Editorial: The Independent endorses candidates

When voters go to the polls next Tuesday, Nov. 4, the role they should assume is that of the boss making new hires. The voters’ job is to sort through the various applications, review their records and accomplishments, and hire the best candidates for their respective positions. This is not a popularity contest, but rather a nuts-and-bolts analysis of which candidate will best serve in the elected position.
With that in mind, we offer the following endorsements and comments on the upcoming election:
The role of governor is to lead the state with confidence, articulate a clear vision on how to achieve benchmarks on multiple issues, and assemble a team within the administration to make those goals a reality. Of particular importance in a governor is the willingness to tackle tough issues and pursue positive outcomes.
For the past four years, Peter Shumlin has set a high bar as Vermont’s governor by launching bold policy initiatives in a time of tough economic sledding, while holding firm in his commitment to not raise broad-based taxes.
Shumlin has pushed an aggressive platform of economic development through the EB-5 program, solar development and other renewable energy platforms, allocated more funds for tourism and innovative start-ups, invested in downtowns, and initiated statewide strategic planning over the next five years that sets measurable targets to achieve.
Most recently, he and his economic development team have worked closely with IBM to keep those 4,000 jobs there, culminating in a sale last week to GlobalFoundries that is as promising an outcome as could have been hoped for. Shumlin and his team have also been working closely with the state college system, Champlain College and UVM to ensure adequate training meets the needs of the state’s employers and sparks new growth and innovation. More always needs to be done to grow jobs, but the new energy and innovative developments are a push in the right direction.
While pro-business, Shumlin is also an environmental leader. He has championed cleaner waters in Lake Champlain, has sounded the alarm on global warming and has been promoting renewable energy through state tax incentives. A pragmatic leader, he supports natural gas as a bridge-fuel — saving residents and businesses 50 percent or more off the cost of oil or propane and reducing the carbon dioxide level at the point of consumption by 25 or so percent. It’s a practical solution in the short-term that also is a key economic lifeline to Rutland County. Environmentalists opposed to the pipeline certainly disagree with the governor’s position on this issue, but in the aggregate his policies on the environment serve the state well.
Significantly, Gov. Shumlin has not shrunk from two of the most difficult issues facing the state or country: health care reform and opiate addiction. Every state faces similar problems, but few have tackled the issues as forthrightly or as ambitiously as has Gov. Shumlin.
Disagree with his proposals if you like, but to his credit he is a governor willing to identify the toughest issues and get to work on doing what governors should aspire to do: overcoming objections and finding solutions.
No leader who tackles controversial issues escapes unscathed, and Shumlin is no exception. On health care, he can be faulted for an initial lack of transparency in the state’s handling of the subcontractor running Vermont Health Connect, and for not overseeing its performance with more vigor. While Vermont is not alone in botching its initial rollout, we expected better. Moreover, Shumlin has violated the public trust by delaying the presentation of an economic game plan explaining how he will pay for his health care reforms. While an economic blueprint is on the agenda early in the upcoming session, its absence is a shortcoming that detracts from what otherwise has been a solid performance in his first two terms.
In reviewing Gov. Shumlin’s four years in office, however, the overall image is of a man of action, determination, optimism and vision. He was the tireless cheerleader for communities across central and southern Vermont when recovering from the devastation of TS Irene back in 2011, just as he has been when promoting the state’s quality brand in tourism, the surging food and beverages sectors, our growing technology sector or the need to tackle opiate addiction.
But he is also a leader who believes that a strong educational system is the great equalizer for all Vermont students, who embraces equal rights and fair wages, who has the compassion and courage to sign death with dignity legislation and decriminalize the possession of recreational amounts of marijuana. He is a leader willing to explore new ways to fund public education but adamant that educational opportunity remain equal as the state supreme court ruled in the Brigham decision. He is a leader sensitive to high taxes, but realistic enough to recognize the need for adequate revenue to make government work.
Compared to the other candidates seeking the state’s top job, Shumlin is not just the top choice, but deserving of another two years in office and the opportunity to flush out the initiatives he has launched.
Like most Vermonters, we like Lt. Gov. Phil Scott. He’s a good guy; a solid bloke with a affable demeanor and a can-do attitude. He’s a capable businessman, has savvy political skills and a penchant for compromise. He prefers cooperation to conflict, and action to political posturing. Those qualities alone are enough to get him re-elected for his third term.
Scott’s strength, however, is also his weakness. Because he avoids conflict, he also avoids taking a stand on the major issues. He offers criticism in vague generalities, but offers no specific solutions. In terms of policy initiatives or new ideas, he echoes others and rarely takes the lead.
On health care reform, for instance, many Republicans have pressed him to take a bolder stand as the opposition party, but Scott plays it cautiously: single payer may be the right way to go, he has said, adding, but we need to be careful and not do things that hurt the state’s economy. That’s the very definition of straddling an issue. Similarly, on economic development, he champions building a business friendly environment (who hasn’t in the past 25 years), but hesitates to define any specific programs.
Progressive candidate Dean Corren is the polar opposite. He is issue-oriented, opinionated, articulate. He has a plan or proposal to fix everything.
On health care, he supports the governor’s plan toward single-payer, post haste. On school finance reform, he says property taxes are too high; his immediate answer is simple — put a higher tax on second homeowners and a higher income tax on the wealthy. From a Progressive and liberal perspective, he’s a
Bernie Sanders’ clone on the issues — but with a modest approach.
He’s also the chief technology officer of a sustainable energy company that develops underwater hydropower systems, helped create Vermont’s energy effiency utility and is an all-around expert (as legislators go) on the electric utility industry and renewable energy. He’s an environmentalist who understands the threat of global warming, and has a must-do attitude on the issue of weaning America off fossil fuels. He’s also a thoughtful legislator who understands how state policy affects the economy.
He believes the job of lieutenant governor is to take a lead on issues facing the Legislature and move that agenda forward. While the office is separate from the governor’s office, Corren’s beliefs dovetail with Gov. Shumlin’s and he has the backing of the state Democratic Party.
Frankly, it’s a difficult choice.
Both candidates have strong and weak characteristics that play out very differently. When considering who is best for this job, voters first have to decide what role they want their lieutenant governor to play. If that role is one who acts as a cautionary balance to the governor’s bold agenda, then Phil Scott deserves your vote. If, on the other hand, you embrace the governor’s agenda and wish it could move faster, Dean Corren is your candidate.
Corren is also the candidate for environmentalists most concerned about global warming. It’s an issue he would press to the forefront.
For the times, we think Scott fits the role most needed. With a Legislature solidly Democratic, the missing ingredient in Montpelier is an effective counter to prevailing ideas. Not that those ideas should be stopped, but that all ideas and policies are better when challenged and when different constituencies are at the table. Scott could play that role more effectively, but at least he is a presence at the table and has the respect of his legislative peers.
In Addison County, there are four races of note: Addison 3 representing Ferrisburgh, Addison, Panton, Vergennes and Waltham; Addison 1, representing Middlebury; Addison 4, representing Bristol, Lincoln, Monkton and Starksboro; and Addison 5, representing Bridport, New Haven and Weybridge.
In these contests, county residents are well represented by elected incumbents and by their political challengers. We will refrain from endorsing specific candidates in the belief that local voters know their candidates well enough to form an educated opinion and that in each case below the candidates mentioned would serve voters well. Comments may indicate a particular strength of a candidate or a unique development about a particular race.
Democrats field two strong candidates in Addison 3 in John Spencer and incumbent Rep. Diane Lanpher; we don’t agree with many of incumbent Rep. Warren Van Wyck’s positions and votes in the past legislative session, but he is an articulate, well-reasoned advocate of the Republican causes he promotes. He is respectful and has earned his colleagues’ respect in return.
Spencer brings a lifetime of agricultural-business experience to his candidacy, as well as an insider’s perspective from years serving on school and town boards. His experience, positions on political issues and familiarity with all aspects of the district he lives in make him a strong candidate to serve alongside a repeat term for Rep. Diane Lanpher. Of particular note are Spencer’s moderate political views and his universal praise by others as a person who listens to all points of view, his sense of fairness, and his ability to create consensus to get things done.
In Addison 4, incumbent Democrats Rep. Michael Fisher and Rep. David Sharpe have served the state well for several terms and deserve re-election. Republican challenger Fred Baser also offers a solid candidacy of significant merit. A long-time businessman in Bristol and a community leader on multiple boards and committees, Baser would also represent the district with distinction.
In Addison 5, Democrat challenger Susan Smiley is running a strong challenge to Republican incumbent Rep. Harvey Smith. Both are excellent candidates and would serve their district well, though in vastly different ways.
In Addison 1, Democrat candidates Betty Nuovo and Amy Sheldon are well known, and by most measures would have the upper hand over challenger Calvin McEathron, an Independent who has presented a credible and well-run candidacy. We say without hesitation that all three candidates would serve Middlebury voters well.
In several letters to the editor, age has become an issue for Nuovo and McEathron — the former because she is north of 50, and McEathron because he is considerably south. From our perspective, the writers of such letters are misguided. It is no more just to discriminate against a candidate because they are too young than it is to discriminate against a candidate because they are too old. Ability is the issue, not age.
Voters have the task of hiring the best candidates for the job. Experience, wisdom, youth, energy, understanding peers and peer needs, grappling with the new economy, being open-minded and willing to listen, being able to articulate ideas and issues, as well as understanding the ways of the Legislature and legislation — and, importantly, stated positions on policy — are all legitimate criteria on which to measure the qualifications of the candidates. Put age aside, and vote  based on who you think would best serve the district.
Angelo S. Lynn
Disclosure: My wife, Lisa Gosselin, serves in the Shumlin administration as Commissioner of Economic Development.

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