Editorial: Sorting out the county’s Senate race is a tall order

Starting in today’s paper, the Addison Independent will spotlight the race between six state Senate candidates running for the two Addison County seats. We pose five questions on agriculture, water quality, climate change, education and health care/housing. Each candidate will be given 350-500 words to expound on that particular issue, and responses from all six candidates will run side-by-side each Thursday. The last question will run the week of Oct. 25. The election is Nov. 6. Click here to read the first installment.
Today’s question concerns the financial crisis dairy farmers are facing with milk prices that are too low for many farms to remain profitable. Calls have been made to change the national pricing structure for dairy, but how realistic is that and what, if anything, can the Vermont Legislature do? Specifically, we asked each candidate what measures they would take if elected. For the most part, the candidates used that space well to address the issue in depth — and that’s the point: we’re tackling one issue at a time to provide readers with a clear insight into the various candidates’ views and how they would tackle the issues if elected. It’s a lot of reading — we get that. In an digital era in which the attention span of too many is but a few nano-seconds, we’re asking a lot of county voters.
But it is a worthy task, and we encourage you to recognize that the role of the voter is far from easy. With each of the five issues we pose to the candidates, there is no single best-path forward. Voters must approach each answer with a critical eye — not to find fault with any candidate, but to contemplate which candidates’ answers might prove most effective within Vermont’s political landscape.
Voters should strive to be open-minded and thorough when analyzing proposed solutions, but also ruthless in discerning empty rhetoric and half-baked ideas. Platitudes and sloganeering should be challenged as the empty phrases they are, unless a specific action plan has been articulated beforehand.
For example, consider that all candidates promise to listen, even really listen, to their constituents. Don’t buy it. Rather analyze the likelihood; knowing what you do about human nature, is he or she the type who would? Then ask, but does it matter? Do you even want to elect a candidate who spends the day listening to constituents’ pleas, or do you want a Senator more intent on working diligently on the issues to resolve difficult dilemmas?
And understand that state senators, and House representatives, don’t have the luxury of making a stand on just one issue, but that the various issues facing the Legislature often puts legislators at odds with other preferred goals. Agriculture, state spending and water quality are three issues that are often at odds with each other. When legislators try to find the best solutions to address water quality issues, those proposals can conflict with efforts to help dairy farmers survive — and while both could use buckets of state subsidies, legislators must also try to keep spending in check.
To that end, voters can’t base their decisions on a single issue, but rather they have to speculate how well a candidate would be able to balance multiple issues and still move — in as fair a way as possible — the state forward.
Granted, it is complex. But it is also common sense. Spend just a little time and effort and you’ll sort it out. One way to do that is to also consider attending one of the candidate forums between now and Election Day, meet them in person if you haven’t already, and ask questions of your own.
Finally, recognize that it is a privilege to have six candidates vying for two seats to represent Addison County. As voters, we should give them the courtesy of our serious reflection, pay attention to their demeanor and candor, their willingness to compromise to reach a majority consensus, and their ability to take the pulse of the political landscape (at home and statewide) and act in a manner that best reflects the public good.
That’s a tall order — for the candidates and for voters alike.

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