Primaries loom in two House districts; GOP candidate pool grows

ADDISON COUNTY — Like the punch line in the old real estate adage, election excitement in Addison County this year will be all about location, location, location.
Thursday, May 26, was the deadline for major party candidates to file petition papers to run for various statewide and county offices, including the Vermont House and Senate. A survey of the representative district clerk offices and the Addison County Courthouse reveals that there will be Democratic primaries in the Addison-1 (Middlebury) and Addison-4 (Bristol area) House districts, and a four-person race for the two state Senate seats representing Addison County, Huntington and Buel’s Gore.
Meanwhile, there will be no competition — barring the emergence of some independent or write-in candidates — in the Addison-2, Addison-5 and Addison-Rutland House districts.
Here is a round-up of the candidates currently in the mix for Addison County’s two Senate seats and its combined total of nine House seats representing six districts. The list features nine incumbent legislators and 10 challengers. The Independent has already published articles on several of the announced challengers and will write pieces on all of them prior to the Aug. 9 primary elections.
Three Democrats are in the running for the two House seats representing Middlebury — incumbent Rep. Amy Sheldon, Addison County Economic Development Corp. (ACEDC) Executive Director Robin Scheu and former U.S. Postal Service worker Jill Charbonneau, who is also running under the Progressive Party banner. An Aug. 9 primary will be needed to whittle the three Dems down to two for the General Election, though Charbonneau will maintain the option of running in November as a Progressive even if she does not make the cut in the Democratic primary.
Sheldon is rounding out her first term in the House, where she serves on the Fish, Wildlife and Water Resources Committee. The Middlebury College graduate (class of 1988) is a consulting natural resource planner and river scientist at her business Landslide Natural Resource Planning. She has previously served on the Middlebury Planning Commission, the District 9 Environmental Board and on the Middlebury Area Land Trust board.
Scheu is a former bank executive who held top positions in financial institutions in both Massachusetts in Vermont. She worked stints as manager of the Addison County Solid Waste Management District and as interim director of the Middlebury Area Land Trust before being appointed to her ACEDC job in 2008.
Charbonneau is a retired USPS letter carrier who served Middlebury beginning in 1987. She has been very active in union causes. Charbonneau is the former president of the Vermont State Labor Council AFL/CIO and is the current president of the State Association of Letter Carriers.
Interest in the Addison-1 seat is heightened this year in the wake of the retirement of longtime Democratic Rep. Betty Nuovo.
Once again, no Republican candidates have elected to run in Addison-1; Middlebury is perhaps the “bluest” legislative district in the county.
Cornwall Democrat Peter Conlon is the lone taker for the House seat representing Cornwall, Goshen, Hancock, Leicester, Ripton and Salisbury. It is a seat currently held by incumbent Rep. Willem Jewett, D-Ripton, who has decided not to run for re-election after a career that included service as House majority leader.
Conlon is a former Addison Independent news editor who currently serves as chairman of the UD-3 school board that governs Middlebury Union middle and high schools. He is also Cornwall’s representative to the newly unified Addison Central School District board.
Four candidates are in the running for the two House seats representing Addison, Ferrisburgh, Panton, Vergennes and Waltham.
In the mix once again are incumbent Reps. Diane Lanpher, D-Vergennes, and Rep. Warren Van Wyck, R-Ferrisburgh.
Lanpher is seeking her fifth, two-year term in the House. She served several years on the House Transportation Committee before being assigned to a coveted spot on the House Appropriations Committee last year. Lanpher has served on the Vergennes City Council and the Addison County Transportation Advisory Board, and is a current board member of Addison County Transit Resources. She and her husband, Jim Lanpher, recently sold their Horace Mann Insurance agency in South Burlington, though they continue to work part-time for the new owners.
Gov. Peter Shumlin appointed Van Wyck to the House on Feb. 7, 2013, following the tragic death of then-Rep. Greg Clark, R-Ferrisburgh. Addison-3 voters elected Van Wyck to the job in 2014. Van Wyck currently serves on the House Natural Resources & Energy Committee and is vice chairman of the Legislative Information Technology Committee. He has worked for the University of Vermont as a computer analyst programmer since 1987.
Joining the field of Addison-3 candidates this year are Republican Monique Thurston and Democrat Fritz Langrock, both of Ferrisburgh.
Thurston, a retired radiologist, moved to Vermont in 2013 after having lived for 33 years in western Maine. She has taken a particular interest in the subject of renewable energy, and has testified before legislative committees considering siting and noise issues associated with green energy projects.
Langrock is a partner in the Middlebury law firm Langrock, Sperry & Wool. He is a member of the Vermont Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys and the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys. Langrock is currently the Vermont State Delegate to the American Bar Association House of Delegates. He is a former president of the Vermont State Amateur Hockey Association, and is a director of USA Hockey.
There should be no shortage of excitement in the two-seat district representing Bristol, Lincoln, Monkton and Starksboro.
Residents of those four communities will first go to the polls to decide a Democratic primary involving Mari Cordes of Lincoln, Stephen Pilcher of Monkton and incumbent Rep. Dave Sharpe of Bristol. The top two finishers will go on to the General Election to face incumbent Rep. Fred Baser, R-Bristol, and Monkton Republican Valerie Mullin.
Sharpe is a 14-year veteran of the House, where he currently chairs the Education Committee. He served for more than a decade on the House Ways and Means Committee, a panel that deals with the state’s tax laws and revenue picture. Sharpe is also a member of the state’s Joint Fiscal Committee. He recently retired as an automotive technology teacher at regional technical centers in Middlebury and then in Essex Junction.
Sharpe has already announced that he will run for House speaker should he be re-elected to his Addison-4 post this fall.
Pilcher, 61, is chairman of the Monkton selectboard. He graduated from Middlebury College in 1977, then attended graduate school at the University of Vermont, which set him up for a lengthy career in computer engineering. Pilcher worked for 35 years for a variety of small tech companies in and around Vermont, including Irvine Sensors, Ascension Technology and Microprocessor Designs. Pilcher recently stepped away from computers in order to devote more time to public service.
Cordes, a registered nurse, has for the past 15 years worked at the UVM Medical Center. She and her family have lived in Vermont for around 30 years, moving to Lincoln in 2003. Cordes has delivered testimony at the Statehouse on behalf of the UVM Medical Center’s nurses’ union on such issues as health care reform, paid sick days, and safe hospital staffing levels for patient care. She helped create the Equal Care Coalition, to advocate for the elimination of health insurance policy exclusions for transgender patients. Cordes currently serves as treasurer for 350VT, a grassroots group that advocates for remedies to climate change.
Baser is a longtime financial planner, having founded Bristol Financial Services Inc. in 1987. The former Bristol selectman was the top vote-getter (with 1,872 tallies) in the Addison-4 House contest in 2014. Baser is completing his freshman term in the House as a member of the Commerce & Economic Development Committee. He has served on the boards of Porter Medical Center, the ACEDC, the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center, and Addison County Chamber of Commerce. He serves as town moderator and justice of the peace in Bristol.
Mullin is a lifelong Vermonter and a Mount Abraham Union High School graduate. She’s a mom and independent business person, teaching skincare techniques and mentoring women nationally on the subject of entrepreneurship and financial independence. 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. Mullin is making her second run for an Addison-4 seat. She finished fourth, with 1,514 votes, in the four-person race in 2014.
Incumbent Rep. Harvey Smith, R-New Haven, is running unopposed for the House seat representing Bridport, New Haven and Weybridge. He is a longtime farmer and one of the county’s most veteran lawmakers, having served a combined total of almost 14 years divided into two separate stints. Smith has logged many years of service on the House Agriculture and Forest Products Committee, and his résumé speaks to his experience in the field. It includes service as president of the Addison County Farm Bureau, and service on the boards of the UVM Extension Advisory, the Center for Sustainable Agriculture, the Use Value Appraisal Coalition, the United Dairy Industries Association, and Dairy Management Inc. He is former state executive director of the Farm Service Agency. He has also served on the ACEDC board and the Addison County Regional Planning Commission.
Incumbent Rep. Alyson Eastman, I-Orwell, is again unopposed in her run for the seat that represents Benson, Orwell, Shoreham and Whiting. Born and raised in Orwell, Eastman was first elected to the House in 2014 and served during the past biennium with Smith on the House Agriculture and Forest Products Committee. In 2010, she founded Lake Home Business Services Inc., a company that among other things helps farms complete immigration paperwork for foreign workers taking part in the H2A seasonal work visa program. She currently serves on both the Orwell and the Addison-Rutland Supervisory Union (ARSU) boards. Eastman is also chairwoman of the ARSU Act 46 Study Committee, which is exploring school governance unification for Orwell and five nearby Rutland County communities. On June 21, Orwell will hold a revote on school governance unification that would encompass all ARSU communities.
State Senate
The race for the two state Senate seats representing Addison County, Huntington and Buel’s Gore will involve incumbent Democratic Sens. Claire Ayer of Addison and Chris Bray of New Haven, along with Republican challengers Peter Briggs of Addison and Lynn Dike of Bristol.
Ayer is rounding out her 14th consecutive year in the Senate. She currently chairs the Senate Health & Welfare Committee and serves as Senate majority whip. Ayer is a registered nurse and also possesses a degree in environmental studies from Middlebury College. She has previously served as chairwoman of the Weybridge School Board and president of the Vermont Association of Conservation Districts, and on the Middlebury Area Land Trust board. Ayer has also served on the Judicial Retention and Health Access Oversight committees and was elected to the UVM Board of Trustees for six years, where she chaired the College of Agriculture Board and the Educational Policy and Institutional Resources Committee.
Ayer also currently serves on the Senate Finance Committee, Health Reform Oversight Committee and Joint Fiscal Committee.
Bray is rounding out his second, two-year term in the Senate, where he serves as chairman of the Natural Resources & Energy Committee. He also serves on the Senate Government Operations Committee and chairs the Joint Energy Committee. He began his legislative career in the House in 2007, serving the Addison-5 district for two terms. He ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2010, but won election to the Senate in 2012. Bray previously served on the boards of the United Way of Addison County, Middlebury Rotary Club, Vermont Milk Commission, Rural Economic Development Working Group, Vermont Forestry Study Group, NCSL Agriculture & Energy Committee and Middlebury Area Land Trust.
Bray founded and still operates Common Ground Communications, which provides writing, editing and production services to technical clients and the book publishing industry. He and his family operate an 82-acre farm in New Haven.
Both Ayer and Bray have confirmed plans to run for the position of Senate president pro tem if they are re-elected to the state’s highest chamber this November.
Briggs was born and raised in Addison, where he works on his family’s farm. He currently serves as vice chairman of the Addison selectboard, and previously served on his community’sDevelopment Review Board. Briggs already has experience as a candidate for the Legislature; in November of 2013, he fell less than 100 votes shy of winning an Addison-3 House seat. Briggs, on his campaign Facebook page, describes his political views as “very conservative,” and states such priorities as repealing Act 46, supporting repeal of Vermont Health Connect, passing balanced budgets, and creating jobs through “business friendly taxes and regulations.”
Dike is a Bristol resident and was a frequent contributor during this past winter’s legislative breakfast series. The Independent will soon interview Dike for an article slated for Monday’s edition of the paper.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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