Mari Cordes confirms second bid for Addison-4 House seat

LINCOLN — Mari Cordes is hoping in November to reverse the order of results in her last race for Addison-4’s two seats in the Vermont House. In that 2016 election, the Lincoln Democrat finished a close fourth among the four candidates competing for the right to represent Bristol, Lincoln, Monkton and Starksboro.
It was Cordes’ first House run, and she’s using it as a learning experience to make her a more successful candidate this time around.
“I loved connecting with my neighbors and meeting new people,” Cordes, a longtime Registered Nurse, said of her initial foray into statewide politics.
And she believes she’ll have to burn even more shoe leather this spring, summer and fall, canvassing homes in all four Addison-4 communities, listening to constituent concerns and discussing ways to address those issues in Montpelier. She knows she’ll have to be on top of her game if she’s to win a seat in what promises to be a crowded field this fall. She’ll have to first run the gauntlet of a primary, as fellow Democrats Paul Forlenza of Lincoln and Caleb Elder of Starksboro have confirmed they’ll be running. Meanwhile, incumbent (and top vote-getter in 2016) Rep. Fred Baser, R-Bristol, said he will seek re-election to another two-year term, though his longtime district mate, Rep. Dave Sharpe, D-Bristol, announced his name won’t be on the ballot.
Cordes, 59, has for the past 17 years worked as an RN at the University of Vermont Medical Center. She and her family have lived in Vermont for more than 30 years. They moved to Lincoln in 2003. Her husband is David Walker, a builder, and they have two grown daughters. They live in an off-the-energy-grid home off Downingsville Road.
She 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. Cordes helped create the Equal Care Coalition, to advocate for the elimination of health insurance policy exclusions for transgender patients. She is former treasurer for 350VT, a grassroots group that advocates for remedies to climate change.
Cordes subscribes to the notion that Democrats are well positioned to make inroads in the political realm this year, in large part due to the Trump administration. Vermont is a “blue” state and “all politics is local,” but area Democrats are hoping Republican President Donald Trump’s polarizing policies and rhetoric blow some wind in their respective sails during the upcoming campaign season.
“People across the community, state and country are standing up for democracy,” Cordes said of the current political climate. “The current federal administration has definitely become a trigger for waking up more people to engage in building our democracy. I do think the actions of this current administration are directly affecting — and scaring — people.”
As was the case two years ago, Cordes will emphasize such campaign priorities as a publicly funded universal health care system, an economy that “works for all Vermonters,” development of more renewable energy, and institution of a more progressive tax system “that ensures corporations and the wealthy are paying their fair share.”
Cordes acknowledged gun violence will likely be a more prominent campaign issue this year than it was two years ago. Vermont has some of the most relaxed gun laws in the nation, though it remains one of the safest states in the union in terms of violent crime. Still, the recent arrest of a Poultney youth amid allegations he had been plotting a mass shooting at Fair Haven Union High School has prompted Gov. Phil Scott and the state Legislature to consider some tighter gun ownership rules.
Cordes, who said she grew up around guns and learned to shoot at a young age, supports strengthening background checks prior to firearms purchases. She also supports a new proposal that would allow Vermont law enforcement to confiscate weapons from individuals deemed by a court to be at “extreme risk” to themselves or others. She added she could support curtailing access to “high lethality” weapons, though she said the Legislature should first hear from experts to help define such weapons.
But Vermonters should continue to have access to firearms for self-protection and hunting, according to Cordes.
“I support and admire the culture in Vermont of being able to provide for yourself and your family by hunting and growing food,” Cordes said. “It’s one of the reasons I moved to Vermont from Michigan decades ago.
“While I trust the vast majority of gun owners in Vermont are responsible, the incident in Fair Haven raised some red flags for a lot of us,” she added.
Having worked in health care for three decades, Cordes has developed some strong opinions on the subject, She continues to strongly back a “universal, publicly funded health care system.” As reported by the Addison Independent, Cordes was among those arrested in Washington, D.C., last year during a health care-related protest at the Russell Senate Office Building. The group was trying to raise awareness about the proposed “Better Care Reconciliation Act,” legislation opponents feared would reduce health care access for millions of Americans.
“If we’re going to move forward to make health care more accessible and affordable, we can’t be cutting programs that are getting us to that point,” she said.
Cordes noted health care costs are now forcing families to make tough household budget decisions.
“The health care issue is still driving a lot of the costs, and it’s linked to education and other aspects of our economy,” she said.
Cordes acknowledged Vermont’s dwindling number of school students. At the same time that it considers ways to make itself more attractive to young families, Vermont should make more productive use of the mounting unused space in school buildings, according to Cordes.
To that end, she suggested dental clinics, health care facilities, addiction prevention programs and other services could set up offices in schools to better serve the student population.
A big fan of renewable energy, Cordes wants communities to take a more active role in developing such projects to reduce dependency on fossil fuels. So she’d like to see residents join forces in creating energy cooperatives, through which folks could invest in solar farms and other renewables that could benefit specific local housing projects and/or public facilities.
Area voters will have more chances to learn about Cordes during the coming months. She and her campaign volunteers will hold regular “community conversations” throughout Addison-4 to hear from residents about their concerns and priorities for the state. Her campaign website is at maricordes.org.
“I think this is one of the most profound moments in my lifetime,” Cordes said. “People across the community, state and country are standing up for democracy again.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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