ADDISON COUNTY — Addison County residents will have ample reason to vote in the mid-term elections on Tuesday, Nov. 2, as the local slate features four House races and four candidates vying for two state Senate seats.
The statewide ballot should also be a magnet for voters, as it features some hotly contested face-offs for offices ranging from auditor to governor.
Incumbent Reps. Greg Clark, R-Vergennes, and Diane Lanpher, D-Vergennes, are both seeking re-election in Addison-3, the two-seat district that includes Ferrisburgh, Vergennes, Panton, Waltham and Addison. They face competition from Ferrisburgh Democrat and local entrepreneur Liz Markowski, and former Vergennes Mayor Thelma “Kitty” Oxholm, a longtime special educator with the Addison Northwest Supervisory Union who is seeking to reclaim the seat she held for a term before losing to Lanpher in 2008.
Clark is a Mount Abraham Union High School teacher and former Vergennes City Councilor first elected to the House in 2002. He currently serves on the House Education Committee. He has been the top vote-getter in the district for the past few elections.
Lanpher has also had experience on the Vergennes City Council and currently serves on the House Transportation Committee, through which she was able to monitor plans to replace the Champlain Bridge.
Meg Barnes, secretary of the Addison County Republican Committee, likes Oxholm’s and Clark’s chances in a district that has historically been held by the GOP. She touted Oxholm’s resiliency for overcoming two recent knee surgeries to campaign.
“She certainly did a stellar job when she was in,” Barnes said of Oxholm’s term in the House.
Meanwhile, Addison County Democratic Committee Chairman Paul Forlenza said Lanpher has knocked on around 2,500 doors during the campaign.
“And I think she is more well-known at this point,” Forlenza said.
He credited Markowski, a past Addison-3 House candidate, for her avid campaigning in what he said “will be a very interesting race.”
The most recent campaign finance records, covering donations and expenditures up to Oct. 15, show the two top fund-raisers in the district were Lanpher — who had raised $5,300, of which she had spent $3,816— and Oxholm — who had raised $2,550 and spent $2,194.24.
Two veteran incumbent Democrats face opposition from two well-known Republicans in Addison-4, the two-seat House district that includes Bristol, Lincoln, Starksboro and Monkton.
Rep. David Sharpe, D-Bristol, is seeking his fifth consecutive two-year term. He currently serves on the House Ways and Means Committee. Rep. Mike Fisher, D-Lincoln, was first elected in 2000. He is currently vice chairman of the House Human Services Committee.
Competing against the incumbents are two Bristol Republicans: Former town Selectman Fred Baser, who is co-founder of Bristol Financial Services and a member of the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center board; and John “Peeker” Heffernan, a selectman, town fire chief and operator of Heffernan Excavating Inc.
The latest campaign finance records show Baser has thus far raised $4,789 for the campaign, of which he has spent $2,820; Fisher has raised $4,370, of which he has spent $3,689; Sharpe has raised $4,028, of which he has spent $1,316; and Heffernan had raised $409, of which he had spent $280.
Leaders of the Addison County Democratic and Republican Committee said they expect a very hard-fought and competitive race.
“With Dave (Sharpe) and Mike (Fisher), I think their strength is the constituent service they do,” Forlenza said.
He acknowledged the GOP has been mounting increasingly strong showings against the incumbents, but believes Fisher and Sharpe have earned additional terms in office.
“I think they will do well,” Forlenza said. “I think they will prevail.”
Meanwhile, Barnes said she believes Baser and Heffernan have a good name recognition and a great chance to trigger a changing of the guard in Addison-4.
“I think the likelihood is good,” she said.
Two familiar names will appear on the ballot for the Addison-5 seat that represents New Haven, Bridport and Weybridge. It was in 2000 that then-incumbent Rep. Harvey Smith, R-New Haven, won re-election over Spence Putnam, a Weybridge Democrat. Both men are competing anew for the Addison-5 seat that will be vacated by Rep. Chris Bray, D-New Haven, who narrowly lost the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor to Steve Howard of Rutland City.
Smith, a farmer and former state executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency, served eight years in the House prior to be unseated by Bray in 2006. Putnam, past general manager of Danforth Pewterers and former vice president of operations for the Vermont Teddy Bear Company, has been a longtime Democratic Party organizer.
“I look at this as an open seat race,” Forlenza said. “I think Spence can build on what Democrats have done in that district.”
Barnes said Smith already enjoys good name recognition in the district, and added his campaign “signs are numerous.”
“I’m hopeful,” Barnes said of Smith’s chances.
The most recent campaign finance records on file at the New Haven town clerk’s office show Putnam had raised $9,480 for the race, of which he had spent $6,199. Smith had raised $3,765, of which he had spent $2,473.
Incumbent Rep. Will Stevens, I-Shoreham, faces a challenge from Whiting Republican Joy Jones in the Addison-Rutland-1 district that includes Shoreham, Orwell, Whiting and Benson. Stevens, co-owner of Golden Russet farm and a longtime volunteer in his hometown, is seeking his third consecutive term in the House, where he is a member of the Agriculture Committee.
Jones home-schools her children, is director of a 4-H drama group and directs the women’s, children’s and music ministries at the Whiting Community Church, where her husband Billy Jones is pastor. She made the Nov. 2 ballot after a successful write-in campaign during the Aug. 24 primary.
Campaign finance records show Jones had raised $1,856, of which she had spent $1,058. Stevens had raised $1,228 and spent $1,814.
There are no races in the Addison-1 House district — where incumbent Democrat Betty Nuovo and Democratic newcomer Paul Ralston face no opposition — and Addison-2 House districts — where Rep. Willem Jewett, D-Ripton, is unopposed.
Incumbent state Sens. Claire Ayer, D-Weybridge, and Harold Giard, D-Bridport, face challenges this year from Orwell Republicans Mark Young and Andrea Ochs, and Ripton Independent Robert Wagner for the two state Senate seats representing Addison County and Brandon.
Ayer, the Senate majority whip, is seeking her fifth consecutive term. Her legislative assignments include vice chairmanship of the Senate Finance Committee. She has also served on Senate Agriculture, Transportation, and Natural Resources and Energy committees.
Giard is seeking his fourth consecutive two-year term in the state’s highest chamber. A former dairy farmer, Giard is vice chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee and serves with Ayer on Senate Finance. He previously served in the Vermont House from 1972-1980.
Young, president of the First National Bank of Orwell, served 14 years in the House as the Addison-Rutland-1 representative until 2006. He has served his community on the Fair Haven Union High School board and as Orwell Town Treasurer. He currently serves as a University of Vermont trustee, member of the Vermont Economic Progress Council board and Middlebury Volunteer Ambulance Association board.
Ochs is an active member of Orwell First Response and does administrative work for Crescent Orchards, managed by her husband Peter W. Ochs, whose family has owned and operated the enterprise since 1965. She is chairwoman of the Orwell Planning Commission, clerk of the town’s development review board and chairwoman of the Addison County Regional Planning Commission’s Natural Resources Committee. Ochs is vice president of the Addison County Farm Bureau board and is president of the Middlebury Farmers’ Market, where she has been a longtime vendor.
Wagner is a technology consultant who works primarily in the architecture industry. He was the first declared candidate in the local state Senate race. A New York City native, this is Wagner’s first foray into Vermont politics. He has lived in Ripton for the past two years and resided in Shoreham for a similar amount of time before that.
The most recent campaign finance records show Young had thus far raised $24,341 for the Senate race, of which he had spent $9,674. Giard had raised $3,215, of which he had spent $1,542, while Ayer had raised $4,291 and spent $810. Reports indicate Ochs had raised $3,328 by the Oct. 15 filing deadline, of which she had spent $2,475.
Barnes said she believes Young, in particular, has a great shot at winning one of two Senate seats. She cited his familiarity with the legislative process and his business acumen as among the attributes likely to appeal to voters. She said Ochs, a mom with young children, is waging an energetic campaign.
Forlenza acknowledged that Giard could take some hits as a result of not filing his nomination papers on time — he subsequently waged a successful write-in campaign to get on the Nov. 2 ballot. But Forlenza believes that experience has energized Giard to wage a more aggressive campaign.
“Harold is very well known for his constituent work, and I think he will do well,” Forlenza said.
Ayer, meanwhile, has been the top vote-getter since her first election in 2002.
In statewide races:
• Rep. Steve Howard, D-Rutland City, and state Sen. Phil Scott, R-Berlin, will compete for lieutenant governor.
• Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie of Essex Junction and Sen. President Pro tem Peter Shumlin, D-Putney, will compete for governor.
• Republican Jason Gibbs of Duxbury faces Democrat Jim Condos of Montpelier in the race for secretary of state.
• Democrat Doug Hoffer of Burlington is challenging incumbent auditor Thomas M. Salmon, a St. Johnsbury Republican.
• U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Middlesex Democrat, is opposed by Pomfret Republican Len Britton.
• Incumbent U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, a Democrat from Hartland, faces a challenge from Republican Paul Beaudry of Swanton.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]