New Haven Democrat seeks write-in votes for local House seat

NEW HAVEN — Taborri Bruhl had figured the highlight of his summer might be co-leading an educational trip to Spain with students from Rutland High School, where he teaches economics.
But a brief phone call from Addison County Democrats has shaken up his summer plans — and perhaps his professional life for years to come.
With a nudge from his party colleagues, Bruhl has decided to belatedly enter the race for the Addison-5 House seat that represents the towns of Bridport, New Haven and Weybridge. He will face veteran Rep. Harvey Smith, R-New Haven.
Bruhl, a New Haven resident, missed the May 26 deadline for filing nomination papers to get on the ballot. So he is now asking supporters to write his name on the Aug. 9 primary ballot. He must accumulate at least 25 write-in endorsements on Aug. 9 in order to have his named placed on the Nov. 1 General Election ballot.
“It gave me pause,” Bruhl said of the Democrats’ appeal for him to jump into the race. He has for years written a blog on environmental issues, urging governmental policy changes to expedite consumers’ switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
“Now, some are asking me to put my money where my mouth is,” Bruhl said, adding, “I feel it’s my civic duty.”
And he’s ready to do it with a campaign that will include a lot of door-to-door.
“I plan to meet with every single voter in the district,” Bruhl said.
Bruhl, 48, graduated in 1990 from Texas A&M University, where he majored in journalism. Upon graduation, Bruhl joined the U.S. Marine Corps, continuing his family’s long history of involvement in the military. It was an eventful four-year stint that saw Bruhl fight in the first Gulf War in Iraq.
Though proud to serve in the military, Bruhl exited the USMC after his tour in order to pursue his love of teaching. He attended California State University to earn a master’s degree in history and the humanities, which propelled him to a high school teaching career that began in College Station, Texas, and eventually led him to New Haven, where his wife, Susan (Dupoise) Bruhl, has long family roots. Together, the couple has three children, including a daughter who just graduated from Mount Abraham Union High School and is now headed to the University of Vermont.
Making education more available to more Vermonters is one of Bruhl’s top campaign priorities. He said early- and post-secondary education will be essential for Vermonters to land and perform 21st-century jobs. And he believes state government should provide more assistance to low-income families to make sure their children have access to schooling and vocational training to help them break generational cycles of poverty.
“As a society, we need to do what we can to make sure these kids have a decent shot in this world as they come up, and to (correct) some of the deficits they’ve had because they’ve grown up in poverty,” Bruhl said.
He believes a more educated population will become a more employable populace, and thus less dependent on social service subsidies. Bruhl also reasoned that a more affluent and educated workforce would be less vulnerable to the scourge of substance abuse, which he noted is taking a heavy toll on families in Addison County and beyond.
“In our world today, you really can’t make a living carrying bricks anymore,” he said. “You’ve got to have college or vocational skills. And the people at the bottom can’t afford it.”
At the same time, Bruhl believes the state should increase its minimum wage. He did not cite a specific number, though acknowledged some in his party are calling for $15 per hour.
“Hypothetically speaking, $15 per hour would be a 50-percent pay raise for people at the bottom, and that would make a dramatic difference in their lives,” Bruhl said. “There are some people who say, ‘When you raise the minimum wage, supply and demand kicks in, and you’re going to have less of the very thing you want — jobs.’ That’s just false. People at the bottom, through habit or necessity, spend all of their money, and we have an economy that is driven by consumption. So the money you pay at the bottom stays in the system. What businesses need are more customers, and customers with more money. The minimum wage bolsters the economy at the bottom.”
That said, Bruhl acknowledged Vermont “can’t fix its poverty problem by just handing out money.” And he conceded that raising the minimum wage and subsidizing training and education programs would not come for free. But he said state government could increase assistance in these areas by running a tighter financial ship. And Bruhl believes that some Vermonters, if asked, would volunteer their time to perform some basic tasks that currently cost state government money.
“This could foster a greater sense of community as we go forward,” Bruhl said of his proposal for expanded volunteerism.
Bruhl advocated for a “progressive” tax policy.
“That’s an investment by people who do have money in a better society to live in,” Bruhl said. “None of us are better off than the worse-off in our society. If you don’t pay in one way, you’re going to pay in another way … We’re all in this together.”
New Haven is part of the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union, a five-town district that will soon consider school governance consolidation through Vermont’s Act 46. Addison Central, Addison Northwest and Rutland Northeast have already taken that step. Bruhl favors the concept of streamlining school governance, a move he said could ultimately save taxpayers some money.
“We’ve got to be efficient in our spending; if we do, many good things will flow from that,” Bruhl said.
Bruhl is very bullish on renewable energy, and wants to encourage programs that will lead the state in that direction. He and his family live in a net-zero house, meaning they are off the state’s energy grid. They heat their home with sustainably farmed wood. Both of the family’s vehicles are solar-powered. The solar panels that Bruhl has on his barn generate 14,000 watts of solar power.
But Bruhl acknowledged many Vermonters can’t afford up-front costs for renewable energy projects. He pledged to support weatherization programs and other initiatives to help residents invest in green energy and step away from fossil fuels.
“The climate demands that we switch,” Bruhl said.
Bruhl said he understands that controversy surrounding the siting of solar arrays and wind towers in residential areas. He is a proponent of solar power on rooftops, and would advocate for building code changes to ensure that roofs are sturdy enough to accommodate solar panels.
Some of Bruhl’s other campaign priorities include:
•  Protecting state soils, water and natural areas.
•  Supporting farms and small businesses in changing the state’s economy.
•  “Lessening the impact of money in our politics.”
As he campaigns, Bruhl will emphasize what he said is a “triad” of vital assets that Vermont boasts: Agriculture, tourism and the environment. He said all three of those assets are inter-dependent and need to be protected.
“We have a brand that is drawing people to our state, and we have to be careful about disrupting that brand,” Bruhl said.
“We need people in Montpelier who can see the big picture.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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