Paul Ralston: Passion is good in an election

In last Thursday’s edition of this paper, columnist Greg Dennis published a commentary entitled “Passions running high in the State Senate race,” which began with the line, “Call it the Trump effect.”
Who or what is Dennis referring to? What does Trump have to do with our local election?
We are in the midst of an interesting and exciting race for the two seats in the Vermont Senate to represent the Addison District. There are six candidates vying for votes. Marie Audet and I are two of those candidates, and we are running as independents. The race also includes two Democrats, a Republican, and Libertarian.
I had considered running in the Democratic primary (I had my signatures), but it somehow didn’t feel right. Then Marie happened. Marie Audet pushed me, challenged me, and we agreed to run – together – as independents.
The two-party system is fundamental to our system of government, but every once in a while the parties need an injection from outside, a non-partisan vision of the public good that challenges the status quo and the status of parties. Now is clearly one of those times.  That is why Marie and I are running, and that is why we are running as independents.
In his article, Greg Dennis tries to equate my support of moderate Republican, Phil Scott, to “the Trump effect.” I like Phil Scott. I’ve known him for years and worked with him when I served in the Vermont House. One of the things I like most about Phil is he is the antithesis of Trump – quiet, collaborative, and careful.
For his article, Dennis sent his questions to two of the six candidates – Marie and me, and then published just the parts of his email correspondence that fit his purpose.
Dennis’ claims that Marie and I won’t work for solutions to improve water quality or the effects of climate change are false. What’s true is we both oppose big new tax programs, like the carbon tax. That doesn’t mean we don’t understand climate change or the importance of a conscientious response. It’s just that our experience tells us there is a better way.
People respond to encouragement and support.  They are more apt to change their behavior if educated about alternatives and if given incentives to adopt new approaches. We’ve seen this clearly with Efficiency Vermont programs.
We may need additional revenue in the long run for large capital projects, but first we must prioritize public and private spending on changing old practices, adopting new technologies, and stimulating innovations in remediation.
Marie and I are running because we believe we have experience and insight to offer. We aren’t running ‘against’ something, we just think we have a more cost-effective, pragmatic approach to addressing the major challenges that most Vermonters agree on: progressively increasing water quality, providing for greatly expanded early childhood education (and getting workforce ‘child care’ in the bargain), systematically developing and deploying true Vermont renewable energy, and stimulating and supporting advancements in our quest for broad economic growth and affordability.  (You can read about our ideas in the ongoing series in this paper.)
Yes, we are different, our campaign is different, our approach will be different.  And, yes, we are passionate. Despite how Dennis tries to frame the race, Marie and I believe we can do better.
Paul Ralston is a New Haven resident, chief executive officer of Vermont Coffee Co. and an independent candidate for the Vermont Senate.

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