Op/Ed

Editorial: Endorsements

ANGELO LYNN

Below are the candidates we are endorsing and why. These endorsements are meant to encourage thoughtful discussion and consideration of their respective races, rather than to persuade anyone how to vote. It’s a tool to use in forming a decision. Above all, support the democratic process by casting your vote, and being willing to abide by the people’s will. 

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PHIL SCOTT FOR GOVERNOR 

Any governor running for a fourth term in Vermont will face critics who say the governor hasn’t done enough for their particular cause, and that’s particularly true of Gov. Phil Scott and his shortcomings in doing more to fight climate change. He not only vetoed key legislation this past session that would have required Vermont to significantly lower its carbon emissions, but he’s failed over the past four years to initiate any meaningful effort to lead on the issue. So, if you’re a single-issue voter, that’s a big mark against casting a vote for Scott. 

But on the governor’s primary issue — keeping Vermont as affordable as possible — he has kept that initiative front and center, spent hundreds of millions of dollars toward such efforts, all the while keeping Vermont from overspending and causing longer-term problems.

Vermonters must accept that we have too small a population to finance all our dreams. We can make progress toward affordable housing, lowering the cost of childcare, improving educational outcomes, lowering poverty rates, financing higher education, improving mental health facilities, providing health care to more Vermonters, and a host of other goals, but we don’t have the resources to do it all. We must set realistic priorities and follow through on those year after year. 

Gov. Scott has done that relatively well. 

If we have a criticism of Scott, one of the most moderate Republicans in the nation, it is that he reacts to the Legislature’s initiatives, rather than lead on his own. 

He has, nonetheless, worked with the Legislature during the past four years to make real progress on providing significant increases in affordable housing (since March 2020, the state has spent $338 million in the affordable housing and shelter space); the minimum wage here is among the highest in the country; discussions on family and parental leave have been ongoing and will cross the finish line if the Legislature can control its ambitions and progress in increments rather than one-and-done options; and he’s been a strong supporter of Vermont farmers and programs to strengthen the state’s smaller communities. 

What we also know is that Vermont will return a Democratic majority in the Legislature, which is assured to keep progressive issues and policies on the governor’s doorstep and pressuring him to do more on those issues.

For his part, Scott has a balanced view of what Vermont can accomplish, while also acknowledging what it can afford. While frustrating to many liberals on certain issues, it’s a combination that serves Vermont well. Casting a vote for Scott keeps that balance in place.

Democrat Brenda Siegel is an activist who has risen the profile of affordable housing for the poorest of Vermonters and addressing the ills of poverty. She’s gutsy, clever at championing issues with made-for-TV stunts to good effect, but she has failed to demonstrate she has the leadership or management skills to serve as governor.

There are five other candidates for governor, but none have gained notoriety. 

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ZUCKERMAN FOR LT. GOV. 

DAVID ZUCKERMAN

Democrat-Progressive David Zuckerman gets our vote for lieutenant governor, though Republican Joe Benning has brought several strong points to the race: primarily on how the state should respond to obstacles to the building industry (think affordable housing) posed by Act 250, and on what to do about the state’s astronomical cost of childcare. Both candidates differ on the two questions. 

On Act 250 reform, Benning advocates for clarifying and simplifying some Act 250 requirements on building projects so the law doesn’t continue to hike the cost of building due to a lengthy permitting system caused by the act’s requirements. Zuckerman, on the other hand, advocates for spending more state money to beef up the Act 250 bureaucracy so builders get their permits faster. Both agree that Act 250’s goals are worth preserving.

Similarly, on childcare, Benning recommends the Legislature drop the requirement that all daycare providers have at least one licensed educator on staff — a requirement that forced many previous daycare providers to shut down. “A toddler does not need to have a licensed educator — a toddler needs to have a nurturing individual,” Benning said in a VtDigger debate in early-October, adding later that he did not believe Vermont needed “yet more taxes” to solve the problem.

Zuckerman, on the other hand, says the state should contribute more money to the program to subsidize those families who need help affording the high price.

Both candidates have served the state for more than a dozen years in the Legislature and previously, for Zuckerman, for four years as lieutenant governor. 

Zuckerman, however, will be a strong voice with a statewide platform to push renewable energy solutions to an administration that has failed to take the lead on that issue. And he’s an advocate for sustainable farming practices and strengthening Vermont’s rural communities — issues that deserve a larger voice. 

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WELCH FOR U.S. SENATE

PETER WELCH

Democrat Peter Welch deserves Vermont’s overwhelming vote for U.S. Senate to fill the vacancy created by Sen. Patrick Leahy’s decision to retire. Welch is more than a candidate who will represent Vermont’s values on issue after issue, he also continues a legacy of electing senators who uphold an unyielding sense of integrity and allegiance to the nation’s democracy and rule of law that are in precious demand in the nation’s capital. 

In that regard, Welch is well-suited to fill the shoes of the state’s senior Senator. And while he may never have as much seniority (and power) as Leahy had through his 48 years representing Vermont, his voice is stronger for his years of service in Vermont’s legislature and in serving the past 12 years as Vermont’s Congressman and will resonate with the wisdom of a senior statesman. 

Welch’s chief opponent, Republican Gerald Malloy, is an avowed Trump supporter with the war-like campaign sign, Deploy Malloy. A Massachusetts transplant to Vermont in 2020, he’s a right-wing, militant candidate dressed in a business suit. He says he’s not an election denier, but on most other issues, he’s right there with Trump’s efforts to polarize the issues and undermine effective dialogue in Congress.

Again, several other minor party candidates are running for the office, but none have generated the public’s interest.

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BECCA BALINT

BALINT FOR CONGRESS

Democrat Becca Balint is our overwhelming vote for Congress. She stands for the right issues and her voting record will reflect Vermont’s values well in Congress.

Independent/Republican candidate Liam Madden had one of the most interesting campaigns in the state. He bucks the two-party system, saying it has failed the country’s democracy and has led to a dysfunctional Congress. He’s not wrong. But he failed to offer a better option, and he’s all over the place on a number of issues — voting as a progressive on some issues and a libertarian on others. In short, it’s not easy to know how he would represent Vermont on the numerous issues Congress faces each year. 

Balint, on the other hand, will be rock solid on the issues that matter most to Vermonters. 

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COPELAND HANZAS FOR SEC. OF STATE, 

CHARITY CLARK FOR VT. ATTORNEY GEN.

SARAH COPELAND HANZAS

The contests for Vermont Secretary of State and Vermont Attorney General have generated little statewide interest, leading most pollsters to consider the Democratic candidates to be a shoo-in for election.

Long-time legislator Sarah Copeland Hanzas, 52, a Democrat representing Bradford, Fairlee and West Fairlee for 18 years, is favored in a race that has provided no organized opposition. Perennial Republican candidate H. Brooke Paige is on the ballot but his campaign has been inactive.

A vote for Copeland Hanzas ensure Vermont’s Secretary of State’s office is run with integrity, efficiency and professionalism — just as it has been for the past 11 years under retiring Secretary of State James Condos.

For Vermont’s Attorney General, Democrat Charity Clark earns our vote. She had been Vermont’s Assistant Attorney General under William Sorrell and Chief of Staff under retiring Vt. Attorney General T.J. Donovan. She knows the office and job duties well, has an unblemished record, knows and represents Vermont’s values well, and elevates a woman into an important statewide office.

Vote Charity Clark for Attorney General.

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MIKE PIECIAK FOR STATE TREASURER

DOUG HOFFER FOR STATE AUDITOR

DOUG HOFFER
Photo by Glenn Russell

Democratic candidates Mike Pieciak and Doug Hoffer deserve Vermonter’s unabashed support in their races for State Treasurer and State Auditor of Accounts. 

Pieciak is opposed by perennial Republican candidate H. Brooke Paige, who has posed no active campaign. In a way, the lack of opposition is a disservice to the state and to Pieciak as a rising star within the party. Pieciak took a lead in the Scott administration during the pandemic as the person responsible for analyzing the spread of the virus and making sure the state was prepared to handle whatever needs were presented. To that end, he was a weekly presence during the governor’s news conferences and a ready source of vital and accurate information in the heat of the crisis. That Scott, a Republican, would place such faith in Pieciak is a testament to the bipartisan nature of our state’s leadership teams. Talent trumps party, as it should.

In addition to being trustworthy and sharp as a tack, Pieciak’s political curb appeal ranks high among all statewide candidates. He’s likeable, articulate, policy driven with a liberal bent, but with an eye for properly managing the state’s debt. 

A vote for Pieciak is not only a vote for good fiscal management, but for strong Democratic leadership in Vermont.

In the State Auditor’s race, vote to re-elect incumbent Doug Hoffer, 71. He’s done a good job in the post for the past decade and brings that much experience to the job in the next term ahead.

His Republican opponent, Rick Morton, 74, has no comparable experience for the job, and, as a note of his unlikely success, is also running for State Senator in Windham County. 

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As a footnote to the above statewide races, other than Phil Scott and Joe Benning, there is no credible Republican or other party candidates to four statewide races, Vermont’s lone congressional seat, or to the U.S. Senate. That on its own is a troubling commentary on the state of the Republican Party in Vermont, and testament to party leadership that has veered to the right to align with Trump. 

That is despite Gov. Scott modeling how a Republican businessman with moderate positions can attract Vermont voters. The Vermont GOP can only hope its current party leadership steps aside or is ousted after this year’s disastrous performance, and in the next election cultivates more candidates that are in the mold of Scott, and former GOP stalwarts like Dick Snelling, James Jeffords and Robert Stafford. 

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COUNTYWIDE ELECTIONS

For the first time in our memory, it’s almost not an option but to vote a straight party-line ticket for Democrats in all Addison County races. The exceptions are two: there’s a legitimate Independent challenger in Peter Bevere in the race against Democrat Eva Vekos for state’s attorney, and the race for county sheriff features two Republicans and an Independent.

STATE HOUSE/SENATE RACES

As at the state level, the Republican Party in Addison County has drifted to the right since Trump’s rise and fall from power. Among the Republican candidates are election deniers, climate change deniers, believers of far-fetched conspiracies, and policies that favor business development at the expense of laborers and employees while also undermining equality and justice for all people. A few more moderate candidates have effectively muted those most offensive points of the party’s Trumpist platform, but voters must surmise that if those candidates truly objected to those policies they would run as Independents, rather than be tarred with that incriminating brush.

As for the Democrats running for the Vermont House in Addison County, they are a bright, moderate group of incumbents and newcomers who will serve the county well. 

To that end, we wholeheartedly cast our support to the following in the area’s House and Senate races: 

JUBILEE MCGILL

• Vermont Senate: Incumbents Chris Bray and Ruth Hardy have served the county and the state well and deserve re-election. 

• Democratic incumbent Dave Silberman deserves re-election as High Bailiff.

• In Addison 1 (Middlebury), vote to re-elect incumbents Robin Scheu and Amy Sheldon. 

• In Addison 2, vote to re-elect incumbent Peter Conlon. 

• In Addison 3, vote to re-elect incumbents Matt Birong and Diane Lanpher. 

• In Addison 4, vote to re-elect incumbents Mari Cordes and Caleb Elder. 

• In Addison 5, vote to elect Democrat Jubilee McGill, representing Bridport, Weybridge, much of New Haven and part of Middlebury. 

• In Addison/Rutland, representing Orwell, Shoreham, Whiting, Sudbury and Hubbardton, vote to elect Democrat Joe Andriano. 

STATE’S ATTORNEY

In the race for State’s Attorney, Democrat Eva Vekos is competing against Independent Peter Bevere. Both are credible candidates with adequate experience and ample integrity. 

We encourage voters to visit their respective websites, research news stories and make your decision. As we believe both candidates would serve the public well, we’ll remain neutral. 

COUNTY SHERIFF

Of the three candidates running for Addison County Sheriff, two have responded to requests for interviews from this paper: Mark Stacey, who is running as an Independent, and Mike Elmore, who is running as a Republican. Peter Grant, who’s also running as an Independent, did not return calls or emails to schedule an interview, so we have limited information about his candidacy. 

Here are our thoughts on the race:

• First, political party makes no difference in the race for sheriff, high bailiff or state’s attorney. These are not positions where party votes matter, so disregard any partisan association with the candidates.

• Second, the sheriff’s office must be operated with public transparency and therefore needs a sheriff who is willing to be available to the press, and open to public conversations. A candidate who refuses to be interviewed about his candidacy lacks such candor and public scrutiny. 

• Both Mike Elmore, the current acting sheriff and previous sergeant for several years, and Mark Stacey, a law enforcement officer for the past 20 years within the sheriff’s department and with the Vergennes Police Department, appear to embrace the tenets of community policing. Both have the support of area law enforcement professionals, working colleagues and community leaders in their respective communities. 

• Readers of the Addison Independent’s letters to the editor will find as many letters in support of either candidate, and for similarly valid reasons. 

MICHAEL ELMORE

• Stacey has a decade of experience on the younger Mike Elmore, but Elmore has successfully managed to take over the department from disgraced Sheriff Peter Newton and reverse the department’s downward trajectory — no easy feat in the midst of controversy. He would also provide needed consistency and smooth sailing in a department that has been rocked over the past three years by Newton’s unsteady performance. 

Elmore also has the strong support of the department’s long-standing administrative clerk Jeanette Willey, who has been through four sheriff’s and sings Elmore’s praises. That’s high testimony from someone who has the best seat in the house to judge Elmore’s performance and potential.

Elmore also has the endorsement of former Vermont State Police captain, former state representative and Middlebury Selectboard Chairman Dean George — another strong endorsement of character and law enforcement qualifications for those who know and respect George’s thinking.

Stacey, however, has the support of many in Vergennes, including former Chief George Merkle, as well as many other citizens throughout the county. His position as Addison County Traffic Safety Coordinator since 2019 has also broadened his experience in that aspect of law enforcement, and his approach has not only been successful but is steeped in collaboration with other local and regional law enforcement agencies — a smart and necessary approach in times of tight budgets and a limited labor pool.

We’ll cast a vote for the consistency Elmore would provide the department if elected, and his ardent endorsements from George and Willey. That doesn’t take away, however, from the strong candidacy of Stacey, who would also serve the county well if he were to win the public’s support.

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VOTE YES

Without question, as we have written previously, voters should approve both statewide articles: Article 22, Proposal 5, on assuring that women have the freedom to make reproductive choices, and Proposal 2, to tweak language in the Vermont Constitution to conclusively affirm the state prohibits slavery and endured servitude. 

VOTE NO

On the controversial question of merging the two school districts in northern Addison County, MAUSD-ANWSD, we suggest voters reject the proposal. That’s not because the idea has no merit, but too little information has been provided to voters at this time. For starters, residents don’t know if one or the other high school facilities might close; they don’t know how many elementary schools might remain open; they don’t know who might be elected to a combined school board to make those and other critical decisions.

What voters are being asked to do is elect a new board that would pursue such community-altering decisions in the next few years with limited public influence. 

Our opinion is this: If it is a good idea to merge the two school districts, flush out the details of such a proposal and present that — in all its clarity — to the voters. Until then, voting “no” sends the message that ambiguity is not good enough. 

Angelo Lynn

 

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