Independent endorses Minter, Zuckerman, other candidates

The Addison Independent has a long tradition of endorsing candidates for statewide office for a single reason: we believe informed opinion stimulates the public conversation and challenges all voters to examine their own reasons for supporting the candidates of their choice. While we stand by our choices, the intent is not to suggest we are “right,” but to demonstrate why our reasoning reflects our perspective.
To that end, here are our choices for statewide offices, and the Senate race in Addison County.
Two weeks ago in this space, we endorsed Democrat Sue Minter for governor over Republican Phil Scott. We wrote then that while we think both candidates would do a good job as governor, Minter is the better candidate on both the policies she embraces and the skills she brings to the job.
On environmental policy, Minter is more committed to taking action to reduce the state’s carbon footprint and draw attention to the ills of climate change. She believes it to be one of the defining issues of our times, and acknowledges that states must take bold steps sooner than later to switch to renewable energy sources. That won’t happen overnight, but it’s critical — environmentally and as an economic engine of renewable energy jobs — that we continue to make progress and not slide backwards with the next governor.
Continued reform of the state’s health care system is another issue that will require creative, bold and imaginative leadership. It’s big, messy and complicated, defying easy fixes — despite the sound bytes you hear or TV or radio commercials. Getting rid of Vermont Health Connect is not the panacea some Republicans would like to imagine. Before doing anything to upend the current progress, detailed plans need to be devised and critically vetted before making the next move. Minter is a planner, a critical thinker and a student of solving such conundrums (she got her Master’s degree in public planning from Harvard and later a degree from MIT) — good attributes to have when determining how to solve the problem in a way that works well for all sectors of Vermont’s economy.
On economic development: What Minter lacks in practical business experience, she could make up for in her leadership abilities and building a stellar economic team. She has a good idea in creating jobs in the outdoor industry sector by appointing an Outdoors Recreation Director to head up that effort as have states like Colorado to good effect. Her economic growth policies embodied in her InvestVT and InnovateVT initiatives outline and embrace important and specific initiatives. She also has a plan to create good paying jobs by investing in better infrastructure (roads, bridges, rail as well as broadband, cellphone towers and other modern necessities of the digital world.) She also understands the importance of education — both pre-school and post-secondary — as a means of economic growth for individual Vermonters as well as the state. She has outlined specific programs to make two years of higher education tuition free to help Vermont’s young people in need develop the required skills to get good-paying jobs here in Vermont.
Although it’s not a priority for her, if the Legislature pressing the issue, she would help the state determine how best to legalize marijuana — balancing law enforcement’s concerns without missing out on the economic opportunities it affords the state.
And, as an ardent environmentalist, she is the right candidate to oversee the state’s cleanup efforts of Lake Champlain. Indeed, if Hillary Clinton holds on to win the presidency, Minter’s presence as governor of Vermont (on this issue and on health reform) could pave the way for enhanced federal cooperation, (which is even more likely considering Sen. Bernie Sanders’ influence on the election.
We like Republican Phil Scott, as well. He is driven to succeed, he thrives on competition, he’s reasonable, pragmatic and collaborates well with all sides. But that doesn’t move an 8,000-person operation, which is what the state is. You can’t wing it with that many moving pieces and that many people to manage. You have to have good systems, detailed plans to achieve specific targets, well-conceived strategies. To date, Minter’s plans are far more specific and better defined — and that will hopefully translate into moving the state forward in critical areas, which in turn will directly benefit Vermonters at every income level.
Vote Sue Minter for governor.
This race might befuddle many Vermonters. Zuckerman, a Progressive who hones close to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ ideology, ran as a Democrat and beat out favored Democrat and long-time House Speaker Shap Smith in the primary.
It was a surprising win and Zuckerman’s policy goals are not wallflowers. He embraces legalizing marijuana; phase it in, but let’s get it done — with most of the revenue going to solve the state’s opiate addiction crisis. An environmentalist, he too considers climate change to be the issue of our times and wants to press forward with the growth of renewable energy, albeit with increased consideration of local concerns, but not ones that could stop progress. He would press aggressively for cleaner water, though would also seek increased aid to those farmers whose land is at the root of much of the problem.
He supports free college tuition, expanding pre-school hours and a phased-in $15 minimum wage. He would not support a carbon tax that calls for an immediate increase of 88-cents per gallon of gasoline, but calls for further study and understanding of the issue (a failed bill as proposed in the House phased in that 88-cent increase over 10 years and also would have reduced sales taxes and other taxes as part of the deal to a near net-neutral status, he says.)
Democrats, in short, are being asked to support a candidate who advocates for increased taxes on the wealthy and who, for the most part, places most societal concerns above the interests of big business, which in Vermont is a relative measure and not all that big.
And, yet, that’s not out of touch. Zuckerman, who runs a small farm growing produce, has been a small businessman for years. He understands what it’s like to struggle as a business. He understands wage issues, and why it’s difficult for a two-income family to live on less than $15 an hour. He understands the economics of higher wages generating more commerce for everyone, and moreover he believes it’s the right thing to do.
Brock, on the other hand, is a old-school Republican. He is fiscally conservative and a social moderate. He’s accepting of a woman’s right to choose and gay marriage, though he would not be one to advocate for those issues. As a man who made his money in Wall Street’s financial world, he’s a savvy businessman who qualifies as being in the upper percent. He’s against taxing the wealthy to a greater degree, fearing the flight of capital would do more harm to the state than the gain from increased revenues. In his campaign, unfortunately, he has focused as much on innuendo and false allegations against his opponent as to his issues, which, by in large, suggest that he is more qualified to step in as governor (if needed) by virtue of his business experience.
We support Zuckerman for Lt. Governor for three reasons:
• He envisions his role as Lt. Governor as a convener of disparate points of view to tackle the state’s tough issues. He would hold forums, coffees and other meetings throughout the state to discuss and hash out potential solutions. His past as a community organizer of agricultural and environmental issues fits this role well, and it’s an inventive and appropriate role for the times.
• He is right on the key issues: climate change, economic justice (reducing the wage gap), more aid for education, and pursuing health care reform. Do those things right, and job growth will follow. Don’t make them a priority, and the state will falter.
• Most importantly, he understands that while government should strive to operate as cost-effectively as a well-run business, it’s function and purpose is very different. Government’s function is to lay the groundwork for economic opportunity, educational fairness, societal equity, to enhance environmental stewardship and, to the extent possible, help those in need. To run government like a business misses the point of government, Zuckerman says, adding that government is not a bottom-line enterprise. Most of us agree with that assessment, when we think about it, but over the past couple of decades we’ve let the notion take hold that government should be run as a business, when, actually, it should not be. Zuckerman gets that; Brock does not.
Despite some over-the-top liberal notions, which he is powerless to impose in this post, Zuckerman earns our vote.
Democrat Pat Leahy is unquestionably the most qualified candidate to fill this seat in the U.S. Senate. He is running for his eighth six-year term, to the immense benefit of the state. His intelligence, collective knowledge and bipartisan approach to most issues not only serves the state well, but also the nation. And particularly in this time of conflict with nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court, Leahy’s role could be crucial.
Of paramount importance, of course, is the balance of power in the Senate. With Democrats within range of regaining a slight majority, Leahy’s election is a necessity. Throwing the balance of power in the Senate to the GOP by electing Republican Scott Milne would be a national travesty. It may happen in other races, but it should not occur at the hands of Vermonters.
That aside, Leahy deserves Vermonters’ support for his 42 years worth of excellent representation — all of which can be summarized as representing the state in the finest tradition of a bipartisan, commonsense, pragmatic politician. If the rest of the nation’s senators were in his mold, we wouldn’t be in the mess we are. Vote Leahy to an unprecedented eighth term.
This race is no-contest. Literally. Rep. Welch, a Democrat, has the support of his party, the Progressives and the Republican Party, and with good reason: no other party could field a candidate who compared to his experience, knowledge of congressional issues, ability to work across the political aisle and familiarity with state issues and Vermonters’ concerns. Liberty Union candidate Erica Clawson is on the ballot, but feel good about voting in Welch for another term.
Democrat D.J. Donovan is no stranger to the Attorney General’s race, vying against incumbent Democrat Bill Sorrell previously, but this year Sorrell is not running creating an open office. Donovan is vying against Republican Deborah Bucknam, a private practice attorney specializing in civil litigation and Liberty Union candidate Rosemarie Jackowski, an educator, writer and activist.
Donovan has the practical experience of being Chittenden County’s State’s Attorney since 2006; that and  his knowledge of the issues give him a significant edge and our endorsement.
In the race for Secretary of State, incumbent Secretary Jim Condos is representing Democrats and Republicans. Only Liberty Union candidate Mary Alice Herbert is challenging him. Condos earned the nod of the state’s three major parties for one reason: he’s done a good job. Re-elect him with confidence.
In the four-way race for Addison County’s two senate seats, we endorse incumbent Sens. Claire Ayer and Chris Bray because of their particular focus on key issues:
• Ayer has become an advocate for health care reform and has followed the issue as closely as anyone in the Legislature. As Chair of the Senate Committee on Health & Welfare, she understands it’s a complex issue that defies easy solutions, despite what partisan politicians may say. While premiums are high and inching higher, health care costs are finally being held in check under Vermont’s Green Mountain Care board, which was one of the provisions under Shumlin’s reform. Vermont also recently received federal permission to move ahead with new efforts that will pay for wellness rather than the current fee-for-service system. It’s the break-through needed to put the brakes on skyrocketing health care costs. Ayer’s role in this issue alone is reason enough to cast your vote for her re-election, but she has also been a key supporter of the Clean Water Act, and is a supporter of most issues within the Democratic Party’s platform without being extreme. She listens well and collaborates well with others — the hallmark of a good legislator.
Bray’s area of expertise has been on environmental issues and land use policy, including renewable energy siting policy. As controversial as health care reform, Bray has been in the thick of it for the past couple of years. His deliberate nature, thorough study and all-inclusive approach to each issue may be too slow for some, but it engenders thoughtful discourse and incremental progress on what are highly politicized issues. As Chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy, Bray’s influence has been as insightful and meticulous as it has been fair and nonpartisan. He’s also had a key role in the state’s Clean Water Act, where his knowledge and influence will be crucial in the years ahead as implementation of cleaning up the state’s waterways goes into effect.
On the Republican side, Peter Briggs is an articulate voice for conservatives with a good command of the issues; but it’s a conservative platform we don’t view as good for the state: he is against raising the minimum wage; is against pushing ahead on more renewable energy measures (rather suggesting we maintain our reliance on fossil fuels); is against raising taxes on any segment of the population — preferring instead to decrease spending and to cut government services where possible; and, among other things, is opposed to expanding education aid to post-secondary and pre-K age groups. These are all reasonable conservative positions, with keeping things affordable at the heart of each issue. Reasonable in the short-term, that is, but not positions that set the foundation for a prosperous Vermont for our children.
Vote Claire Ayer and Chris Bray for Senate.
         Angelo S. Lynn

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