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Monkton Republican Valerie Mullin hopes to join Baser in House

MONKTON — Monkton Republican Valerie Mullin in 2014 got her first taste of running for office, and she’s coming back this year for a second helping.
Only this time, she’s hoping to flip the script at the polls.
Mullin was one of four candidates who vied for the two Addison-4 House seats representing Bristol, Lincoln, Monkton and Starksboro. While she finished out of the running, she garnered a very respectable 1,514 votes from residents of the four towns.
“I did not win that race, but through my campaign was able to prevent one of those incumbents from re-election,” she said, during her recent campaign kickoff, referring to former Rep. Mike Fisher, a Lincoln Democrat. “I demonstrated to enough of you how the members of the majority have failed to represent us.”
Now with better name recognition and a fellow Republican (Rep. Fred Baser of Bristol) occupying one of the two seats in what had been a Democratic stronghold for more than a decade, Mullin is optimistic about her chances of emerging victorious in the general election this November.
Meanwhile, an Aug. 9 primary will be needed to narrow down to two the three Democrats currently in the race: Rep. Dave Sharpe of Bristol, Monkton’s Stephen Pilcher, and Lincoln’s Mari Cordes (see related story).
Major party candidates have until5 p.m. on Thursday, May 26, to file their nomination petitions to get on the ballot. So we could see more Democratic and Republican candidates emerge in Addison-4 during the weeks to come.
Mullin, 57, is a small-business owner, sixth-generation Vermonter and Mount Abraham Union High School graduate. She resides in Monkton with her husband and son. She has mentored other women in entrepreneurship and financial independence. Her husband, Rob, is a career firefighter, retired National Guard member and Monkton firstresponder.
She previously co-owned and operated “Needleworks and Crafts,” a craft supply store in Charlotte, an enterprise that was eventually expanded to locations in downtown Burlington and Ticonderoga, N.Y.
She now has set her sights back on Montpelier.
“When I didn’t win (in 2014), I didn’t take it personally, but I felt I was letting (my supporters) down,” Mullin said. “I feel really bad for the people of Vermont who are struggling financially and in worse condition now because of what Montpelier has continued to do.”
A number of factors weighed into Mullin’s decision to run again.
First, she does not believe the Democratic majority in the Legislature followed through with a post-2014 election vow to pay heed to the message voters sent about the tax burden on Vermonters.
“It’s gotten worse,” Mullin said, pointing to legislative actions this past biennium that have resulted in such actions as a 4.8 percent increase in the fiscal year 2017 budget and a $300 million investment in a Vermont Health Connect insurance exchange that has been plagued by technical glitches.
Mullin pledged that if elected, she wouldn’t vote to increase the state budget beyond the state’s rate of economic growth, and to reject any proposal to hike property taxes, income taxes or fees.
Mullin recalled visiting an elderly Bristol woman while campaigning in her district in 2014. She was in the process of borrowing against her life insurance policy to raise enough money to pay her tax bills, according to Mullin.
“She said ‘I hoped I would have enough money to leave my children to bury me, and now (the state) has it all,’” Mullin said.
“It haunts me. I’m afraid to knock on her door this year to find out what happened to her. That’s two more years of taxes, and she only had enough to pay that one year.”
While Act 68, the state’s education funding law, has income sensitivity provisions to lessen the property tax blow for low-income residents, Mullin is concerned that many seniors are still “getting chased out because of the financial impact of the taxes and the tax structure that Montpelier has enacted year after year.”
Mullin also weighed in on Act 46, an issue that has surfaced since her 2014 campaign. Act 46 calls for supervisory unions to consolidate their school governance into a single board overseeing a single education budget. Lawmakers believe the move will encourage the sharing of school resources and contain tax increases during this period of declining student enrollment in Vermont.
It is a premise that Mullin supports, but she doesn’t think Act 46 will deliver on its promises. And while Mullin’s local Addison Northeast Supervisory Union is preparing for an Act 46 vote, she was candid in her criticism of the law, which she noted reduces school choice in the Green Mountain State. She believes a major reduction in school choice would limit parents’ options in choosing curricula for their kids with special needs, and also believes some schools will be financially hurt by the loss of tuition revenues.
She asserted that smaller towns would lose their influence as part of larger school districts.
“Decisions in Vermont are best made at the local level,” Mullin said. “Act 46 is a top-down approach that goes against this principle.”
Instead of pursuing Act 46, Mullin said, the state should trim some administrative positions from what she believes is a “top-heavy” education system.
During her interview with the Independent, Mullin also shared her views on:
•  The siting of renewable energy projects.
The Vermont Public Service Board is currently the arbiter on green energy applications.
“I believe solar siting should be a town issue, not a state issue,” Mullin said, adding she does not agree with bill S.230 recently passed by the Vermont Senate. That bill would give a bigger say on renewable energy project applications to communities that craft town plans with energy priorities that are compatible with the state’s.
• Marijuana legalization.
“I believe in decriminalization,” she said, but “unless there is a test for drugged driving, (legalization) should not be an issue.”
In the meantime, Mullin believes Vermont should closely monitor and learn from other states like Colorado that have already legalized pot.
• Health care.
Mullin believes Vermont should not try to establish its own single-payer health care system, given its current budget quandaries. She added the state should get rid of Vermont Health Connect electronic exchange — which she called “a broken system” — and instead join the federal health care exchange, something she said neighboring New Hampshire did at a lower cost and with great success.
“We need to learn from other states, rather than spending good money after bad,” Mullin said.
She added she’s concerned with financial shortfalls in the Medicaid program that are having a dramatic impact on health care organizations, taxpayers and physicians.
Mullin said Vermont could reduce health care costs by creating more competition among health insurance vendors. She would also like to see Vermonters granted permission to purchase health insurance across state lines.
She vowed to do a lot of door-to-door campaigning, just as she did in 2014.
“All I know how to do is work hard,” Mullin said. “I am a driven person.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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