Elder, Cordes prevail in tight voting as Baser is unseated in Bristol-area House race
BRISTOL — Two years ago, Rep. Fred Baser, a Bristol Republican, was the top vote-getter in the two-seat Addison-4 House district representing Bristol, Lincoln, Monkton and Starksboro.
This year, Baser placed third and out of the running as Democrat challengers Caleb Elder of Starksboro and Mari Cordes of Lincoln prevailed in a hotly contested four-person race for the two coveted spots in Montpelier.
In heavy voting throughout the county and state, Elder — a first-time candidate — garnered the most votes, with a total of 2,274. He placed first in three of the four towns, including a 101-vote edge in his hometown of Starksboro.
Cordes (pictured, right), making her second run in the district, finished second with 2,072 tallies — just 60 more than Baser, who ended up with 2,012. Baser won Bristol comfortably with 888 votes, but could not muster enough support in the more Democrat-leaning communities of Lincoln, Monkton and Starksboro.
It was in 2014 that Baser was first elected to the House, unseating then-incumbent Rep. Mike Fisher, D-Lincoln, who at the time was chairman of the House Health Care Committee.
Mullin, making her third run for an Addison-4 seat, rounded out the field this year with 1,458 tallies.
Cordes was candid in her surprise with the Addison-4 election results, and praised Baser for his campaign and legislative contributions.
“I very much appreciated running in a race with Fred Baser; he’s an incredibly wonderful human being and I am grateful to him for his service in the House, as well as in the community,” Cordes said during a Wednesday morning interview. “Like many of us, we were surprised that Caleb and I did flip Addison-4 from a ‘red-blue’ district to a ‘blue’ district, because most of us believed Fred would prevail and one of the three (remaining candidates) would be the second vote-getter.”
Baser could not be reached by phone or email Wednesday morning as the Addison Independent went to press.
He’s completing his second consecutive term in the House and serves on the powerful House Ways & Means Committee. Baser earned a reputation as a bipartisan lawmaker, advocating for issues such as workforce housing and health care reform. He has also touted using an income tax to partially fund public schools and thereby take pressure off property taxes.
Interest in the Addison-4 race was fueled by the retirement of longtime Rep. Dave Sharpe, D-Bristol.
Elder was thrilled with his first-place finish in the race.
“It’s been an exciting and engaging seven months, and it’s left me with a sense of excitement and responsibility to represent this constituency in Montpelier,” Elder said.
He echoed Cordes’ kind words for Baser.
“I think Fred ran a good race, and his four years in the Legislature were marked with some real accomplishments in the area of affordable housing, and I commend him for it,” Elder said.
Looking ahead, Elder said “I’m really excited to be serving with Mari, and will strive to represent everyone in our district well, and come up with some good ideas for Vermont.”
Like Cordes, Elder had a solid corps of campaign volunteers who waved signs, made calls and supported him at various public appearances. Candidates also got their messages out through seven debates held through the summer and early fall.
“It was a blue, high-turnout year,” Elder said of the county voting trends on Tuesday.
Elder declared a preference to serve on the House Committee on Energy & Technology.
“I’m excited to go in and do the work that’s put in front of me, to start becoming effective as part of the legislative process in Montpelier,” Elder said.
Cordes heaped praise on her campaign supporters and is excited to take her place in the House. Cordes is a Registered Nurse at the University of Vermont Medical Center, and had previously delivered testimony at the Statehouse on behalf of the nurses’ union on such issues as health care reform, paid sick days, and safe hospital staffing levels for patient care.
Cordes said she hopes to build on “a movement that will address the needs of ordinary folks in our communities around fair wages, family leave and affordable housing, while addressing climate change.”
Seeing other women elected to the Legislature on Tuesday was also gratifying for Cordes. She specifically cited Ruth Hardy, who won one of the county’s two state Senate seats (see related story, Page 1A).
“I’m really proud of the people in our communities, who really came out to vote,” Cordes said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].