Editorial: Democrats vie in Addison-4

The one legislative race in Addison County featuring a competitive primary is in Addison-4, the district representing Bristol, Monkton, Lincoln and Starksboro. The reason for the interest is the seat being vacated by Rep. Dave Sharpe, D-Bristol, who is stepping down to allow others to serve.
In this two-seat district, the other seat is held by Republican Fred Baser, also of Bristol, who is running for re-election. He has no opposition in the Primary Election on Aug. 14. Of the four Democrats running, two will advance to face Baser and Independent Vallerie Mullin.
The four Democrats vying for the two seats are: Paul Forlenza, Mari Cordes, Robert Demic and Caleb Elder. Here’s a brief run-down of their backgrounds and reasons for running:
• Long-time Lincoln resident Paul Forlenza has spent the past several years as chairman of the Addison County Democratic Party recruiting candidates for office and helping them get elected. Now, he says, it’s his turn to run for a seat in his home district. Improving the “family economy” is the primary plank of his platform. He would help jumpstart that economy by: finding a new way to finance health care (he supports universal access to health care) as well as beef up mental health and drug addiction services; supporting family leave; establishing a living wage of $15 per hour by 2024; and improving access to high quality affordable childcare. He also advocates for funding the cleanup of Lake Champlain as well as the state’s other waterways as one of the state’s priorities. It’s a way to promote the recreational economy, he says, while also being an issue of public health.
Forlenza lives with his partner, Kathleen Kolb, in Lincoln; they each have two adult children.
• Robert Demic, 62, is a Bristol builder and theater buff. As a first-time candidate for political office, Demic has lived in the Bristol area for the past 26 years and in Vermont since 1975. He had lived in Kentucky, and graduated from Centre College in Danville, Ky., with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and biology. When he first moved to Vermont, he worked a variety of jobs, including work at the Ethan Allen Furniture Factory in Bennington, caring for clients at the Brattleboro Retreat, working at the former Brandon Training School and the Counseling Service of Addison County, giving him good insights into the state’s mental health industry. He also spent some time working at the Mary Johnson Children’s Center afterschool program, giving him insights into early childhood development and family dynamics. He has taught high school students the art of singing, tap dancing and dance while helping direct musicals at Vergennes Union High School for the past 24 years.
“My work history has given me a broad view of what’s going on in Vermont,” Demic told the Independent during an interview published July 5.
• This is the second time Marie Cordes, 59, has run for the Addison-4 House seat, having run in 2016 and finished a close fourth in a four-way race in the General Election. A Registered Nurse for the past 17 years at UVM Medical Center, Cordes said she “loved connecting with my neighbors and meeting new people,” in that initial foray into politics two years ago. A Lincoln resident, she and her husband, David Walker, a builder, have lived in Vermont for more than 30 years.
She is passionate about health care issues and strongly supports publicly funded universal health care. She has also served as treasurer for 350VT, a grassroots group that advocates for solutions to climate change, and is an advocate for developing more renewable energy. Having grown up shooting guns as a child, she believes Vermonters must have access to guns for hunting and self-protection, but approves of increased background checks and reasonable checks on “highly lethal” weapons.
• Starksboro resident Caleb Elder, 36, is also a first-time candidate for political office though he says he has been interested in Vermont politics since he was a student at Mount Abraham Union High School. Elder went on to graduate from Middlebury College, where he earned a degree in environmental studies in 2004.
He soon took a job as a sales account manager with AllEarth Renewables, a Williston-based company specializing in green energy projects, and more recently joined Bristol-based construction company Smith & McClain, in charge of sales and marketing for its solar division. He served, until earlier this year, as Starksboro’s energy coordinator.
Elder has been active on several community boards. He continues to serve on both the Starksboro and Mount Abraham Unified School District school boards, He was a member of Addison Northeast’s Act 46 Study Committee that laid the groundwork for a successful governance and budgeting merger for the five-town school district.
In an Addison Independent story this spring, he described himself as “very liberal” on social issues, but more of a centrist when it comes to state spending. Elder has served as a member of the Vermont Democratic Party State Committee from 2012 to 2017. When he’s not at work or at a school board meeting, you’ll likely find him with his spouse, Mikaela Keepin, or performing bluegrass music. He’s an accomplished violinist and sits in with several local musical groups.
For more information on each of the candidates, click here to read our Election 2018 stories.

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