge 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 until 2007. Smith won the seat again in 2010. He has served most of his House career on the Agriculture Committee.

Smiley also has a background in agriculture: She and her family moved to their 150-acre farm in New Haven in 1975, and her career includes several jobs in the food product field.

Running unopposed in November are incumbent Sens. Claire Ayer, D-Addison, and Christopher Bray, D-New Haven; Orwell independent Alyson Eastman for the Addison-Rutland House seat representing the towns of Benson, Orwell, Shoreham and Whiting; and incumbent Rep. Willem Jewett, D-Ripton, for the Addison-2 House seat representing Cornwall, Goshen, Hancock, Leicester, Ripton and Salisbury.

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