In the Republican primary race for Vermontâ€™s lone U.S. Congressional seat, state Sen. Mark Shepard, R-Bennington, is happy to be tilting against windmills as the underdog candidate and the anti-establishment candidate.
â€œBeing the non-establishment candidate is not a bad place to be,â€? Shepard said in a Monday interview with the Addison Independent. â€œEstablishment candidates donâ€™t stir the pot and they donâ€™t ruffle feathers. Iâ€™m not doing this to be part of a club.â€?
That style of populist bravado potentially has appeal in a region enamored with the independent ethos that has long characterized the Green Mountain State. And Shepardâ€™s background fits his rhetoric. Heâ€™s a fifth or sixth generation Vermonter, born and raised on a small dairy farm, learned his hard-work ethic from his growing up a farmerâ€™s son, and his moral values were home grown as well. He graduated from Hartford High School in 1978 with little interest in a college education, but having learned how to wire a house with his dad at a young age, he had an affinity for electrical sciences and got his journeyman electricianâ€™s license in 1982. He stumbled into higher electronics, then took an interest in computers and ended up graduating from the University of Florida in 1986 with a electrical engineering degree and received a Master of Engineering degree following work at MIT and RPI. (See story, Page 1A.) In short, Shepard has a populist pedigree, but has leveraged his natural talent and home education into a lucrative electrical engineering business, which he formed several years ago and runs as an independent business. Heâ€™s married with four kids.
In his radio address to the nation this past Saturday, Vermont Sen. Peter Welch laid out the Democrats response in this election year on the war in Iraq: In short, President Bush, his administration and this Republican Congress have been irresponsible and accountability can only be restored by electing a Democratic House and/or Senate in November.
Unless we have a change in power in Congress in 2006, Welch said at the Addison Independent offices last Friday afternoon, none of the big questions facing the nation really matter because the Republican-led Congress has not exercised its role to oversee the executive branch and has instead rubber-stamped most of what the White House has dished out â€” including cover-ups and gross mismanagement of the war effort.
Welch, who was chosen to deliver the response to the presidentâ€™s weekly radio address, couldnâ€™t be more on target.