Three House districts feature competition
ADDISON COUNTY — There will be races in three of the county’s six House districts to be decided this coming Tuesday, with the Addison-4 contest drawing the most competition.
Four candidates are running for two spots in the Vermont House district that includes Bristol, Lincoln, Monkton and Starksboro. They are incumbent Rep. Fred Baser, R-Bristol; Lincoln Democrat Mari Cordes; Starksboro Democrat Caleb Elder; and Monkton Republican Valerie Mullin.
Baser, a former Bristol selectman and a certified financial planner, was elected to the House in 2014. He served his first term on the House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development, and spent the past biennium on the House Ways & Means Committee.
During his time in the House, Baser has established himself as a moderate, bipartisan lawmaker who has promoted development of workforce housing, changing the way Vermont pays for public schools, weatherizing homes, and encouraging economic development.
Baser’s House peer from Addison-4, Rep. Dave Sharpe, D-Bristol, did not seek re-election this year after 16 years of service.
This is Cordes’ second run for an Addison-4 seat.
Cordes is a Registered Nurse at the University of Vermont Medical Center. She and her family have lived in Vermont for more than 30 years.
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, which advocates for the elimination of health insurance policy exclusions for transgender patients. She is a former treasurer for 350VT, a grassroots group that advocates for remedies to climate change.
As was the case two years ago Cordes is emphasizing 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.”
Elder has been in the renewable energy field for a decade and currently works for Bristol-based Smith & McClain in charge of sales and marketing for its solar division.
The Mount Abraham Union High School graduate attended Middlebury College, where he earned a degree in environmental studies in 2004.
He has always been passionate about environmental and renewable energy issues. He served until recently as Starksboro’s energy coordinator. It was a position that saw him gather information and grant money while advising his community about potential renewable energy projects on school and municipal property.
Elder currently serves on the Mount Abraham Unified School District school board. 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.
If elected, Elder has said he’d support the state’s transition to universal access to primary health care, and for better workforce training in public school systems.
Mullin is making her third bid for an Addison-4 House seat.
She’s a native Vermonter and a Mount Abraham Union High School graduate. She’s an independent business person, having taught skincare techniques and mentored women nationally on the subject of entrepreneurship and financial independence.
She previously co-owned and operated “Needleworks and Crafts,” a craft supply store in Charlotte that was eventually expanded to locations in downtown Burlington and Ticonderoga, N.Y.
Mullin is now spending time volunteering with Champlain Valley Rescue, a nonprofit group that saves dogs from high-kill shelters in other states.
As in past years, Mullin will be emphasizing “affordability” and “quality schools” during her campaign. She doesn’t believe the state has made any progress on those issues since she first became a candidate four years ago.
Like many other GOP candidates, she’s suggesting prices would come down if more competition were allowed into the insurance market. She also believes Vermonters could strike better deals by purchasing their health insurance across state lines.
After the May 31 filing deadline for major party candidates it appeared that incumbent Rep. Diane Lanpher, D-Vergennes, and Democrat Matt Birong of Vergennes would get a clear path to the two Addison-3 House seats representing Addison, Ferrisburgh, Panton, Vergennes and Waltham.
That was until incumbent Rep. Warren Van Wyck, R-Ferrisburgh, cancelled his legislative retirement plans and mounted a successful write-in campaign during the August primary election that ensured his name will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Birong, a lifelong Vermonter, is owner/operator of the 3 Squares Café in Vergennes.
Five years ago he became involved with the Main Street Alliance of Vermont (MSA), a business association that advocates for small enterprises and the communities in which they’re based. Birong initially helped the organization by passing out surveys to other small business owners along Vergennes’ Main Street.
He joined the MSA’s lobbying effort for “paid sick days” legislation at the Statehouse. Birong provided input to Democrat leadership to tailor the bill to small businesses, many of which survive on a thin margin.
Birong joined the MSA board, which recently began exploring family leave policy. He also was a strong advocate for the Green Mountain Secure Retirement plan. Signed into law in 2017, the new plan provides a retirement savings option for businesses with fewer than 50 employees.
In 2016 he served as the Vergennes delegate at the Vermont Democratic Convention, where he was named as a state delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
Issues important to Birong include workforce development, devising a “livable wage” standard, making progress on the federally mandated cleanup of Vermont’s waterways, and exploring universal primary care.
Lanpher won election in the district in 2008. She serves on the House Appropriations Committee and previously served many years on House Transportation.
She and her husband Jim recently sold their Horace Mann Insurance agency in South Burlington, but continue to work part time for the new owners. She previously worked as training coordinator for the Vermont Department of Health’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs. She is a former Vergennes city council member and now serves on the Addison County Transit Resources board.
Lanpher has vowed to support, among other things, “high quality, affordable child care” and “common sense solutions” to the state’s budget challenges.
Van Wyck had announced this past spring he would not seek re-election to a fourth term, citing a desire to spend more time with family and a return to his full-time job as a University of Vermont computer analyst programmer.
But when GOP recruiting efforts failed to find other Addison-3 candidates Van Wyck agreed to run again. It became official in August when he won enough write-in votes to move his candidacy forward.
He spent his first term serving on the House Committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs. House leaders then transferred him to the Committee on Energy and Technology, which has allowed him to share his tech skills and his strong views on renewable and conventional energy.
Van Wyck has picked up additional assignments during his time in the Statehouse, serving on the Joint Energy Committee, the Vermont Web Portal Board, the Canvassing Committee and the Legislative Information Technology Committee, for which he served as vice chair in 2016.
Incumbent Rep. Terry Norris, I-Shoreham, is being challenged by Shoreham Democrat Barbara Wilson in the House district that represents Benson, Shoreham, Orwell and Whiting.
In February 2017 Gov. Phil Scott picked Norris 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 co-owned and operated a 1,250-acre dairy farm in Shoreham for nearly 40 years. That farm is now headquarters to WhistlePig Rye Whiskey. Norris operated his own photography business for 23 years, and he now works on the Fort Ticonderoga Ferry. A native Vermonter, he has lived in Shoreham since 1960. Norris holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Tri-State University in Angola, Ind.
Norris serves on the House Committee on Agriculture & Forestry.
“You will find me on the ballot in November and I would appreciate your support,” Norris wrote in a newsletter to his constituents. “I feel we need someone in the House that understands what our rural towns and Vermont agriculture face in the future.”
Wilson co-owns and operates the Solar Berry Farm off Bates Road.
She had previously spent 35 years with New Jersey-based Bell System (part of Western Electric). She retired as leader of a team that created software to manage the network.
Wilson supports universal, publicly funded primary care, believing Vermonters should have ready access to doctors’ visits, mental health services and substance abuse treatment.
She believes her background in farming, crunching numbers and running a small business would be an asset in the Statehouse.
If elected, Wilson promised to involve her constituents in her representation of the district. She said she’d form “focus groups” within Addison-Rutland-1 to help her research issues on which she would be voting.
• Incumbent Democratic Reps. Robin Scheu and Amy Sheldon for the two-seat Addison-1 House district covering Middlebury.
• Rep. Peter Conlon, D-Cornwall, in the Addison-2 district that includes Cornwall, Goshen, Hancock, Leicester, Ripton and Salisbury.
• Incumbent Rep. Harvey Smith, R-New Haven, for the Addison-5 House seat representing Bridport, New Haven and Weybridge.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].