County election slate takes shape

ADDISON COUNTY — An Aug. 14 primary election will be required to whittle down a surplus of Democrats competing for Addison County sheriff and the two seats representing the Addison-4 district in the Vermont House.
Meanwhile, three other districts will feature no races at all for the general election, barring an eleventh-hour bid by an independent or write-in candidate. Incumbent lawmakers representing the Addison-1, Addison-2, Addison-3 and Addison-5 House districts currently have no competition for new two-year terms in Montpelier.
Such is the current election picture as painted by this past Thursday’s filing deadline for major party candidates seeking statewide, legislative and county offices on Nov. 6. Here’s how things stack up right now:
•  Incumbent Democratic Reps. Robin Scheu and Amy Sheldon are unopposed in their efforts to return to Montpelier representing the two-seat Addison-1 House district that encompasses only Middlebury.
Sheldon is rounding out her second term in the House, where she serves on the Fish, Wildlife and Water Resources Committee. She is a consulting natural resource planner and river scientist at her business Landslide Natural Resource Planning.
Scheu recently retired as executive director of the Addison County Economic Development Corp. She’s seeking her second term and currently serves on the House Corrections & Institutions Committee.
Once again, no Republican candidates have elected to run in Addison-1; Middlebury is perhaps the “bluest” legislative district in the county.
•  Rep. Peter Conlon, D-Cornwall, is running unopposed for a second two-year term representing the Addison-2 district that includes Cornwall, Goshen, Hancock, Leicester, Ripton and Salisbury. He is self-employed and currently serves as chairman of the Addison Central School District board. Conlon serves on the House Education Committee.
•  The most surprising aspect of the small field of candidates vying for the Addison-3 House district’s two House seats is that there are no Republicans in the mix. The Addison-3 district containing Addison, Ferrisburgh, Vergennes, Panton and Waltham has traditionally been a Republican stronghold, a home base to previous GOP faithful like Kittredge Haven, Greg Clark and Connie Houston.
Incumbent Rep. Warren Van Wyck, R-Ferrisburgh has decided not to run for re-election.
Incumbent Rep. Diane Lanpher, D-Vergennes, reversed the Republican trend when she won election in the district in 2008. She serves on the House Appropriations Committee and will again appear on the ballot this fall, along with fellow Democrat and first-time candidate Matt Birong of Vergennes. Birong is an owner/operator of the 3 Squares Café in Vergennes.
•  The two-seat Addison-4 House district boasts the most active race.
An Aug. 14 primary will be needed to whittle the four Democrats down to two who will move on to the general election. Those Democrats are Lincoln’s Mari Cordes, a Registered Nurse; Paul Forlenza a retired business consultant, also of Lincoln; Robert Demic, a Bristol builder; and Caleb Elder, a renewable energy specialist, of Starksboro.
Interest among Democrats has been fanned by the fact that incumbent Rep. Dave Sharpe, D-Bristol, won’t be seeking re-election to the district, which includes Bristol, Lincoln, Starksboro and Monkton.
On the Republican side, incumbent and recent top vote-getter Fred Baser, R-Bristol, is running for re-election, and Valerie Mullin, an independent business person from Monkton, will again try to break into the winning column.
Baser, a retired insurance executive, serves on the House Ways & Means Committee.
•  Incumbent Rep. Harvey Smith, R-New Haven, is running unopposed for the Addison-5 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 16 years divided into two separate stints. Smith has logged many years of service on the House Agriculture and Forest Products Committee.
•  Incumbent Rep. Terry Norris, I-Shoreham, confirmed on Thursday he’ll seek a two-year term in the House representing the Addison-Rutland district that includes Benson, Shoreham, Orwell and Whiting. It was in February of 2017 that Gov. Phil Scott picked Norris — a former farmer and current employee of the Fort Ticonderoga Ferry — to fill a seat vacated by then-incumbent Rep. Alyson Eastman, I-Orwell. Eastman resigned from her legislative post to serve as Scott’s deputy secretary of agriculture.
Norris this year faces opposition from Shoreham Democrat Barbara Wilson, who with her husband, George Gross, owns and runs Solar Haven Farm off Bates Road.
•  Two Democrats and one Republican have filed papers to run for the two state Senate seats representing Addison County, Huntington and Buel’s Gore.
Incumbent Sen. Chris Bray, D-New Haven, will be seeking his fourth term. He chairs the Senate Natural Resources & Energy Committee and serves on the Education Committee.
Incumbent Sen. Claire Ayer, D-Addison, has decided to take a pass on re-election after 16 years in the state’s highest chamber.
Hoping to succeed Ayer is East Middlebury Democrat Ruth Hardy, a longtime community activist and school board member. She is on temporary leave from her job as executive director of Emerge Vermont, an organization seeking to involve more women in state leadership positions.
On the Republican side, Addison farmer Peter Briggs will again seek to break up the Democrats’ long running control of the two Senate seats. Briggs currently serves on the Addison selectboard, and previously served on his community’sDevelopment Review Board. Briggs is already an experienced campaigner. In November of 2013, he fell less than 100 votes shy of winning an Addison-3 House seat. Briggs earned 7,329 votes in his 2016 state Senate run, finishing third behind Ayer (11,985 tallies) and Bray (9,543 votes).
It should be noted that at least one more candidate could join the race for state Senate during the next two months. Vermont Coffee Company CEO Paul Ralston said he’s strongly considering entering the field as an independent. He and other independent candidates for office have until Aug. 8 to file their election paperwork.
Meanwhile, the impending retirement of Addison County Sheriff Don Keeler has generated a lot of interest in the position. Filing papers by the May 31 deadline were Middlebury Democrats Ron Holmes and Peter Newton. So a primary will be needed to determine who goes on to the general election to face independent candidate Kevin Gibbs, the former Bristol police chief.
Holmes is a former deputy and Newton is currently a lieutenant with the department who has received Keeler’s endorsement.
A race is also in the offing for Addison County assistant judge. Four candidates are vying for two positions. They include Republicans Alice George and Doug Tolles, and Democrats Jacqueline McLean and Patricia Ross.
Incumbent Addison County States Attorney Dennis Wygmans and presiding Addison County Probate Court Judge Misse Smith are both running unopposed, as is Charles Clark for the position of high bailiff.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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