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Vermont Primary election voter guide 2022

Whether area residents cast their vote in the Aug. 9 Vermont Primary Election on the Republican ballot or the Democratic ballot, they will have a lot of candidates to choose from.

Candidates for 15 offices will be on each party’s ballot with high-profile races for most statewide offices and for four local offices.

Read about each of the candidates in this Primary Election Guide, consider your options, then VOTE in the election, either in person next Tuesday or by dropping your mail-in ballot in the U.S. mail or at your town clerk’s office. Democracy doesn’t work without you!

REPUBLICAN GOVERNOR

BY SAM LIPIN

The Republican Primary for governor is less than a week away and voters who chose the GOP ballot will have three options to face the Democratic candidate on Nov. 8.

Incumbent GOP Gov. Phil Scott will be challenged by landscaping contractor Stephen Bellows and former Underhill selectboard member Peter Duval.

Gov. Scott is seeking a fourth term in office but is choosing not to campaign heavily in preparation for the primary election, according to a post he made on Facebook. Instead, he remains focused on his current role as governor.

“I’m laser focused on the issues that affect Vermonters’ lives, like tax relief, access to affordable housing, rural internet and cell-service development, and making Vermont the best place to live, work, and raise a family,” Scott said via email to the Independent.

Scott remains the favorite in the General Election, with 50% of overall voters and 46% of Republican voters positing that Scott deserves re-election, according to a University of New Hampshire poll conducted in April.

On the other hand, Grand Isle native Stephen Bellows is seeking his first role in elected office. Owner of a landscape contracting company, Bellows seeks to make Vermont a state where small businesses can thrive. He seeks to bring fundamental change to a state he believes “is going on a downhill trend, fast,” according to an interview he did with “Sound Off” host Linda Kirker.

The linchpins of his campaign are removing common core curricula, reducing the state payroll and corporate income tax, revising the Clean Heat Standard energy bill and overall decreasing state regulations and taxations.

“Vermonters will vote for me if they want a freedom-loving, America first-candidate,” Bellows said via email.

Lastly, Duval’s campaign is based on environmental action and reducing the effects of climate change. His platform revolves around introducing structural reform that would eliminate extraneous costs in our economy while restoring Vermont’s wilderness to 50% of the state’s landmass.

“In an orderly and organized way, Vermont can conserve energy and resources and move quickly to a real zero-carbon economy with food self-sufficiency,” Duval said via email.

Duval first got a taste of elected office as a member of the Underhill selectboard, where he participated in policy reform focused on transportation, land use, and energy. He was removed from the board in 2021 after losing a recall election, 570 to 23, in what was the first such recall in Vermont history.

The winner of the Aug. 9 primary face Brenda Siegel, a Brattleboro native, who is running unopposed in the Democratic primary.

DEMOCRATIC U.S. SENATE

When Vermonters go to the polls next Tuesday for the Primary Election, those voting on the Democratic ballot will choose from three candidates: Isaac Evans-Frantz, Niki Thran and Peter Welch. The incumbent, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, who was first elected in 1974 and re-elected each term through 2016, announced this past Nov. 15 that he would not seek re-election, making this the first open U.S. Senate seat in Vermont since 2006.

The three Democratic candidates each see themselves as the best option to take Leahy’s place. Isaac Evans-Frantz is a peace activist from Brattleboro; Niki Thran is a physician who grew up in New York City and lives in Warren; and Peter Welch, the current U.S. Representative for Vermont’s at-large congressional district, is originally from Massachusetts but has long resided in Hartford, Vt.

Native Vermonter Evans-Frantz graduated from Brattleboro High School and has spent a considerable amount of time promoting legislation that advocates for social justice and human rights, such as COVID economic recovery, student voting rights, dental care resourcing for low-income Vermonters and anti-war campaigns.

As senator, Evans-Frantz hopes to create a quality education system that “invests in future generations.” He also said he will tackle economic reform by ensuring that wealthy Americans pay their “fair share” of taxes. Additional issues Evans-Frantz is looking to engage with, as evidenced by his vision of what he would do as senator, are make access to health care more equitable, mostly in terms of putting people’s needs above those of large insurance companies, and looking at and supporting racial and climate justice on a large scale.

Niki Thran, born in New York City but brought up in Putney, Vt., obtained her B.S. from Tufts and her M.D. from Vanderbilt University. She has spent 30 years providing care in emergency rooms across the country. In 2013 her career brought her back to Vermont, and she works as an emergency physician at Randolph’s Gifford Hospital, is the EMS District 8 Medical Advisor and is the president of the Vermont Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians, where she is also a fellow.

If elected to take Sen. Leahy’s place, Thran’s three main goals as senator are to advance affordable health care, build thriving communities and tackle climate change.

Like Thran and Evans-Frantz, Peter Welch, a recognized progressive leader, wants to tackle similar issues related primarily to climate change, healthcare reform and a wide range of social justice issues.

Welch attended the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., and went on to earn a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley. After law school, he moved to Vermont’s Upper Valley, where he worked as a public defender and started a small private law practice.

He was elected to the Vermont Senate in 1980 and later was selected to lead the chamber, becoming the first Democrat in Vermont’s history to hold the position of Senate President Pro Tempore. Welch has represented Vermonters in Congress since 2007.

DEMOCRATIC U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

BY KATIE FUTTERMAN

Three candidates are running for the Democratic nomination for U.S. House of Representatives, Becca Balint, Molly Gray and Louis Meyers. Sianay Chase Clifford’s name will also be on the ballot, but she is not included here because she withdrew from the race last month.

 Reporter Katie Futterman wrote the following short biographies and asked each candidate the same three questions.

Becca Balint

Becca Balint is the first woman and first openly gay person to serve as President Pro Tempore in the Vermont State Senate. She prides herself in fighting for people on the margins, as was instilled in her through her experience with her queer identity, as well as her ancestral connection to her grandfather’s death in the Holocaust. Prior to her life in politics, she taught middle school in Windham County for 14 years.

Balint lives in Brattleboro with her wife, Elizabeth, and two children Abe, 14, and Sarah, 11.

What in your background would make you a good U.S. representative?

I am a former public-school teacher, mom and President of the Vermont Senate. Growing up gay, and the granddaughter of a man killed in the Holocaust, I developed a deep sense of empathy for people on the margins. That empathy has driven me my entire life — first as a middle school teacher in Windham County, then as a State Senator who became the first woman and first openly gay person to serve as President Pro Tempore in the Vermont State Senate. I was elected unanimously to serve as Pro Tem. All my colleagues — Republicans, Democrats and Progressives — chose me because they know I’m a person of integrity who will work with anyone to deliver for Vermonters. In the Senate, I’ve led the charge to pass the first gun safety laws in Vermont history, the strongest reproductive rights in the nation and the largest housing investments in a generation.

Why should Vermonters vote for you?

In this moment, when our fundamental rights are at risk and our democracy is in peril, Vermonters need someone they can trust to fight for them in Washington. I am the only candidate in the race with legislative experience, the only one who has introduced, worked on, and voted on legislation. I have a proven record of fighting for Vermonters’ rights and delivering on housing, reproductive rights, minimum wage increases, climate action and gun safety. I’m known as a coalition-builder, a collaborator who works with anyone to deliver for Vermonters. That’s who I’ll be in Congress. We need tested leaders who will fight for working families, be a voice for the people too often ignored and deliver results.

What position on an issue or two makes you different from your competitors?

With the Supreme Court’s willingness to overturn the Roe precedent, the future of other essential rights is at risk — gay marriage, access to contraception, interracial marriage. I believe it is time for a real and serious conversation about reforming the Supreme Court, including term limits, an ethical code of conduct and expanding the court.

Right now, 43 million Americans are burdened by student debt, including 8.7 million Americans over 50 years old. Student debt is holding working families, communities and the economy back. This is also an effective way to help close the racial wealth gap, as Black college graduates owe an average of $25,000 more in student loan debt than white college graduates. President Biden’s proposal to cancel $10,000 of debt is a good start, but I support cancelling it all.

Molly Gray

Vermont Lt. Gov. Molly Gray was born and raised on her family’s vegetable and dairy farm in South Newbury. She went on to compete as a Division I cross country skier at the University of Vermont. She interned for Sen. Patrick Leahy, and then after graduation worked for Congressman Peter Welch as an aide in Washington, D.C. While working for the International Committee of the Red Cross, Gray led field missions to Haiti, Uganda, Georgia, the Western Balkans and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Gray returned to the Green Mountain State and graduated from Vermont Law School, and received a master’s degree in the protection of vulnerable groups. She served as a law clerk to federal Judge Peter W. Hall, Vermont’s judge on the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals; taught night classes on human rights at Vermont Law School; and served as an Assistant Attorney General. Gray resides in Burlington.

What in your background would make you a good U.S. representative?

I’m the only candidate in the Democratic primary who has a legal background, has promoted human rights overseas, has worked in Congress and has served statewide as lieutenant governor. I spent a half-decade working on Capitol Hill — first for Rep. Peter Welch and then for the International Committee of the Red Cross, where I advocated for U.S. compliance with the Geneva Conventions and led field missions abroad.

Before being elected Vermont’s 82nd lieutenant governor, I served statewide as a Vermont Assistant Attorney General. As lieutenant governor, I’ve worked to give Vermonters a voice in Montpelier and a seat at the table.

Furthermore, I was born on my family’s vegetable and dairy farm in South Newbury; it’s still operated by my family today. I’m the product of Vermont schools, from Newbury Elementary through Vermont Law School, and I’ve lived and worked in communities across Vermont.

Why should Vermonters vote for you?

The diversity of challenges we face require a diversity of experience. I have the right experience, at the right time, to serve as Vermont’s Congresswoman.

Montpelier is not Washington, and the Statehouse is not Congress — I know because I’ve worked in both. From housing to our workforce crisis to climate change, Vermont depends on federal support. I’ll be ready to deliver on day one.

As a trained human rights lawyer, I’ll help lead the charge to codify fundamental rights and counteract this conservative Supreme Court.

And with a war still raging in Ukraine and climate change threatening global security, we need leaders in Congress prepared to lead on foreign policy. During my career, including with the International Committee of the Red Cross, I’ve gained valuable foreign affairs experience.

Vermont only gets one representative in Congress — she needs to be ready for every challenge we face.

What position on an issue or two makes you different from your competitors?

I’m a pragmatic Democrat focused on results over rhetoric.

For example, when it comes to criminal justice reform and public safety, I believe we should be able to achieve both. I do not support “defund the police,” and in Congress I’ll work to strengthen support for law enforcement.

When it comes to addressing inflation, I support a federal gas tax holiday, coupled with urgent investment in renewable energy.

However, the choice in this election has less to do with policy and more to do with experience and approach to leadership.

I’ve learned working for Sen. Leahy and Congressman Welch that in order to be effective in Congress, you have to be willing to bridge divides and work quickly to build coalitions centered on common priorities. I’ll work with anyone to do what is right for Vermont.

That’s how I’ve led as lieutenant governor, and it’s how I’ll lead in Congress.

Louis Meyers

Louis Meyers of South Burlington has been a physician for 30 years, and is passionate about making an impact on the health care system, which includes mental health advocacy. He has a Master’s degree in Social Work from Catholic University and graduated from George Washington University Medical School in 1996. He has worked at Rutland Regional Medical Center since 2013.

Meyers previously ran as an independent for lieutenant governor, and then became the Democratic candidate for the Chittenden District of the Vermont State Senate in 2016.

What in your background would make you a good U.S. representative?

I began my professional life as an M.S.W. social worker and subsequently went to medical school and have been a physician for over 29 years — 16 years in primary care and more than nine years at Rutland Regional Medical Center.

Both social work and medicine are collaborative professions, in which colleagues depend on each other to help their clients or patients.

As a physician, I have to help make life-and-death decisions on a regular basis, and this builds a certain level of both compassion and inner toughness. And you need both qualities to be a good congressman.

Why should Vermonters vote for you?

I ask for Vermonters’ votes because I am ready to work as hard in Congress as I have as a physician to create and pass legislation, which will both save and improve lives. I am very much geared to being a work horse, and not a show horse.

What position on an issue or two makes you different from your competitors?

Molly Gray and I differ in that she wants to keep the F-35 in Burlington, and I would like to support the Air National Guard, but would advocate for different planes and different missions out of Burlington International Airport.

I support a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for any crime committed with a gun, and I believe that is something the other candidates would not support.

And I am less isolationist in my foreign policy positions. I believe that the United States still has a great role, which it must accept in protecting freedom and human dignity both inside and outside our borders.

REPUBLICAN LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR

BY SAM LIPIN

Two candidates are running for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor, Joe Benning and Gregory Thayer. Reporter Sam Lipin wrote the following short biographies and asked each candidate the same three questions.

Joe Benning

Joe Benning has been involved in community action since he began volunteering as a camp counselor for mentally ill children when he was 11. At Lyndon State College, he became heavily involved in the college’s radio station and was president of the Student Senate. After graduating with a degree in Social Studies, he earned his law degree from Vermont Law School and has enjoyed a long career as a trial lawyer, receiving accreditation for his pro bono work. Benning, 65, currently serves as a Vermont State Senator and lives in Lyndon with his wife Debbie, his two kids Emily and Justin, and his cat George.

  1. What in your background would make you a good lieutenant governor?

It is important to begin by identifying the three main responsibilities of the lieutenant governor. First, they moderate the meetings of the Senate. Second, they are one of three on a body known as the “Committee on Committees,” which is responsible for assigning each senator to their committee assignments and also for appointing chairs of each standing and ad hoc committee. Finally, should something happen where the governor is no longer capable of serving in that capacity, the lieutenant governor is responsible to take over that role.

 With respect to moderating Senate meetings, I know how to run a meeting. I’ve been Town Moderator in Lyndon for 10 years; was Chair of the Vermont Human Rights Commission; was President of the Lyndonville Rotary Club and Lyndon State College Foundation; am now the only Republican chair of a standing committee in the Senate (Senate Institutions) and have chaired several Joint and Senate ad hoc committees over the course of twelve years in the legislature. I’ve also served on various Joint and Senate Rules committees, so I know how the system works. I’ve also been in the Senate for 12 years, where I’ve witnessed the moderating skills of three different lieutenant governors (Scott, Zuckerman and Gray).

With respect to making committee appointments, I know the players. I’ve seen, over the course of my 12-year tenure, how they work together and who has the best skills when running committees.

 With respect to taking over the role of the governor, I have worked with and for Gov. Phil Scott for 12 years. As former Senate Minority Leader and current Senate Institutions chair, I have worked with his Administrative team on a daily basis. I’ve campaigned for him and have traveled around the state with him on campaign and gubernatorial appointments. Should something happen where Phil Scott is unable to continue in his role, my transition into his role would be seamless. This ability distinguishes me from every other candidate in this race, Republican or Democrat.

  1. Why should Vermonters vote for you?

First and foremost, I bring historical and institutional knowledge into the role, unmatched by any other candidate.

Secondly, I am a fierce advocate for returning civility, integrity and respect to the political process, something I believe every Vermonter is yearning for. By nature I am a fiscal conservative. At a time when we are anticipating a recession and federal COVID-19 money is about to dry up, I appear to be the only candidate speaking about the need to help Phil Scott deliver the message that Vermont still faces an affordability crisis. I’d use the lieutenant governor’s position to help him remind legislators of that fact. Finally, I am a vocal proponent of all things Vermont, from her people and their work ethic, their history, and their green hills and silver waters. I’d use that office as a podium to do what I can to promote Vermont however and wherever the opportunity presents itself.

  1. What position on an issue or two makes you different from your competitors?

The bills I’ve advanced during my legislative career have a legacy of helping Vermonters and Vermont’s image. The first bill I signed onto back in 2011 brought an expungement process to Vermont. Since that time, over 25,000 expungement cases have cleaned the minor criminal records of those who made mistakes years ago.

Money I secured into the Capital Bill is right now being used to complete infrastructure projects along the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail, which will bring tremendous economic and recreational opportunities across a 93-mile long section of Vermont. Women with dense breast tissue now have a law requiring their doctors to go beyond a simple mammogram in the search for breast cancer. The so-called “Chittenden Six-Pack” in the State Senate, a district well out of compliance with national norms, has finally been broken up into three districts.

Vermont has a Latin Motto: Stella Quarta Decima Fulgeat (May the 14th Star Shine Bright). Cannabis has been legalized and a regulated tax and sale system is currently under construction. Vermont successfully placed a Vermont roadside historical marker honoring Vermont Civil War troops on the soil of Virginia. Due process of law is a component of Vermont’s “Red Flag Law.” No other candidate for this position can claim this kind of track record. No other candidate has more time in the Vermont State Senate or has served in a caucus leadership role.

Gregory Thayer

Gregory Thayer, born and raised in Rutland, is a 4th generation Vermonter. After receiving a master’s degree in Business Administration Accounting, Thayer has had a long career both in civic duty — serving on the Rutland City Board of Aldermen, the Rutland Downtown Partnership and the Rutland Redevelopment Authority, among other — and in banking and finance — managing Helene’s Store & Deli before a 20-year career with Bank of America and Citibank. In addition to campaigning around the state, Thayer currently works as a financial accountant and tax advisor.

He has said publicly that he went to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021, to protest but he did not go into the capitol building.

The 59-year-old lives in Rutland still today with his partner Tammy Lancour.

  1. What in your background would make you a good lieutenant governor?

I’m a Vermont resident with over 35 years of professional business experience and I have been involved in both local and Vermont politics for over 25 years. I served on the Rutland Board of Aldermen, and in various City of Rutland Committees and non-profit organization doing work with many people with diverse backgrounds. Also, I have raised four awesome children and that prepares you for everything. Also, I’m a Constitutionalist I support your rights embodied in that cherished document.

  1. Why should Vermonters vote for you?

Because I’m a sound listener that gets results building coalitions with all people! Further, I have the experience, integrity, openness, transparency, honesty, and professionalism to do the best job for all Vermonters. People like me, I’m not arrogant, I’m approachable and I’m real like them. My personal traits are beyond reproach. I will fight to protect your rights and our Vermont and Federal constitutions.

  1. What position on an issue or two makes you different from your competitors?

I support our Constitutions and I will Vote “no” on Prop 5/Article 22 and “yes” to protect your 2A/Article 15 rights. My primary opponent voted twice, not once but two times to killing unborn babies and taking parents rights away from them. And the high cost of living in Vermont, the affordability issue. It starts with taxes and regulation and I would not have voted for the $8.3 billion state budget this past May. My opponent voted “yes” on every spending bill before the Legislature. He is a big spender that has made it very, very expensive to live, work and play in the greatest state in the union. My opponent is wrapped up tight in this high cost of living in Vermont because of his yes votes.

REPUBLICAN U.S. SENATE

By SHAYIQ SHAH

Running to be the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate are three Vermont candidates with different backgrounds and who are passionate about different issues.

The first is Gerald Malloy, who is a veteran and is “deeply concerned with the direction” the United States is headed in.

Malloy, 60, graduated from West Point in 1984 with a BS/Political Science and served as an active-duty field officer. During his 22 years of service in the Army, Malloy held leaderships positions while deployed in Germany, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan, Canada and the U.S. He retired in 2006 as a major with an Honorable Discharge, having earned the Bronze Star and seven meritorious service medals. Since 2011, Malloy has been active in business management and has run small and large businesses. He lives in Wethersfield in Windsor County.

Malloy prioritizes economic prosperity and emphasizes the importance of tackling the $30 trillion U.S. debt by reducing the size of the federal government. He takes a strong stance on all illegal immigration and is concerned about the volumes of the chemical Fentanyl coming from China into the U.S. He considers himself “pro-life” and supports taking the decision away from the Supreme Court and passing it onto the “States and the People.”

Also on the GOP ballot is Myers Mermel, who is an investment banker and has run a commercial estate finance business based in New York City for the past 35 years. Born on a U.S Navy base in Sasebo, Japan, Mermel claims to have overseen the relocation of 300,000 high paying jobs in his career.

A Manchester resident, Mermel is a graduate of the University of Vermont after which he pursued a Master’s in American history from Columbia University and a Master’s in theology from Yale. Mermel’s political career began back when he was at UVM when he served as a White House intern under George H.W. Bush.

Mermel believes that he is running an ideas-driven campaign that will improve the lives of all Vermonters. His priorities include stopping inflation, securing free broadband for all taxpayers, bringing Tesla to Vermont, affordable housing, and ensuring Vermont receives its fair share from the federal earmarks among other issues.

The third horse in the race is the campaign run by Christina Nolan, al lifelong Vermonter and a former United States Attorney for the Green Mountain State. Nolan graduated summa cum laude from the University of Vermont and went on to earn her Juris Doctor degree from Boston College Law School.

Serving as a U.S. Attorney from 2017-2021, Nolan claims that under her leadership, the U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecuted multiple multimillion-dollar fraudsters, including those who propagated the EB-5 Ponzi scheme. She also led the investigation against Purdue Pharma that resulted in an $8.3 billon settlement, the largest ever against a pharmaceutical manufacturer.

Nolan has also co-chaired the Vermont Human Trafficking Task Force and was heavily involved in the Justice Department’s initiative to combat sexual harassment in Vermont Housing. She prioritizes a range of issues affecting women and has used the existing federal gun laws to charge domestic abusers in the past.

All three candidates will be on the ballot on Aug. 9 in the GOP primary race for U.S. Senator from Vermont.

DEMOCRATIC ATTORNEY GENERAL

BY KATIE FUTTERMAN

Upon TJ Donovan’s sudden announcement this spring that he would not seek re-election for his post as Vermont attorney general, Democrats Charity Clark and Rory Thibault swiftly swooped in to run for the office.

The attorney general is the chief law enforcement officer of the state, which means that person enforces, defends and protects Vermont laws and, by extension, Vermont citizens. Both candidates largely agree on key aspects of the Democratic platform, from reproductive rights to climate goals, as well as criminal justice reform.

Main differences lie in Thibault’s advocacy for the role of the attorney general in court, whereas Clark does not believe that to be the appropriate role. Moreover, Thibault has argued for a special or independent prosecutor to step into matters of allegations of police misconduct and to help bolster public trust in law enforcement, while Clark does not believe that to be a good idea, and instead says it should be left to the officers and prosecutors.

Clark has already sat close to the office, serving as Donovan’s chief of staff from 2018 until this past May. She grew up stocking the shelves and working the cash register at her family’s grocery store in southern Vermont and attended the University of Vermont. Clark was first a policy analyst at the Vermont Governor’s Office, and then graduated from Boston College Law School. She then became the Assistant Attorney General in the Public Protection Division in 2014 before assuming her chief of staff position for the AG.

Outside of her work, the Williston resident prides herself in her community involvement, serving as the chair of the board of her town library and a member on the boards of First Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington and Burr & Burton Academy. In 2018, Clark helped found the Junior League of Champlain Valley’s Diaper Bank, which has distributed over a million diapers statewide to families in need. If elected, Clark would be the first female attorney general.

Although Thibault was born and raised in Connecticut, he describes Vermont as home for him, as he spent a lot of time visiting his grandparents in Vermont growing up. He graduated from the University of Richmond on an Army ROTC scholarship and Vermont Law School in 2007. Afterwards, he became a judge advocate for the U.S. Army, traveling from place to place.

Thibault was hired as a deputy state’s attorney for Washington County in June 2016 and was promoted to chief deputy shortly thereafter.

In October 2017, Thibault joined the Attorney General’s office as an assistant attorney general in the Criminal Division. In November 2018, the Cabot resident was elected to a four-year term as Washington County state’s attorney, where he now sits. He also serves as a representative to the Vermont Sentencing Commission and on the Executive Board of State’s Attorneys, as well as the Cabot School Board.

REPUBLICAN U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

BY SHAYIQ SHAH

Three candidates are running for the Republican nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives, Liam Madden, Anya Tynio and Ercka Redic. Reporter Shayiq Shah wrote the following short biographies and asked each candidate the same three questions.

Liam Madden

Liam Madden is the director of solar energy for a Vermont Home Energy company. The 38-year-old Rockingham resident joined the U.S Marine Corps in 2002 and rose to the rank of sergeant. Madden served in Iraq and returned home in 2006 being “angry and ashamed” for having partaken in such “senseless violence.” He claims to have realized that he and others had risked their lives for a “political class I grew to hold in contempt.”

  1. What in your background would make you a good U.S. representative?

I am a leader: a Marine Corps sergeant; the leader of the nation’s largest organization of anti-war Iraq veterans, and an entrepreneur who won M.I.T.’s Solve award for business models addressing sustainability. I have what is most important for a leader, and what I have not seen in any of the other candidates — I am willing to risk what is valuable to me to do what is right, even when it is unpopular.

  1. Why should Vermonters vote for you?

Because experience using broken tools is a weak reason to vote for anyone, and that is the core appeal used by the other candidates. We need vision, innovation, and courage. I am the only candidate speaking about how to make government a fundamentally better tool for solving our collective problems.

  1. What position on an issue or two makes you different from your competitor?

I articulate technological and structural changes to make the government free of two-party (elite-controlled) domination and corruption. I create common ground to both reduce gun violence while protecting the second amendment. I speak to our energy crisis with realities neither party acknowledges, and the economic paradigm shift we must democratically navigate.

Anya Tynio

Anya Tynio serves as the Orleans County Committeewoman to the State Republican Party. She also fills the roles of the secretary and treasurer for the Charleston Republican Committee and as the Vice Chair of the Orleans County Republican Committee. Tynio, 29, first ran for the U.S House in 2018 and says she stayed active in politics after that. She placed second in the 2018 GOP Primary, but became the Republican candidate in the General Election when Primary Winner H. Brooke Paige withdrew.

She is a Christian who believes in the protection of the unborn human child and considers herself to be a fiscal conservative.

  1. What in your background would make you a good U.S. representative?

I currently serve as the Orleans County GOP Committeewoman and as the Vice Chair for the Orleans County Republican Committee. My background in business, management, marketing and agriculture will assist me in being an effective representative for Vermont.

  1. Why should Vermonters vote for you?

My priorities in Washington, D.C., are:

  • Lowering inflation and the cost of food, fuel, and essential services.
  • Defending and preserving our Constitutional freedoms.
  • Promoting American business and employment to provide better opportunities for prosperity and economic stability.
  • Providing for the safety and security of our citizens by securing our borders, supporting law enforcement, and keeping our military well trained and well equipped.
  1. What position on an issue or two makes you different from your competitor?

I differ from my opponents on most positions. I believe in upholding the Constitution as written, preserving the integrity of the party and our political process and I believe in the sanctity of life.

Ericka Redic

Ericka Redic was born and raised in Vermont and claims to have made a career out of helping small businesses succeed. Redic earned an associate degree from Champlain College in 2001 and a bachelor’s degree in 2010. The Burlington accountant works closely with women recovering from substance abuse and continues to support many organizations that uplift marginalized, under-served and at-risk people.

  1. What in your background would make you a good U.S. representative?

Being born and raised in Vermont I was taught values like hard work, perseverance and acceptance. With a bachelor’s in Accounting from Champlain I have spent much of the last 20 years helping individuals and businesses achieve their goals and dreams. I know what America needs to get this economy back on track.

  1. Why should Vermonters vote for you?

Vermonters should vote for me because I am the only candidate with practical, real-world experience dealing with the challenges facing our nation. Washington is spending the earnings of future generations without regard for the impact on working class Americans. As Vermont’s next congresswoman I will work to bring down the national debt and help stabilize the economy. We will restore our energy independence and help ensure access to mental health services.

  1. What position on an issue or two makes you different from your competitors?

Liam Madden is admittedly not a Republican and has openly stated that he is an Independent and is running as an R to have access to primary activities.

Anya Tynio and I disagree on many things including the U.S. involvement in Ukraine and whether there should be a federal abortion ban.

In a recent candidate forum with Town Meeting TV, Ms. Tynio suggested that the U.S. should be enforcing a no-fly zone over Ukraine (an act of war), and further that we should “kick our enemy when they are down.” I am against going to war with Russia. This administration has demonstrated its incompetence with the withdrawal from Afghanistan. I do not believe they have ability to be successful in a foreign conflict.

At a VT Grassroots candidate forum, Anya said she both supported the overturning of Roe vs. Wade because it is a state’s rights issue, and then advocated for a federal abortion ban. I agree that it is a state’s rights issue, and because I am a Constitutional conservative I am against a federal ban.

DEMOCRATIC SECRETARY OF STATE

BY KATIE FUTTERMAN

Three candidates are running for the Democratic nomination for secretary of state: Sarah Copeland Hanzas, John Odum and Chris Winters. Reporter Katie Futterman wrote the following short biographies and asked each candidate the same three questions.

Sarah Copeland Hanzas

Sarah Copeland Hanzas grew up in Corinth, where she spent dinners debating politics with her family. She graduated from the University of Vermont with degrees in History and Geology and completed her teacher training at Upper Valley Educators Institute. The Bradford resident has taught science and coached youth sports. For the past 18 years, Hanzas has represented Bradford, Fairlee and West Fairlee in the state legislature, where she served on the Health Care Committee and as House Majority Leader.

Hanzas is the current chair of the Government Operations Committee, and has also served on the Executive Committee of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

She and her husband John have three children. From 2010 to 2021 Copeland Hanzas owned and operated The Local Buzz Cafe in Bradford.

What in your background would make you a good secretary of state?

As chair of Government Operations, I led the legislative oversight of the Secretary of State’s office. Writing laws that govern the office gives me the best insight into the challenges the Secretary will face moving forward. I led the expansion of Vote-by-Mail, enacted reforms to increase transparency in campaign finance, modified our Office of Professional Regulation (OPR) laws to allow the office to work better for licensed professionals, and more. As a small business owner, I know how to lead an organization, manage personnel and inspire a team. This experience gives me an understanding of the challenges businesses in small town Vermont face. With 18 years of experience asking Vermonters for their vote, I know how to make government work better. I have listened to ideas and suggestions from town clerks, local officials, ordinary citizens, business leaders and licensed professionals that inform the policies I will enact as Secretary of State.

Why should Vermonters vote for you?

I will take my 18 years experience to work defending democracy and ensuring the office works well for all its constituencies. The office should produce a voter guide, so Vermonters can use their vote-by-mail time to research the candidates who most closely match their values. We will bring back the town clerk advisory committee, so local elections administrators have a direct line to the office. I want to know how the office can support clerks from communities of all sizes in all corners of the state. I will open a dialog with the licensed professions through our OPR. I will ask them if their profession would find a geographically searchable database more helpful than the spreadsheet listing that exists now. Many of our professionals are sole proprietors, these Main Street businesses could benefit from a map listing so customers can find them.

What position on an issue or two makes you different from your competitors?

Democracy is under threat. From misinformation about stolen elections to active voter suppression, the threats are here and we can’t take democracy for granted. I would reinstate the Education and Outreach coordinator, which existed under Secretary Markowitz. This is a person who will help develop civics curriculum for our school teachers. We also must recognize that we’ve missed a whole generation of Vermonters who didn’t have civics in school. So I would go out on a Democracy Tour, engaging with Vermonters in communities across the state. When people don’t understand how our elections work, they’re more susceptible to misinformation about stolen elections.

John Odum

John Odum is the city clerk for Montpelier, where he has lived for 26 years with his wife and two sons. He serves on the Advisory Board of the Cyber Policy Initiative at the University of Chicago Harris Public Policy School, and presents at the annual “Voting Village” at the DEFCON international hacker conference. Previously, Odum was the technology director for the Vermont Democratic Party, as well as Washington County Democratic Chair. He was a political organizer for Bernie Sanders’s 1998 campaign, and the statewide field director for the Clavelle for Governor campaign.

Odum founded and published the political blog Green Mountain Daily.

What in your background would make you a good secretary of state?

First, my experience as a 10-year elected city clerk. Town clerks work on most aspects of the Secretary of State’s duties (elections, archives, licensing) on a neighbor-to-neighbor, hands-on level. I am a Certified Municipal Clerk and also hold a certificate in Election Administration from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. I’m also an expert in election cybersecurity; I am a Certified Ethical Hacker and Certified Network Defense Architect and serve on the Advisory Board of the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy Cyber Policy Initiative. Also, my work in nonprofits such as Planned Parenthood and VNRC very much informs my vision for the office. I would bring a uniquely effective skillset, background and perspective to the job.

Why should Vermonters vote for you?

I offer a unique approach to, and perspective on, the office. For one, I would like to see the Office of Professional Regulation leveraged to promote professional development training in anti-racist, LGBTQIA+ supportive and environmental issues. Second, I would take election security to the next level by embracing “open source” development of critical systems like voter rolls and election management (open source is collaborative, non-corporate, and could be cheaper and more secure than regular third-party vendors). I would also use the office as a central hub to fight disinformation campaigns by connecting clerks to the Department of Homeland Security (and vice versa). I would also provide clerks with the dedicated hardware and training necessary to secure elections locally against cyber and physical threats. I would also support efforts in communities to expand local democracy (through non-citizen voting and 16-17-year-old voting).

What position on an issue or two makes you different from your competitors?

I believe the Office of Professional Regulation presents incredible opportunities to promote Vermont values by encouraging targeted professional development programs to licensees and businesses in every community in the state. Licensees completing social justice or environmental trainings could be promoted by the Secretary of State. Such a program would also give the Secretary of State themself a position to support such issues.

I would also not be standoffish on local efforts to bring non-citizen voting and 16-17-year-old voting to local community elections, but instead actively provide support and resources to those communities. I would also immediately work to move towards Ranked Choice Voting for all statewide elections and provide support to communities that want to do so locally. I would bring together stakeholders (voters, clerks, advocates, and clerks in Maine which has been using the system) for town hall meetings on the subject across Vermont.

Chris Winters

Deputy Secretary of State Chris Winters was the first in his family to go to college. After college, he obtained criminal justice and law degrees, and graduated from Snelling Center’s Vermont Leadership Institute and the Council of State Government’s Eastern Leadership Academy. Winters opened a sole practitioner law office in Barre, and was offered a job at the Secretary of State’s office 25 years ago. He served several years as counsel to licensing boards, and was eventually promoted to Director of the Office of Professional Regulation (OPR). Now, Winters is in charge of HR and IT at the Secretary of State’s Office, leads the annual legislative agenda, heads up communications and started the office Twitter account and Facebook page.

The father of four, Winters and his wife, Sarah, reside in Berlin.

What in your background would make you a good secretary of state?

I have been Deputy Secretary of State to Jim Condos for the last seven years and have served in the office for 25. I worked my way up from junior attorney to director of the agency’s largest division, the Office of Professional Regulation and then deputy, where I oversee all aspects of the office, including elections, professional regulation, business registration and archives. I also oversee HR, IT, the budget and legislative agenda. I’m the acting secretary when Jim Condos is not available.

I have a record of results, including proposing and implementing a vote by mail system under extremely difficult conditions, leading to record voter turnout during a pandemic. I’m proud of my work and passionate about serving Vermonters. I’ll bring stability and continuity to this important office to face today’s challenges. I’m the only candidate who will hit the ground running and be ready to lead on day one.

Why should Vermonters vote for you?

I am endorsed by the last two very successful secretaries of state, Jim Condos and Deb Markowitz. I have been on the leadership team for both, building and leading an office known for its efficiency, transparency and responsiveness.

Today, democracy is under fire. Election integrity is being shaken through disinformation. Here in Vermont, we have held the line and pushed back, increasing voting access while maintaining integrity. I’ll use my experience to stand up to the attacks, threats, intimidation and misinformation.

We are incredibly fortunate to have the voting access, civil discourse and direct access to our government that we have here in Vermont. As deputy secretary, I have been advocating for and working to preserve these principles. As Secretary of State, you can count on me to continue to fight for these ideals, uphold our successes and build on them with fresh ideas.

What position on an issue or two makes you different from your competitors?

I strongly believe in transparency as the key to rebuilding public trust at a time when many are rightly questioning the effectiveness or motives of government. I have traveled the state with Secretary Condos on the “Transparency Tour,” for years, educating hundreds of Vermonters about their Constitutional Right to Know under the open meeting and public record laws.

Open government is good government and leads to more accountability and greater trust. As the lawyer who has assisted Vermonters, agencies and municipalities with these questions for years, I understand how important this issue is and am the only one talking about it on the campaign trail.

I will continue the Transparency Tour in some form, and will be a strong advocate for Vermonters on this issue, even though that does not always make me popular among my colleagues in other agencies or in the legislature.

ADDISON-2 STATE REPRESENTATIVE

PETER CONLON & WENDY HARLIN

BY JOHN FLOWERS

PETER CONLON

Rep. Peter Conlon, D-Cornwall, has experienced a lot during his six years representing the Addison-2 district in the Vermont House.

Special sessions. Vetoes. Building coalitions. Sponsoring and passing bills. Legislating during a pandemic.

This year, Conlon is finding out, for the first time, what it’s like to be involved in a contested election.

While Ripton’s Mac Cox mounted a write-in campaign for Addison-2 during the 2020 election, Conlon this year faces his first formal opponent, and it comes from his own party.

Ripton Democrat Wendy Harlin and Conlon will square off in an Aug. 9 primary election. And it could be winner-take-all, as no Republicans, independents or minor party candidates have so far surfaced to run in the general election.

“I feel my record as a Democrat in the House is rock solid, so I was somewhat surprised to face a challenge within the party,” Conlon, 58, said. “But anything that sparks voter interest in our Legislature is welcome.”

The Addison-2 House district encompasses the towns of Cornwall, Goshen, Leicester, Ripton and Salisbury.

Harlin, a member of the Ripton School District board, cited Conlon’s association with H.727 — a bill that updates how union school districts are formed and how communities can withdraw from them — as a major reason for her candidacy.

But Conlon countered, during a recent interview with the Independent, that his work on H.727 proves his support of local control by communities pursuing educational independence.

H.727 was a rewrite of a state statute that hadn’t been updated since 1960, according to Conlon, and arrived in the House Education Committee with no language pertaining to withdrawing from union school districts — a matter that was left for the Legislature to decide.

The panel heard abundant testimony from stakeholders like the Vermont Agency of Education and the State Board of Education, “advocating to give the state the power to stop a withdrawal if the SBE or the AOE didn’t think it was in the best interest of students,” Conlon recalled.

House Education members found themselves in two camps, according to Conlon: Those who supported giving the SBE and AOE veto power over withdrawals, and “others, like me, who felt that the unelected secretary of education shouldn’t have the power to thwart the will of the voters. I advocated very strongly for that position of keeping the state board and the AOE in an advisory role, only.”

House Education passed out an H.727 without the veto powers sought by the SBE and AOE. But the Senate-passed version of the bill granted those veto powers to the AOE and SBE, according to Conlon.

So the two bills had to be reconciled in a conference committee, and Conlon said he successfully lobbied for the House version that placed communities in the driver’s seat for education independence drives.

Conlon believes the ultimate goal of H.727 was “to improve transparency and accountability by making the withdrawal group a public body, subject to the Open Meeting Law, and to provide voters with far more information than was (previously) required.”

“When Ripton was promoting its withdrawal, they told folks in all the towns they expected to be assigned to another SU and were having substantive talks with the White River Valley SU. Neither of those things came to be, and no one knew that until long after the public votes had taken place. That was a key bit of information voters didn’t have (prior to going to the polls).”

Conlon said he’s proud of his advocacy for towns’ rights when it came to H.727, and reported receiving two messages of thanks from the Ripton School board and another from a lawyer representing Lincoln’s withdrawal bid from the Mount Abe Unified School District.

Conlon acknowledged the ACSD board, during his leadership, began exploring potential remedies for declining enrollment, rising school costs and deteriorating school buildings. One of the ideas floated centered on reducing the district’s count of seven elementary schools from the current seven, to three or four. The board has yet to call for any school closures. Ripton launched its independence drive last year as a way of ensuring the long-term future of its local school.

“I think the 13-member ACSD board took very seriously its role to create a high-quality, equitable and affordable preK-12 education, and part of that required a serious look at our footprint and how they fit with our goals,” said Conlon, who no longer chairs the ACSD board.

If re-elected in Addison-2, Conlon could get an even larger role on House Education. The current chair of that panel — Rep. Kate Webb, D-Shelburne — is stepping down this year, and Conlon is a potential replacement.

It’s a challenge he said he’d welcome, and he believes he has assembled a good résumé to be considered for a committee chairmanship.

It’s clear House Education will have a slate of weighty assignments during the 2023-2024 biennium, according to Conlon, with a list that includes:

  • Ensuring a proven payoff for the money and programs the state has invested in the post-pandemic recovery of Vermont’s public school system.
  • Figuring out “how to address the overwhelming school facilities needs in the state.” He acknowledged many school districts have had to defer important building renovations due to limited resources. Until 2007 the state covered 30% of the bonded costs of school capital improvements.
  • Exploring the impacts of Vermont’s new special education and pupil-weighting laws. If those laws change the financial landscape for school districts, the Legislature will need to make adjustments, according to Conlon.
  • Working on a paid family leave initiative that can earn Gov. Phil Scott’s signature.

Looking at state policy as a whole, Conlon said the Legislature needs to make more progress on climate change solutions, improve the state’s child care system, and create more affordable housing opportunities.

Looking back, Conlon is proud of the role House Education has played in reinvigorating the state’s college system; supporting universal school meals; creating greater public education equity through new pupil weighting laws; and establishing a new special education law that enhances the effectiveness, availability and equity of services provided to students who require additional support.

WENDY HARLIN

Just seven years ago, Wendy Harlin and her family were living in Nashville, Tenn., home to the Grand Ole Opry.

But in 2016, they traded the country ham, honky tonks and country music of the Volunteer State for the snow, sugarhouses and Robert Frost Interpretive Trail of Ripton, Vt.

To say that Harlin has embraced her adoptive town would be an understatement. She recently joined the Ripton School District board and is now hoping to represent the town — along with four other nearby communities — in Montpelier, as a member of the Vermont House of Representatives.

“One of the things I love about Ripton and Vermont in general is there is a call to civic duty,” she said of her sudden foray into state and local politics. “There’s more of a sense of personal and civic responsibility in a small town in a small state, where you see a problem and don’t expect someone else to take care of it. You just figure out a way to take care of it, and do it.”

Harlin, 53, is challenging incumbent and fellow Democrat Rep. Peter Conlon of Cornwall, for a two-year term representing the Addison-2 House district that encompasses Salisbury, Cornwall, Ripton, Leicester and Goshen. The pair will square off in an Aug. 9 primary. At this point, no other candidates have filed to run for the Addison-2 post in the Nov. 8 General Election.

Harlin — a self-employed “project planner” — admits that just prior to her family’s move to Ripton, she had no plans to even enroll her children at Ripton Elementary, let alone join its board of directors. And running for the state Legislature wasn’t even a remote consideration.

But a visit to Ripton Elementary soon after their arrival changed everything. The school and its staff were welcoming, to the point where Harlin and her spouse, Matt Flinner, felt comfortable enrolling their two youngest children there, instead of continuing to homeschool them.

“It’s definitely changed our dynamic here,” she said. “We found our community immediately by entering the Ripton school. We feel like we may have had a very different experience moving here had we not had the local school.”

And that’s at the heart of why Harlin joined the local school board and a major reason for her House candidacy. Ripton is in the process of breaking away from the Addison Central School District in an effort to preserve its elementary school, which is one of the smallest in the district and was a candidate for closure under the union district.

She is opposed to recently passed legislation (like Act 46 and H.727) that she said make it harder for small rural schools, like Ripton’s, to remain open. And she hopes to unseat Conlon, whom she believes hasn’t proven to be an ally — both in the Legislature and the Addison Central School District board — for keeping rural schools open.

Harlin said she tried to recruit like-minded friends and acquaintances to run against Conlon, people she said were younger and more extroverted than herself. When she found no takers, she decided to do it herself, believing Conlon is in line to chair the House Education Committee if he’s reelected this year.

“I believe that the chair should be someone both pragmatic and inspired; someone moved to encourage democracy rather than stifle it,” she said. “I think a good leader must be able to revisit their own ideas in the face of new evidence, or an outcry of their constituents, and make adjustments to forge a new path ahead. In this case, someone who is capable of meeting the current needs of our educational system and also able to see beyond that. Someone willing to rework Act 46 (the state’s education governance consolidation law) to address its fundamental shortcomings and revisit the ideals of its original intent.”

HARLIN’S TOP ISSUES

If elected, Harlin would like to be placed on the House Education Committee, but she has other interests as well.

She believes Vermont’s economy, health care, environmental and education systems are all in crisis. Harlin supports the idea of applying some of its federal COVID relief funds to help stabilize its economy.

Increasing the state’s affordable housing stock and broadband infrastructure should also be legislative priorities, according to Harlin, while increasing access to quality health care is also on her agenda.

“We must ensure quality access to women’s reproductive services, especially with the combined hit of the recent SCOTUS decision and locally the closing of the Middlebury Planned Parenthood center,” she said.

She noted rising opioid-related deaths in Vermont, something she said could be addressed “through prevention, treatment and harm-reduction measures.”

Harlin noted Vermont’s graying population and pointed to recent data from the national Alzheimer’s Association indicating the number of Vermonters living with Alzheimer’s or other dementias is expected to increase to 17,000 by 2025. With an abundance of vacancies at home health agencies, she’s concerned a growing number of Vermonters will need to provide unpaid, unsupported care to their loved ones suffering from memory loss ailments.

She said the environment deserves special attention.

“Unlike the other issues, the climate emergency is an existential threat,” she said. “In order to reach the goals set forth in Vermont’s Climate Action Plan, I will work to pass versions of the climate legislation vetoed by the governor last session: the Clean Heat Standard Bill and the conservation bill (H.606), so that we can put them into action.”

As a “longtime vocal advocate for the environment,” and for “human rights and social services for underrepresented community members,” Harlin said she also has interest in serving on the House Natural Resources, Fish & Wildlife or Human Services committees.

She’d also seek to serve on the Legislature’s standing Sexual Harassment Prevention Panel, which investigates sexual harassment claims against House members and staff.

“As an outspoken survivor of sexual assault, I would review any such complaint with dedication, if assigned to that panel,” Harlin said.

DEMOCRATIC LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR

CHARLIE KIMBELL, PATRICIA PRESTON, KITTY TOLL AND DAVID ZUCKERMAN

BY WILLIAM REED

Four candidates are running for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor: Charlie Kimbell, Patricia Preston, Kitty Toll and David Zuckerman. Reporter William Reed wrote the following short biographies and asked each candidate the same three questions.

Charlie Kimbell

Charlie Kimbell was born and raised in St. Albans and Brownsville. He graduated from Woodstock Union High School and then UVM. He worked at Vermont National Bank and Wild Apple Graphics, an art publishing and licensing company in Woodstock where he eventually became chief strategy officer and the director of licensing.

He started Kimbell Enterprises in 2007 to provide marketing consulting to growing businesses. Kimbell joined Manufacturing Information Systems Inc. in Woodstock in 2010 as director of marketing and later became VP of sales and marketing.

The Woodstock resident served four years as village trustee. In 2009 Kimbell was appointed to the Woodstock Economic Development Commission and served as chairman; he left the commission in 2020. Kimbell was elected to the Vermont House in 2016, and was re-elected in 2018 and 2020. He is married to Carolyn Riehl of Woodstock with whom he has three children.

What would make you a good lieutenant governor?

I’ve led many businesses and organizations over the past 30 years, working with individuals to create a shared vision and strategic plan. Whether it was the local Economic Development Commission, a software development company, or a large running race, I’ve been able to work with others to accomplish the goals we established. As the co-leader of the Rural Caucus in the Vermont House, I have been able to bring people together from different parties along their common interests and move legislation forward.

Why should voters choose you?

I am a moderate Democrat, with extensive experience both in and out of government, working towards practical and pragmatic solutions to Vermont’s biggest challenges: workforce development, housing, childcare and rural vitality. During my current term in the state legislature, I was able to shape and pass a major workforce development and economic recovery package which will help everyone in the state.

I am committed to the Vermont political tradition of self-reliance, social justice, Yankee frugality and environmental stewardship. I grew up in St. Albans and have lived or worked throughout the state, so I understand the issues that affect each region, from the smallest towns to the largest.

What positions make you different from your competitors?

I believe the solution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Vermont is a workforce issue. Our stated goal is to weatherize 90,000 homes to reduce the amount of fuel oil that is consumed. At the current pace of 1,500 to 2,500 homes per year, we won’t meet our goal for 36-60 years! We need to increase the labor force to do this important, but difficult, work. We have the money to do the work, but we don’t have the staff to do it. That is one of the areas I would focus on to combat climate change.

Patricia Preston

Patricia Preston was born and raised in Randolph Center. She earned a degree in Secondary Education from UVM, using it to become an educator in Vermont and abroad. She obtained a master’s in International Education and later worked in nonprofit and international positions, including teaching and developing curriculum in Tanzania and Guatemala.

In 2014, she returned to Vermont and began working with the Vermont Council on World Affairs. The Burlington resident has served as the executive director of the Vermont Council on World Affairs, a nonprofit dedicated to improving Vermont.

What would make you a good lieutenant governor?

 My family has been in Vermont for four generations. Growing up on a family-run dairy farm instilled a deep respect for our land, our communities and the work ethic that helped build this state. Working as president and CEO of the Vermont Council on World Affairs for the past decade provided me with the knowledge and experience required to serve as lieutenant governor. Overseeing federal funding instilled a sense of fiscal responsibility and the ability to maximize impact while spending economically. Consequently, the organization increased its revenue by 130 percent under my leadership.

Why should voters choose you?

We need leaders with a true understanding of the multiple crises facing Vermonters. I will find solutions with the same scrappy and innovative spirit that sparked a 130 percent growth in revenue at the VCWA.

Unlike my opponents, I’m a political outsider who represents a generation able to confront modern challenges with modern ideas. My experience at the VCWA has taught me the value of facilitating civil discourse amongst Vermonters of all backgrounds. In doing so, I gained a broad understanding of affairs ranging in scope from hyper-local to global through the eyes of a broad set of Vermonters. My ability to facilitate conversations by drawing on multiple perspectives will prove invaluable as I work towards dismantling divisions that prevent effective legislation from being passed in Montpelier.

As a member of the next generation of leaders, I can speak for my peers, who deserve assurance that they will be able to afford raising their families in the state they love. As a woman, I feel the urgency to keep Vermont safe for all women. Most of all, as a lifelong Vermonter, I know how critical protecting our environment is. We are the Green Mountain state and as lieutenant governor I will fight tenaciously to preserve that identity.

What positions make you different from your competitors?

When I speak about the housing crisis, I speak of it personally. My perspective is informed by my ongoing personal struggle to find an affordable home in Vermont. Just like many Vermonters I am not only reading about the crisis, I am actively living it.

When I speak about the environment, I do so with the voice of a generation that inherited a ticking time bomb. I genuinely fear what our planet will look like in 20 years and will act with an urgency appropriate to the catastrophic consequences my generation is soon to face.

When I speak about childcare, I speak from the perspective of a working woman who is excited to have a family. Still, worries about the financial and professional impact doing so may have in a state with limited affordable childcare and family support resources.

Kitty Toll

Kitty Toll graduated from Danville High School in 1977 and then completed her B.S. in Political Science and Secondary Education at Lyndon State College. She earned a Master of Education at UVM. Toll then worked as a public educator for 14 years in Gilman, Charleston and St. Johnsbury.

In 2008, Toll was elected to the Vermont House representing Cabot, Danville and Peacham. She served on the Agriculture and Appropriations committees and rose to chair the Appropriations Committee. She was selected to be a Henry Toll Fellow of the Council of State Governments, a member of the Council of State Governments Eastern Leadership Academy and a member of the Council of State Governments Future of Work National Task Force. She’s been a UVM trustee since 2021.

Toll lives in Danville and is married to Abel Toll, with whom she has two daughters.

What would make you a good lieutenant governor?

I’ve dedicated my life to public service and creating a brighter future for the next generation. For 14 years, I taught middle school in the Northeast Kingdom. For 12 years, I represented the Northeast Kingdom in the legislature, representing the towns of Danville, Cabot and Peacham. During my time in the legislature, I spent four years as chair of House Appropriations. I united Republicans, Democrats and Progressives to balance the state budget and address the needs of Vermont businesses, schools and families. This gave me a thorough understanding of our state’s greatest challenges and enabled me to develop relationships with members of the legislature and the governor.

If elected lieutenant governor, I know I can use these relationships and my detailed budgeting experience to give the office real value and purpose.

Why should voters choose you?

Traditionally, the job of lieutenant governor has been seen mainly as ceremonial. I want to change that. I will add value to the role through my insight into our state’s challenges and through my knowledge of the budget and my relationships with legislators and key members of the administration in Montpelier.

I am a consensus builder. I know the intricacies of our state government and the budgets of all agencies and departments as well as their individual challenges.

The experience and the skills I gained in the legislature set me apart from the other candidates. I’ve had to make very difficult funding decisions, I’ve worked closely with the Scott administration, I’ve collaborated closely with all House committees, and I’ve negotiated final budgets with the Senate. I know I can be a strong voice for Vermonters and an active working participant in our state government to address our most pressing issues, from climate action and broadband access to ensuring we have accessible, affordable childcare and housing.

What positions make you different from your competitors?

An important difference that sets me apart from the other candidates is my strong belief that the state budget is a moral document and not a political document. As chair of House Appropriations, I changed the narrative. It was critical to me that the budget expressed our shared values, and that every budget was passed out by the Appropriations Committee with unanimous approval.

Most important, at a time when our democracy is under threat, I believe we must do everything we can to encourage collaboration and respectful dialogue across party lines. I have a proven record of working with others, regardless of party, to serve Vermonters. If elected, I will continue this valuable work to uphold our democratic institutions.

David Zuckerman

David Zuckerman graduated from high school in Brookline, Mass., in 1989 and earned a B.A. in environmental studies from UVM in 1995. Zuckerman served on the Burlington Electric Commission and in 1996 won a seat in the Vermont House, where he served until 2011. In the House, he served on the Natural Resources and Energy Committee as well as on the Agriculture Committee, eventually becoming the chair.

Zuckerman, a Hinesburg resident, won a seat in the State Senate in 2012. In 2016, he ran for lieutenant governor as a Progressive, received the Democratic Party nomination too, and won. He was re-elected in 2018. He was the first Progressive to win statewide office. In 2020 Zuckerman ran for governor with support of both the Progressive and Democratic parties and lost to incumbent Gov. Phil Scott.

Beginning in 1999, Zuckerman and his wife, Rachel Nevitt, built a successful organic farm in Burlington’s Intervale. In 2009, they moved the farm to Hinesburg.

What would make you a good lieutenant governor?

My combined life experience as a farmer, father, small business owner and my public service of 22 years collaborating with Vermonters as lieutenant governor and state legislator uniquely qualify me to be your next lieutenant governor.

I have fought on behalf of everyday Vermonters by leading on marriage equality, raising the minimum wage, cannabis reform, affordable housing, universal healthcare and so much more.

As a small business owner, I have balanced production, marketing, management and paying bills. As a public servant, I traveled the state to listen to Vermonters’ concerns and struggles. I used the position to uplift the voices of our marginalized communities, our labor unions, climate activists and every day struggling Vermonters.

In my tenure as lieutenant governor, I was able to use the office to help Vermonters navigate our political system to become more effective advocates for themselves and the issues they care about.

Why should voters choose you?

Throughout my time as a public servant, I have collaborated with advocates, organizations, and everyday Vermonters from around the state to make progress on issues that have deep impacts on peoples’ lives. I have effectively looked beyond the 2-year election cycle to successfully take on major issues that Vermonters were concerned about, such as affordable housing, childcare, raising the minimum wage, workers’ rights, clean water, the climate crisis, marriage equality, cannabis reform, universal healthcare and more.

I have received every union and environmental organization endorsement; the Vermont State Employees Association, the Professional Firefighters of Vermont, American Federation of Teachers (and nurses), AFL-CIO, AFSCME 93, Sheetmetal Workers, Vermont Conservation Voters, Sunrise Montpelier, Rights and Democracy, VPIRG Votes and Vermont Sierra Club.

It is my passion for economic, environmental and social issues, combined with my strong work ethic that has earned me this support. I hope to earn yours as well.

What positions make you different from your competitors?

I became an organic regenerative farmer to rebuild our soil, protect our water, reduce the use of toxic poisons and to sequester carbon. I am the only candidate to have earned either the Legislator of the Year award from Renewable Energy Vermont or VNRC.

As a father of a 16-year-old, I constantly think about what the climate and economy will be like for her, your children or grandchildren over the next 50 years. With that at my core, as your next Lieutenant Governor I will continue to center the climate crisis and economic opportunity in my advocacy and work. We must reduce our carbon emissions, sequester carbon and expand clean energy production while building an economy that no longer leaves half of our citizens living paycheck to paycheck.

ADDISON COUNTY SHERIFF

MIKE ELMORE AND RON HOLMES

MIKE ELMORE

Addison County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Michael Elmore is hoping area voters on Aug. 9 will give him a big boost toward becoming sheriff. It’s a position he said he’d use to streamline current operations and restore public confidence in a law enforcement organization that’s still reeling from the arrest of its current leader, Sheriff Peter Newton, on sexual assault charges in June.

Elmore, a 27-year-old Addison Republican, will face Middlebury’s Ron Holmes in an Aug. 9 GOP primary that could decide the sheriff’s race. No Democrats have filed to run for the four-year gig.

Elmore was born and raised in Middlebury. He graduated from Middlebury Union High School in 2014, then went off to Bob Jones University in South Carolina, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice. He was involved with campus security at Bob Jones, giving him a small taste of what it’s like to be in law enforcement.

Upon graduating from Bob Jones in 2016, Elmore had the choice of either staying in South Carolina or returning to the Green Mountain State. He chose the latter, and slowly put his degree to work through various security jobs, including at the Shelburne Museum and at government buildings in St. Albans.

Then, in 2017, Newton invited him to join the local sheriff’s department. He went through the requisite training at the Vermont Police Academy and became one of Newton’s deputies, eventually achieving his current rank of sergeant.

Elmore has presided over daily operations of the department for several months. The ACSD contracts with a variety of state, local and federal agencies to provide services that include fingerprinting, traffic enforcement for 14 Addison County towns and illegal dumping investigations for the Addison County Solid Waste Management District. The organization also provides security for the Frank Mahady Courthouse, conducts prisoner transports to and from the courthouse, is a safety presence at many road construction sites and escorts oversized vehicles along local roads.

Among other things, Elmore networks with deputies performing contracted traffic details, security jobs and other functions.

“If there are any problems, I’m really their first call,” Elmore said. “I’m the one who makes the schedule, I tell them where to go for the day. I will go out on the road and do things as I need to, but most of my day consists of going into the office and doing stuff from there.”

And it’s not that unusual to find Elmore taking on assignments himself these days, given the challenges the ACSD — and most other law enforcement agencies — are having with employee recruitment and retention. The Addison County Sheriff’s Department currently has three full-time deputies on the road, one full-timer almost finished with training, one per-diem recruit in training, two court security staffers, one transport deputy, and Elmore. The organization also has three office staff (one full-time, two part-time).

Ideally, the department could use three more full-time deputies, according to Elmore.

The ACSD took in approximately $632,000 in revenue this past fiscal year, and used around $521,000 of it on payroll, Elmore said. The sheriff’s salary is around $70,000 annually, he added.

Elmore was prepared to continue in his current ACSD job — until Newton announced his lame-duck status and urged his sergeant to run.

“I took a weekend to think about it and weigh my options,” Elmore recalled. “I decided I should at least give it a shot… I’m doing a lot to run the department anyway, so to step into that role as the sheriff wouldn’t be too much of a leap for me.”

He’s confident in his ability to take on the department budgeting and contract-signing tasks that go along with being sheriff.

“It’ll be a challenge, but I’ve already experienced a lot in a short amount of time that has prepared me for stepping to the role of sheriff,” Elmore said. “With the team we already have, I think we could do a good job serving the community.”

And great job performance will be key in order to restore public faith in an ACSD that has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, of late, Elmore acknowledged.

“If we look to do our jobs and keep the community safe, the roads safe, then I think that’s what can start building the faith back; when people see us out there continuing to do our jobs,” he said.

An endorsement by a departing incumbent is often perceived as a campaign advantage for a would-be successor. Asked if he’s concerned that being Newton’s preferred successor might be a turn-off for voters on Aug. 9, Elmore — who said he couldn’t speak to any aspects of Newton’s legal problems — simply replied “no.”

Newton has tried to expand the ACSD’s services to include such things as restorative justice programming, school safety officers and in-house social services. In January of 2021, Newton launched a $1.5 million fund drive to transform the ACSD into a one-stop shop for law enforcement and community services. That campaign netted around $15,000 that allowed for the hiring of a mental health counselor (Allison Cherrier) to assist individuals flagged by deputies during their shifts. That counseling program was shut down when the money dried up, according to Elmore.

But Elmore sees the department as “more of support agency (for state police), rather than a primary response agency.”

With that in mind, Elmore promised that if elected sheriff, he’d keep the ACSD tethered to its historic functions of security, public safety and traffic control, and would not seek to expand services like Newton did.

“In a lot of ways, we need to regroup and get back to the basics of what the sheriff’s department can do,” Elmore said. “We don’t have the staff and funding to be that first response agency.”

That said, Elmore vowed to look for extra funding that would allow ACSD to offer healthcare benefits and retirement plans to employees — something he believes will be critical in the department’s future job recruitment efforts.

He’d also like to see the ACSD someday be able to offer more coverage; deputies are now on duty from around 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., according to Elmore.

“I’d like (recruits) to see the ACSD as a career path,” he said as opposed to a steppingstone to other law enforcement jobs able to offer better compensation.

RON HOLMES

Middlebury’s Ron Holmes learned a lot about the Addison County Sheriff’s Department (ACSD) during a 25-year run as a part-time deputy there. He served under Jim Coons and then Don Keeler, two sheriffs that had a combined 70-plus years in law enforcement.

Now Holmes, 67, wants to put his experience to work helming the ACSD, and he believes it could use some steady leadership. The department’s current leader, Sheriff Peter Newton, was arraigned on June 28 on felony sexual assault charges following a months-long Vermont State Police investigation into allegations of abuse reported by a woman with whom he was in a relationship.

Holmes and fellow Republican Michael Elmore of Addison — a sergeant with the department — will square off in an Aug. 9 GOP primary. No Democrats have filed to run for the post.

The ACSD contracts with a variety of state, local and federal agencies to provide services that include fingerprinting, traffic enforcement for 14 Addison County towns and illegal dumping investigations for the Addison County Solid Waste Management District. The organization also provides security for the Frank Mahady Courthouse, transports prisoner to and from the courthouse, is a safety presence at many road construction sites and escorts oversized vehicles along local roads.

Holmes took on many of these assignments with the ACSD, until he and several other part-timers were laid off in 2014.

His resume also includes security stints of 15 years with Goodrich Corp. (now Collins Aerospace) in Vergennes, and three years each with General Dynamics and the state of Vermont.

He now works as a full-time security officer with the University of Vermont Medical Center.

This is Holmes’s second run for sheriff. He competed for the job in 2018, ultimately losing to Newton, 2,948-1,423, in a Democratic primary.

County sheriffs earn an annual base salary of around $87,000 (if law-enforcement certified), and have the option of enhancing that by collecting 5% of the contracts they negotiate, according to Lamoille County Sheriff Roger Marcoux, current vice president of the Vermont Sheriffs Association.

Holmes said he made his decision to run again even before Newton found himself embroiled in his current legal problems. He said voices encouraging him to take another shot at the office have only gotten louder since Newton was arraigned.

“Enough people have called me and asked me to run,” he said, “and then this mess comes along. (Newton) loses all credibility, and his whole department does.”

Holmes believes he can restore the ACSD’s credibility with his law enforcement experience and a return to the department’s roots: Delivering traffic safety, court security and transport and public safety services. Even the one new service that Holmes would like to provide is one that the department used to offer: A county jail.

The ACSD maintained a jail in its building from 1845 until 1971. It was re-opened during the mid-1980s and closed after the expiration of a federal contract in May of 2011. The space was then renovated into offices.

Running a jail would provide an additional revenue stream for the department and give local law enforcement a closer lodging option for defendants prior to their arraignment in the Mahady Courthouse, Holmes reasoned.

“It’s needed badly by local law enforcement,” Holmes said of a county jail, adding it could also take in federal prisoners as it once did.

Beyond that, Holmes said the ACSD should “maintain what we’ve always done and look into what we can do.”

He suggested ACSD personnel could periodically call local seniors in the area to make sure they’re OK and connect those in need to any services they might require.

Like Elmore, Holmes believes the department should try to find a way to extend benefits to its workers if it’s to compete for a limited pool of law enforcement candidates.

“It’s the decent thing to do,” he said.

Holmes would also like to see a return to local dispatching, a service that’s currently provided out of Rutland County. But that would require additional funding that the ACSD currently doesn’t have, he acknowledged.

When voters go to the polls on Aug. 9, Holmes is hoping they remember his prior service with the ACSD, his experience and the fact that he has no ties to Newton’s stewardship of the department. He said Elmore can’t make the latter claim.

“The person running against me was under that watch,” he said of Elmore. “Restoring credibility there is going to be a task.”

He confessed a couple people have been perplexed by his decision to run, given the ACSD’s current challenges.

“One guy said, ‘Ron, are you crazy?’” Holmes recounted with a smile. “Another guy stopped me at Dunkin Donuts and said, ‘Ron, do you really want to get involved in that mess right now?’”

If elected, Holmes said he would be guided by four principles: Friendliness, professionalism, politeness and transparency.

“We should have nothing to hide,” he said.

COUNTY PROSECUTOR

TIM LUEDERS-DUMONT AND EVA VEKOS

TIM LUEDERS-DUMONT

Only 15 years ago, Tim Lueders-Dumont was commuting from Lincoln to Mount Abraham Union High School, where a soccer ball was never far away from his feet.

He’s now a newly married lawyer seeking to become top prosecutor in the county he called home for the first 18 years of his life.

Lueders-Dumont, 31, is one of three confirmed candidates seeking to succeed former Addison County State’s Attorney Dennis Wygmans, who stepped down in May to become one of two Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutors in the state. Middlebury attorney Eva P. Vekos and Lueders-Dumont — who currently lives in Montpelier and serves as Washington County deputy state’s attorney — will square off in an Aug. 9 Democratic primary. The winner of that contest will face independent Peter Bevere of Middlebury — currently acing Addison County state’s attorney — in the Nov. 1 General Election.

The Independent will seek interviews with both Vekos and Bevere during the coming weeks.

“When I saw that Dennis wasn’t running again, I moved quickly… because my fiancé (Ashlynn Doyon) and I had always intended to move back to Lincoln,” Lueders-Dumont said of his decision to enter the race. “And I have tremendous respect for everyone working in the Addison County office.”

Lueders-Dumont grew up in Lincoln and graduated from MAUHS in 2008. He attended Skidmore College, then it was on to the University of Maine School of Law.

It’s like he was genetically programmed for a career in the legal profession; both of his parents — Jim Dumont and Karen Lueders — are attorneys, operating out of 15 Main St. in Bristol.

“(He was) raised in the (Addison County) courthouse and town clerk’s offices across the county while his parents worked the early days of their respective law practices with three kids in tow,” reads the bio on his website, timldvermont.com.

He’s already compiled a busy resume that includes work for the Vermont Democratic Party; U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt.; policy director for State Treasurer Beth Pearce; deputy state’s attorney in Washington County; and an assignment with the Office of the Vermont Attorney General, where he assisted the General Counsel and Administrative Law Division in civil matters concerning labor, employment and contract matters before the Vermont Supreme Court, Vermont Superior Court and the Vermont Labor Relations Board.

Lueders-Dumont has also worked as a law clerk in the Office of the Chittenden County State’s Attorney and in the Office of the Ulster County District Attorney in New York. Prior to becoming a deputy state’s attorney, he served as a judicial extern in the chambers of Federal District Court Chief Judge Geoffrey W. Crawford in both Burlington and Rutland.

He’s crisscrossed the state during an already-eventful career and is pleased with the current short commute from his Montpelier home to his Washington County deputy prosecutor’s job in Barre.

But it’s not his dream scenario, which would be a return to Lincoln and the top prosecutor’s job in the county where he spent his formative years.

“I have always wanted to come back and serve the entire county in the best way I can,” Lueders-Dumont said.

His prosecutorial philosophy is a blend of compassion, fiscal prudence and collaboration. He called it “a 21st-century approach to what I think a new generation of prosecutors is referring to as ‘outcome-based community justice,’ as opposed to an older version of prosecution that I hope we can turn the page on, which was much more about the concepts of punishment.”

Lueders-Dumont summed it up like this:

“We don’t have a lot of resources, and I think we have to effectively use them on the most serious cases,” he said, while moving along the cases that are non-violent, cases where there’s a conflict that needs to be resolved, to diversion and the community justice centers, so that the community is actually engaging with these folks. “It’s incredibly prudent, cost-effective and I really think helps get people back on the right track.”

He’s mapped out priorities for the state’s attorney’s office. They include:

•  Creating a “treatment court,” where some drug-related cases are adjudicated with a rehab, treatment and/or counseling component.

He noted that last year, 210 Vermonters died from opioid-related substance use disorder, with fentanyl a growing concern.

Maintaining the status quo is not working, Lueders-Dumont lamented.

“I walk into overdose events here in Washington County where there’s four children still in the house and the mom is upstairs,” he said of the all-too-common tragedies he witnesses where drugs are the root cause.

“You can’t punish your way out of this crisis; we really need to focus on harm prevention and saving lives,” he added.

•  Drafting a strategic plan that would detail the state’s attorney’s office policies on matters like bail — such as when to recommend cash bail.

Lueders-Dumont noted cash bail is usually employed to ensure defendants show up in court, but he believes it “should never be used to punish people who are in-house and people who don’t have financial resources.” he said.

The court system often deals with folks experiencing mental health problems, and Lueders-Dumont said a strategic plan could state the manner in which the office will approach such cases. He’d like to see the county create a mental health training program for the various stakeholders in the legal process.

•  Holding monthly meetings with the county’s defense lawyers, to see what local attorneys are seeing in the community and if they have specific concerns about the courts. While the state’s attorney and defense lawyers are often adversaries during court proceedings, Lueders-Dumont believes the two entities can still work together.

“Criminal justice isn’t always the best tool for helping people, but if there’s a way we can help get someone going in the right direction, that’s what we should be doing,” he said.

•  Coalescing county law enforcement around a “fair and impartial policing” policy, to send a message to federal authorities that it’s “not the role of the state’s attorney or local law enforcement to enforce federal, civil immigration laws,” Lueders-Dumont said.

He said such a policy would reflect the already heavy caseloads police and courts are dealing with, while making potential witnesses in crime cases more willing to come forward, regardless of where they were born.

Leuders-Dumont was admitted to the Vermont bar in October 2021, and offered these reasons why that was not in itself an indication of his fitness for the office. While the job does require time in court, he said much of the job is managerial and he points out that he has 10 years of managerial experience in state government. Also, much of the prosecutor’s job is deciding which cases need to go to trial and which can be handled in other ways. Plus, he did serve as a clerk for a federal judge while in law school, and he did start practicing law after he took his bar exam last August, so he is coming up on a year in the courtroom.

Lueders-Dumont stressed that he sees the Addison County state’s attorney’s job as a career, not as a stepping stone to a loftier legal, judicial or political post.

“I want to live, work and grow old and raise a family in Addison County,” Lueders-Dumont said.

EVA VEKOS

Eva Vekos has spent much of her 20-year legal career defending people — particularly juveniles — in courthouses in Massachusetts, New York City and Vermont.

She now wants to flip the script and take on the role of prosecutor, specifically as Addison County’s new state’s attorney.

Vekos, a 52-year-old lawyer affiliated with Middlebury-based Marsh & Wagner P.C., will face fellow Democrat Tim Lueders-Dumont in an Aug. 9 primary. The winner will go on to the Nov. 8 General Election and face independent candidate Peter Bevere, Addison County’ deputy state’s attorney.

Keen interest in the county’s top prosecutor job is being fueled by the fact that it’s an open seat. Former Addison County State’s Attorney Dennis Wygmans, a Democrat, left the post in May to become one of two Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutors in the state. Gov. Phil Scott recently decided to name Bevere acting state’s attorney until the upcoming election, a move that has angered members of the Addison County Democratic Committee who had urged the governor to pick a successor from a list of Democrats submitted by the party.

“I think it would be a natural step from where I’m at now,” Vekos said of the job.

She’s already had an eventful career.

It began in 1997 as a trial attorney and appellate counsel in the juvenile rights division of the New York City court system. She represented children and youth in juvenile delinquency and abuse/neglect cases at trial and the appellate level. She also advocated for youth in foster care and in juvenile detention, assessing their needs while devising the “least restrictive placement plans.”

“It was at the tail end of the crack epidemic,” Vekos recalled. “We were representing impoverished, urban kids, mostly Black and Brown kids, who were raised by their grandmas and grandpas, because their parents’ generation was addicted.”

It was an at-times-heartbreaking job, as she saw a lot of abuse, poverty and neglect. But the role prepared Vekos for very challenging kinds of cases.

“It was an incredible way to start out as a lawyer,” she said.

In 2006, she began an eighth-year stint as a public defender in the Superior Court Trial Office for Middlesex and Bristol counties in Massachusetts. She managed a caseload of what she called “serious felony cases” in what was a busy public defender office. She served as a lead attorney in jury and bench trials, as well as sentencing hearings. Vekos often consulted with forensic experts, investigators and social workers.

“That’s where I think I got my trial skills,” Vekos said.

In 2015, Vekos was offered an opportunity to telecommute to a new job, which led to her moving to Vermont. Her new job: working as an ad hoc appellate counsel for indigent parents and children under protection orders for Suffolk and Hampden counties in Massachusetts.

The joy of her move to Middlebury was counterbalanced by some disheartening and sobering news, however.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“It was literally while the U-Haul was ready to go,” Vekos recalled. “We had bought a fixer-upper (in Middlebury), not realizing I was going to be in surgery and treatment.”

But she persevered, undergoing successful surgery and chemotherapy. Vekos signed on with Marsh & Wagner, P.C., in 2017, representing children, youth and parents in juvenile and family court matters. Marsh & Wagner holds a contract with the state to serve juveniles in the court system here in Addison County.

Now Vekos is ready to take on a new challenge — an election, which she hopes leads to a successful run as Addison County state’s attorney.

PASSION FOR JUSTICE

Like Lueders-Dumont, Vekos was a fan of the way Wygmans ran the office. When it was clear he was leaving, Vekos began hearing from friends and associates who encouraged her to run for the position.

She found an allure to the prosecutor’s job.

“My passion is criminal law and criminal justice,” Vekos said. “I’m very interested in policy though not so much in politics; I don’t have political ambition and I never have.”

If elected, one of her goals would be to thin the state’s attorney’s office’s caseload, triaging the less severe criminal cases to court diversion programs.

“We have too many cases, generally,” Vekos said. “There’s a huge backlog now because of COVID. Plea bargaining isn’t productive and fair.”

She was blunt in her assessment of state’s attorney’s offices that are buried in cases.

“Every prosecutor I talk to says they have around 300 cases, which to me means you’re failing; you’re charging too many and not doing enough work culling out the cases that really don’t matter,” Vekos said. “Focus on the cases that are really serious: the predators, the people who are malicious and actually affect public safety.”

She applauded Wygmans’s establishment of a diversion program for people charged with driving with a suspended license.

“I would pick that up and double-down on something like that,” she said, referring specifically to a driving under the influence diversion program.

“We’re getting the picture that there are some DUIs that are really low level,” she said. “There are the ones that are horrible with crashes and people slaughtered. But there are also some low-level ones.

While a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 is the threshold for a DUI charge in Vermont, Vekos said, “Just any influence from a drug or alcohol to the slightest degree is a crime. I think those convictions can really affect you more than you’ve affected the community.”

So Vekos believes the state’s attorney’s office could seek diversion for low-level DUI cases while also recommending treatment programs to folks with addiction issues. By successfully completing a diversion program, an offender could avoid a suspended license and quickly get their life back on track, she said.

MENTAL HEALTH

Vekos has seen mental health challenges play a role in many of the cases that make their way through the court system. Tackling that underlying condition could help prevent crime and help those with mental health challenges, according to Vekos, who is a member of the Counseling Service of Addison County board.

“I think a lot of the criminal cases really need to be dealt with by the Department of Mental Health, and not the Department of Corrections,” she said.

Vekos is a fan of the Project Vision North program, which is being replicated here in Addison County. The program regularly brings together local police and human services agencies such as Turning Point, AgeWell, John Graham Housing, Vermont Probation and Parole, and the Department for Children and Families to pool resources and, when privacy laws permit, share information on clients struggling with mental health and/or substance use disorder.

“I think it would lead to less intervention on the criminal side,” Vekos said. “I think it’s the trend, and if it isn’t, it should be.”

While Vekos is a strong believer in clearing the state’s attorney’s office of minor cases, she stressed a commitment to getting convictions on the serious ones.

“I know firsthand there are some people who need to go through that (legal) process and there are victims of crimes who desire and deserve justice,” she said. “So I am 100% comfortable in that role of offering that to the community and doing it effectively.”

ADDISON-5 HOUSE REPRESENTATIVE

ZACHARY KENT & JON CHRISTIANO

ZACHARY KENT

BRIDPORT — Some people seek public office to expand programs and services for constituents who encounter barriers in their everyday life.

Zachary Kent is seeking office to help minimize government influence over citizens as a strategy to improve conditions for citizens.

The Bridport Republican is competing against New Haven’s Jon Christiano in an Aug. 9 primary runoff for the GOP banner in Addison-5. It’s a district that includes Bridport, Weybridge, most of New Haven and a tiny chunk of Middlebury that encompasses the Marble Works and Seymour Street neighborhoods.

“As a Republican, I believe in capitalism,” said Kent, 50. “It gives us the ability to follow what we want to do, to follow our dreams — to go to college, start a family, start a farm. Vermont’s economy will be at its best when government stays in its lane and allows the small businesses, farms and entrepreneurs to make their own way and drive.”

Kent and his family moved to Bridport almost a decade ago, though they’ve lived in Vermont since 1999. They hopped among Barre, Montpelier and Burlington as their jobs dictated. Kent has a career in the information technology industry, specializing in web development and e-commerce. He’s between jobs right now; his past employers include Adtalem Global Education and Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Vermont.

His wife, Kathryn Kent, is an attorney specializing in trademark law and litigation. They have three grown children, five grandchildren, and recently adopted another young child who just turned 4.

Kent said the 2016 presidential election got him interested in politics. “The fact that Donald Trump won I thought, ‘This is incredible.’”

He’d been thinking about taking the plunge himself and the retirement of longtime incumbent Rep. Harvey Smith, R-New Haven, clinched Kent’s candidacy — not only for the Addison-5 House seat, but also for a potential state Senate run. Kent served notice he’ll seek to get the minimum 50 write-in votes on Aug. 9 to place his name on the ballot for Nov. 8 General Election contest for Addison County’s two state Senate seats.

So he’ll have a big choice to make if he’s successful in both races. “It felt like a calling, a civic duty,” Kent said. “And it seems like as good a time as any.”

Kent said his decision-making as a lawmaker would be informed by five basic priorities.

“At a high level, I feel the citizenry of the state should be healthy, safe, educated, prosperous and free,” he said. “That addresses health care; law and order; the education system; commerce without burdensome government intervention; and freedom of speech, religion, movement and association. Those are the campaign priorities I have that I feel are the things that would address most issues that come up in people’s lives today.”

There’ll be no shortage of weighty tasks for lawmakers during the next biennium.

It won’t be long before the Legislature will need to confront the reality of dwindling federal pandemic aid and the impact that will have on state budgets, Kent reasoned. As a fiscal conservative, Kent said he’s prepared to make tough budget decisions.

“As far as resources, I believe that Vermont has to live within its means,” he said. “As a citizen, you and I aren’t expected to spend more than we make; that’s just how it is. And I think government should be expected to do the same.”

Kent believes Vermonters should have more choices when it comes to health care. Vermont’s Health Care Exchange features two insurers, Kent would like to see the doors opened to other carriers. “I’m annoyed that we have so few choices,” he said.

“I believe more competition would lower prices,” Kent said. “The current choices I see on the exchange aren’t affordable for the average family in Vermont.”

The state should also take steps to lower the cost of prescription drugs, something Kent believes could be accomplished by importing the same kinds of medications from other countries.

“Lowering the costs of prescription drugs should be a priority,” he said.

Kent said he’d also advocate for more aggressive steps to stem the flow of illegal drugs into the state, and to curb fraud in the health care system that he said is passing along costs in the form of higher premiums to those with legitimate health insurance plans.

Asked if he’d endorse a single-payer health care system for the state, he replied, “I’ll have to do more research.”

Like his primary opponent Jon Christiano, Kent is a fan of school vouchers, which he, too, would extend to families using private and/or religious schools.

“It creates competition,” he said. “I believe the (state funding) should follow the child.”

And Kent would also extend voucher eligibility to homeschooling families. Kent and his spouse homeschooled their three oldest children. “We wanted to make sure our kids reflected our belief structure,” he said.

Kent pledged to become an advocate for farmers, whom he called hard working, “salt of the earth” citizens who are dealing with too many government regulations.

“Farmers don’t get to control much; they can’t control the price of their fuel, their feed, and they can’t even control the price they get for their milk,” he said.

Farmers also took a hit during the pandemic, when schools stopped purchasing milk. And some farms now have to compete with other industries for a shallow pool of drivers with CDL licenses to drive large milk trucks, Kent noted.

“We need to find a way that when the markets go up and down, we have the ability … to remove impediments (to success),” he said. “Government’s main role should be to remove impediments from small businesses, farmers and entrepreneurs, and then step aside.”

Kent said he’s concerned about global warming, but doesn’t buy into some of the more dire forecasts for the planet that have been coming from renowned scientists and environmentalists.

“I share the concerns, but not the alarming concerns,” he said. “As a Christian, I believe we are stewards of the planet; this is our gift. We only have one Earth and it’s our job to be the best stewards we can be.”

He acknowledged the negative impacts of fossil fuels and single-use plastics. “We need to continue investing in green energy while incentivizing companies and businesses and individuals to buy green energy (infrastructure), like solar panels and turbines,” he said. “But I think we cross a line when government mandates that.”

He applauded Vermont’s efforts to reduce its carbon emissions, but doesn’t believe the state’s efforts alone will “budge the needle” remedying global warming on and international scale.

“I don’t think the country is ready for (green energy mandates),” Kent said.

JON CHRISTIANO

NEW HAVEN — Jon Christiano’s name will once again appear on an Addison County election ballot. Only this year, the New Haven resident has set his sights on a seat representing the Addison-5 district in the Vermont House, rather than the state Senate.

Christiano, 80, faces fellow Republican Zachary Kent of Bridport in an Aug. 9 GOP primary that will determine who goes on to face Bridport Democrat Jubilee McGill in the Nov. 8 General Election.

Longtime Addison-5 Rep. Harvey Smith, R-New Haven, isn’t seeking re-election to the House district that includes Bridport, Weybridge, most of New Haven and a tiny chunk of Middlebury that encompasses the Marble Works and Seymour Street neighborhoods.

Christiano got a major taste of campaigning in 2020, when he competed for one of the county’s two seats in the state Senate. Incumbent Democratic Sens. Chris Bray of Bristol and Ruth Hardy of Middlebury comfortably won re-election that year, with Christiano finishing fourth in the field of five, still with a respectable 5,442 votes.

He said his main reason for his Senate bid was to give local Republican voters an GOP option.

This time he’s setting his political sights a little closer to home and on a seat his party has held for the past 11 years.

Christiano has considerable experience in local politics. He spent four years leading the Addison County Republican Committee until 2019.

He’s served as a New Haven lister since 2015.

He ran unsuccessfully for his town’s selectboard in 2017, but remains keenly interested in local, state and federal policies.

Christiano believes he could bring a good business perspective to the Vermont Statehouse. He and his wife, Jane Ross, move to Vermont in 1969 when Jon took a job with IBM in Essex Junction. At IBM, he was responsible for negotiating annual equipment purchases totaling more than $40 million. He retired from IBM in 1993, and the couple relocated to New Haven 11 years ago. Christiano and Ross run a small farm operation, raising pigs and chickens and selling eggs.

Asked what he’s emphasizing in his 2022 campaign, Christiano immediately replied “economics.”

“Generally, I’m against anything that adds cost to our already strained household budgets,” he said. “I’m interested in supporting and promoting ideas that help put food on the table — especially for elderly people — and put fuel in the gas tanks so people can get to work. I’d also like to help lower the cost of heating our homes this winter, which is going to be brutal.”

Bearing in mind surging inflation and high fuel prices, the Legislature should refrain from increasing taxes next year, according to Christiano, including resisting any attempts to impose surcharges on fossil fuels. “I’m not a big proponent of the global warming (argument), because in my opinion it doesn’t follow the real science,” he said, asserting that temperature swings are a “natural phenomenon” that have been occurring for millennia. He dismissed carbon dioxide as being at an “insignificant” percentage of the atmosphere.

“I just don’t buy into the idea that (global warming) is going to be the end of the world,” said Christiano, though he has invested in a heat pump and solar panels.

Economic development is a big part of Christiano’s campaign message, and he believes part of the answer lies in attracting small manufacturing enterprises. “We need new, small industry in Vermont,” he said, specifically citing small engine manufacturing and electrical appliance assembly lines.

He stressed these new businesses should ideally be located away from urban centers, to facilitate worker commutes.

“They don’t have to be in Burlington,” he said. “It’s a double win. It could provide jobs for the people who live there, and it helps the economy and the environment because people don’t have to drive far to get to work.”

Christiano hears a lot of talk about broadband and internet connectivity in Vermont, and he agrees the state needs a telecommunications upgrade. But he has a different idea for how to do that. “I think we should go with a satellite link,” he said. “It would save a lot of digging, a lot of construction costs. If you’ve got a satellite hookup — and most everybody does, of some sort these days — it would eliminate a lot of those obstacles.”

On health care, he continues to favor individual medical savings accounts as a way to make insurance more affordable.

“People who are more responsible for themselves are more frugal with how they expend those funds,” he said.

Christian believes hospitals need to be more responsible about reducing costs and isn’t pleased with the current oversight over hospital budgets.

“I’m not a big fan of the Green Mountain Care Board and any of these other non-elected boards,” he said. “There’s no responsibility to the voters or the patients who are voters, most of them.”

The Addison-5 district is home to several farms, and Christiano believes those who run them are hamstrung by too many regulations.

He called rules on on-farm slaughter “unnecessary burdens on farms in general, and especially small farmers.”

When it comes to public education, Christiano is an unabashed fan of school choice, and would like to see vouchers follow students to any learning center of their choice — including ones that are private and/or religious.

He’s been following the controversy surrounding the potential closure of small schools in the wake of current enrollment and funding problems. “I don’t have a problem with consolidating schools,” he said. “I see it as a definite way to save money and avoid duplication of services.”

That said, he believes any school closure/consolidation should come with a decrease in staffing — particularly administrative positions.

Christiano vowed, if elected, to apply a common test to his legislative decision making.

“I think legislators need to exercise good old-fashioned common sense, because that’s what voters are looking for and what they face every day,” he said. “They’re facing choices about their expenditures, what they’re going to do with families. I think common sense gets overwhelmed by other issues — finances and politics.”

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