By JOHN FLOWERS
ADDISON COUNTY — Addison County voters are expected to turn out in droves at the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 4, to cast ballots for the candidates they want to represent them in venues ranging from the Vermont Statehouse in Montpelier to the White House in Washington, D.C.
Locally, there will be contests in four of Addison County’s six Vermont House districts. Officials in some towns will also take advantage of Election Day turnout to decide a school bond (Bridport), a fire equipment purchase (Vergennes) and a possible expansion of the local selectboard (Bridport).
Also at stake on Tuesday will be races for Vermont governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, auditor of accounts and treasurer.
And Green Mountain State voters will also make an impact on politics in the nation’s capital, as they decide the next president of the United States and who will represent them in the U.S. House.
Vermont Secretary of State Deb Markowitz said around 64 percent of eligible voters have tended to cast ballots in a presidential election year. She is expecting an even bigger turnout this year.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see it at 69 percent,” Markowitz said on Tuesday.
She noted town clerks have been seeing a heavy turnout of early voters.
“Some towns have already seen a quarter of their checklist turn out,” Markowitz said. “And there is a national trend out there for voting early.”
As of Monday, around 1,000 of Middlebury’s 4,492 registered voters had voted early or absentee, according to Town Clerk Ann Webster. That’s already a big jump from the total 732 voters who cast ballots early during the presidential election of 2004.
“It’s definitely up,” Webster said. “We’re seeing a broad range of people coming in to vote, from the very elderly to those who just turned 18. We are also getting a lot of people who are middle-age or older who have never voted before and who plan to vote for the first time.”
In Bristol, 386 residents had voted early or absentee as of Friday, Oct. 24. Town Clerk Therese Kirby said she expects upward of 500 locals to cast ballots before the polls open on Nov. 4.
“It’s definitely up,” Kirby said of early turnout.
And Bristol officials are anticipating such a high turnout on Nov. 4 that they’ve decided to open the polls at 7 a.m., a few hours earlier than usual, in order to minimize waiting.
Bristol will vote in one of the county’s four contested House races — Addison-4, which includes Lincoln, Starksboro, Bristol and Monkton. Incumbent Reps. Michael Fisher, D-Lincoln, and David Sharpe, D-Bristol, face challenges from Republicans John “Peeker” Heffernan of Bristol and Barb Rainville of Lincoln.
Fisher, an outreach worker with the Parent-Child Center of Addison County, is seeking his fifth consecutive two-year term in the House. He served as vice chairman of the House Human Services Committee during the last biennium.
Sharpe, a former Bristol selectman, teaches automotive technology at regional technical centers in Middlebury and Essex Junction. Like Fisher, he is also seeking a fifth straight term in the House. He is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Rainville is making her second bid for the House after finishing out of the running in 2006. She is an executive with Maple Landmark Woodcraft in Middlebury.
Heffernan is a Bristol selectman and current chief of the Bristol Fire Department. He is co-owner of Bristol-based Heffernan Excavating Inc.
In Addison-2, incumbent Rep. Willem Jewett, D-Ripton, will face competition from Leicester Republican John “Ike” Hughes in the race for the House district that includes Cornwall, Goshen, Hancock, Leicester, Ripton and Salisbury.
Jewett, a veteran member of the House Judiciary Committee, is seeking his fourth consecutive term.
Hughes, a U.S. Navy veteran and recent retiree, is a Pittsford native who has lived in Leicester for the past 25 years. He is a former lister and zoning board member in his town.
Meanwhile, incumbent Addison-3 Republican Reps. Kitty Oxholm and Greg Clark, both Republicans, face competition from Democrats Diane Lanpher of Vergennes and Jean Richardson of Ferrisburgh.
Clark, a longtime Mount Abraham Union High School teacher and former deputy mayor of the city of Vergennes, is seeking his fourth consecutive term representing the district that includes Addison, Ferrisburgh, Panton, Vergennes and Waltham.
Oxholm, former mayor of Vergennes who recently retired after a long career as a special educator for the Addison Northwest Supervisory Union, is seeking her second term in the Legislature.
Both Clark and Oxholm served on the House Education Committee during the past biennium.
Lanpher is a Vergennes city council member and a former special education professional in Vergennes Union Elementary School and Vergennes Union High School. She also recently served as training coordinator for the Vermont Department of Health’s division of Drug and Alcohol Abuse Programs. Lanpher ran in Addison-3 two years ago.
Richardson is a former professor of environmental studies, natural resources and geography at the University of Vermont. She is an author who continues to work part-time as a sugarmaker, gardener and part-time inspector of organic farms. Richardson is former zoning administrator in Ferrisburgh.
In the Addison-Rutland-1 district, there will be an unusual battle of independents for the House seat representing Orwell, Shoreham, Whiting and Benson. Incumbent Rep. Will Stevens, I-Shoreham, is being opposed by Benson Town Moderator John Hill.
Stevens, who serves on the House Agriculture Committee, is co-owner of the Golden Russet Farm. He has served his community as town moderator, on the local planning commission, and as a selectman.
Hill is an accounts auditor with the firm NEIS Inc. He inspects payroll and sales records for the insurance industry, performing 95 percent of his duties in Vermont. A Sunderland, Vt., native, Hill and his family have lived in Benson for the past six years. He recently served his community on the Benson school board and is now enjoying his role as town moderator.
Running unopposed on Nov. 4 are:
• Incumbent Democrat Reps. Steve Maier and Betty Nuovo in the Addison-1 district that encompasses Middlebury.
• Incumbent Rep. Christopher Bray, D-New Haven, in Addison-5, the district that includes New Haven, Bridport and Weybridge.
• Incumbent Sens. Claire Ayer, D-Weybridge, and Harold Giard, D-Bridport, in the state Senate district that includes Addison County and Brandon.
• Incumbent Rep. Joe Acinapura, in the Rutland County district that encompasses Brandon.
In statewide and nationwide contests, residents will cast ballots for:
• Governor. The race includes incumbent Gov. James Douglas, R-Middlebury; Democrat and Vermont House Speaker Gaye Symington of Jericho; and longtime activist Anthony Pollina, I-Middlesex.
• Lt. Governor. Incumbent Brian Dubie, R-Essex Junction., faces opposition from former Rep. Tom Costello, D-Brattleboro, and Richard Kemp, P-Burlington.
• Secretary of State. Incumbent Democrat Deb Markowitz of Montpelier faces opposition from Warren Republican Eugene Bifano and Progressive Marjorie Power of Montpelier.
• Attorney General. Incumbent William Sorrell, D-Burlington, faces opposition from Karen Kerin, a Royalton resident running on the Republican and Libertarian tickets, and Progressive Charlotte Dennett of Cambridge.
• Treasurer. Democrat incumbent Jeb Spaulding of Montpelier faces no GOP competition in a race that includes Burlington Progressive Don Schramm.
• Auditor. Incumbent Tom Salmon, who is away in Iraq on duty with the National Guard, is on both the Democratic and Republican tickets. He faces opposition from Progressive Martha Abbott and Liberty Union candidate Jerry Levy.
• U.S. House. One-term Democratic incumbent Rep. Peter Welch of Hartland faces no major party opposition. Two independent candidates and a Progressive are among the challengers.
• U.S. President. Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Democrat Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois are squaring off to see who will occupy the White House for the next four years.
In addition to races for elected offices, Bridport residents on Nov. 4 will also be asked to weigh in, for a third time, on $1.25 million in proposed upgrades to their elementary school. Bridport voters will also decide whether to increase the size of their selectboard from three to five members.
In Vergennes, voters will decide whether to authorize the city’s fire department to spend up to $450,000 to buy two new pieces of equipment, a ladder truck and a combined heavy rescue/pumper truck.
Meanwhile, a potential school merger is up for a vote in Leicester, Whiting and Sudbury this November, with voters in all three towns charged with determining whether or not to approve a joint school contract as well as seed money, ranging from $6,000 to $11,000 per town, to draw up plans for a new school. If approved, the merger could bring the towns’ three elementary schools together under one roof in as few as two years. Leicester voters will cast their ballots on Monday, Nov. 3, while Whiting and Sudbury will hold votes on the merger on Monday, Nov. 10.