Editorial: Endorsements — Welch for Congress, Keeler for Sheriff

In the race for Vermont’s lone congressman, incumbent Democrat Rep. Peter Welch is our overwhelming choice, and he should be Vermont’s clear favorite as well.
A man of integrity, common sense and astute political skills used to craft important compromises in Congress, Welch has represented Vermonters since his election in 2006, and is seeking his fifth two-year term. Welch’s voting record is progressive on social issues such as equal rights, gay rights, abortion and equal pay for women. Yet, he receives a 100 percent rating from the National Rifle Association because of his avid record of supporting gun rights legislation — voting against his Democratic colleagues on several key occasions in the past six years. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence gave him a zero rating.
Like many Vermonters, however, he is concerned about the effects of global warming and supports energy efficiency measures as well as incentives to promote the renewable energy industry. He favors taxation based on the individual’s ability to pay, voted against Obama’s defense appropriation bill in 2009-10 because it was too high (and put Americans further in debt without raising the taxes to pay for it), and has been an ardent opponent of the war in Iraq and keeping American troops in Iraq. On the other hand, like Bernie Sanders before him (when Sanders was Vermont’s congressman), Welch has been a vocal supporter of veterans and veterans’ rights. He received an A rating from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America organization.
Importantly, in the past several years, Welch has reached across the aisle in Congress to craft legislation with Republican partners to achieve minor, but important, successes in Congress. One of the most recent examples was crafting bipartisan legislation this fall to provide rural ambulance operations crucial federal support to enable these fire departments to continue serving their communities.
Of the four challengers, Republican Mark Donka, 57, is in the race for a second consecutive time and is joined by Matthew Andrews of the Liberty Union Party and Independents Cris Ericson and Jerry Trudell. The latter three have no chance of winning the election at this point, nor should they because of their extreme and/or disjointed platforms.
Donka is a former Woodstock police office, a former selectman in Harford and a Tea Party aficionado. He has steadfastly criticized Welch for his support of President Obama (on most all things), but especially health care reform. He has said “Obamacare is a train wreck,” and that “the main issues (facing the nation) are our country is going in the wrong direction.”
What would the right direction be in Donka’s world? He advocates for lower taxes, less national debt, less spending on social programs, smaller government but more spending on defense. How that works out he won’t say (but then, again, neither does the Tea Party.) He has proposed no alternatives for stemming the cost of health care, maintains that the national debt is getting worse when, in fact, it has been improving in the past couple of years, and Donka seems to have forgotten that President George W. Bush left office as the country was heading into the Great Recession of 2008-09, the nation’s banks and financial houses teetered on bankruptcy and the government chose to bail out the nation’s automakers. That was the real train wreck that took the country six years from which to recover. Even after digging out of the enormous deficit left by President Bush (not to mention two unfunded wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that President Bush never raised a penny to pay for), the national deficit is a smaller percentage of the gross national product today compared to much of the prior decade when Bush cut income taxes and defense spending went through the roof.
Donka, in other words, either doesn’t know history or economics or math, or prefers to maintain the Tea Party political drivel whether it’s fit for consumption or not.
A vote for Donka would be a vote to make the rich richer, the poor poorer and condemn the middle class to struggle harder than ever to stay in place; it would be a vote to reverse progress on health care reform without a plan to cut run-away expenses the nation had seen prior to Obamacare; and it would a vote that would drive national deficits higher just as what happened for the eight years under President George W. Bush.
A vote for Welch is a vote for practical, common-sense steps to making Vermont, and the country, a better place to live. Vote Welch for Vermont’s congressional seat.
While opponent Ron Holmes is mounting an unusually aggressive challenge to an incumbent sheriff, we see no merit in Holmes’ implication that Sheriff Don Keeler, a Republican, has done anything that would prompt county residents to seek a replacement. The sheriff’s department has run smoothly under Mr. Keeler, balances its budget without excessive spending, and is generally well respected throughout the region. We recommend voters reelect Sheriff Keeler and we caution voters against any challenger who promotes “honesty” as a campaign slogan, as if the opponent is not. That is a dishonest premise from the get-go.
 Angelo S. Lynn

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