Middlebury House candidates give their pitch

MIDDLEBURY — Three of the four candidates in the race for two seats in the Addison-1 House district explained their positions on a host of issues at a candidate forum held Tuesday night at the Town Hall Theater in Middlebury. The forum, which was televised by MCTV and will be aired several times during the next two weeks, was sponsored by the Addison Independent.
A rebroadcast of the forum can be found on MCTV’s website here.
Candidates Amy Sheldon, Betty Nuovo and Calvin McEathron fielded six questions from moderator Angelo Lynn, publisher of the Independent, during the first 90 minutes. Sheldon and Nuovo are running as Democrats, while McEathron is running as an Independent. Thomas Hughes, also running as an Independent, declined to attend the forum, but has said he remains an active candidate running a “low-key” campaign.
McEathron, 20, is a native Vermonter from East Montpelier who finished his sophomore year at Middlebury College last spring and is taking this fall semester off to run for the House seat. If elected, he said, he would take the spring semester off as well and focus on his duties as state representative.
McEathron spent summers working on his grandparents’ sheep farm in Chelsea, where he attended public schools. A graduate of U-32 High School, he got his first taste of state politics as a teen, working with Rep. Tony Klein, D-East Montpelier, on legislation related to the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. In a previous story, McEathron said he was running as an Independent to pursue a “bipartisan campaign, where I can focus on issues that I want to focus on and not what one party is pushing … Running as an independent, you can build your own platform.”
Nuovo, 82, is an incumbent running for her 14th term —although not all consecutive — having served in the Legislature as a Middlebury representative since 1980. She returned to her law practice full-time from 1990-97, then rejoined the House in 1998 and has been there since. She currently serves on the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee, and has served on the Judiciary, Agriculture and Ways and Means committees in previous years.
A former school teacher who earned her law degree and later opened a law firm on Middlebury’s Court Street in the 1970s, she remains active in numerous community organziations, including the League of Women’s Voters and within the Democratic Party. In past years, Nuovo has served on the Middlebury Democratic Committee, town selectboard, Addison County Regional Planning Commission, Middlebury Charter Committee, Middlebury Planning Commission, Addison County Chamber of Commerce board and Addison County Economic Development Corporation board.
Sheldon, 47, is a natural resource planner and owner of her East Middlebury firm, Landslide Natural Resource Planning. A 1988 Middlebury College graduate, she was the town’s first executive director of the Middlebury Area Land Trust and helped establish the Trail Around Middlebury. She recently stepped down after a decade on the Middlebury Planning Commission, and continues to be an alternate on the District 9 Environmental Commission.
The candidates fielded questions on six broad topics: health care reform, school finance, the natural gas pipeline project in Addison County and the PSB process, the crisis of opiate addiction in Vermont, how to make higher education affordable, and defining the role of state government in economic development. Each candidate also introduced themselves to voters, cited their backgrounds, and outlined their legislative priorities, and made closing comments at the end before fielding a half dozen questions from the audience.
Highlights included all three candidates pledging they would work to promote a single-payer approach to health care, if elected, and also pledging to work toward changing the Public Service Board’s process on siting and approving energy projects — including the natural gas pipeline proposed for Addison and Rutland counties, as well as solar arrays.
On the move to a single-payer health care system as proposed by Gov. Peter Shumlin, Nuovo and Sheldon pledged uniequivocal support, while McEathron answered with a “yes, depends.” He said the idea of singlepayer was the best long-term approach, but his support of the governor’s plan was dependent on the tax impact it would impose on Vermonters. All three candidates noted that the administration was remiss on its responsibility to provide the cost analysis of implementing the governor’s single-payer proposal, which has been estimated to cost approximately $2 billion.
Comments on school consolidation, curbing phosphorous pollution of Lake Champlain, and the fairness of Act 60 and Act 68 — the state’s school finance laws — were also part of the forum that can be seen in full on MCTV, Channel 15 at select times (see schedule on their website). Or go online to http://middleburycommunitytv.org/CandidateForum092314w.

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