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County to feature four House races and one primary

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Posted on June 19, 2014 |
By John Flowers



election chart.jpg

MIDDLEBURY — A primary runoff will be required to whittle down the Democrat candidates vying in the Addison-1 House district this November, while the county’s two incumbent state senators face no challengers in their re-election bids.

That’s just part of the 2014 election picture, which became clearer this week following the June 12 filing deadline for candidates vying for statewide offices as well as Vermont House and Senate seat and county offices.

Inspection of the post-June 12 political landscape shows races in four of Addison County’s six House districts, as well as competition for sheriff and high bailiff. But the candidate registration information — provided by representative district clerks, the county courthouse and the Vermont Secretary of State’s office — confirms no candidates for side judge and no Republican entries for state Senate, nor the Addison-1, Addison-2 and Addison-Rutland House districts.

“We certainly would like to have more races contested,” said Addison County Republican Committee leader Bryan Young. “It’s something we will continue to work on.”

Young did not rule out the prospect of some GOP candidates entering the race as write-ins during the Aug. 26 primary.

Incumbent Sens. Claire Ayer, D-Addison, and Christopher Bray, D-New Haven, are unopposed in their re-election bids for the two Senate seats representing Addison County, Huntington and Buel’s Gore (see story, Page 19A).

ADDISON-1

Democrats Betty Nuovo, Donna Donahue and Amy Sheldon will compete in an Aug. 26 primary to determine which two among them advances to the General Election, where they will be joined by independent candidates Calvin McEathron and Thomas Hughes in the race for Middlebury’s two House seats.

Interest in Addison-1 was augmented when incumbent Rep. Paul Ralston, D-Middlebury, announced in January that he would not seek re-election after two terms. Ralston, founder and CEO of Vermont Coffee, served both of his terms on the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee.

Nuovo, the other Addison-1 incumbent, has served a combined total of 27 years in the House.

Donna Donahue is the former leader of the Better Middlebury Partnership and has been vocal about economic development issues, in particular.

Amy Sheldon, an environmental consultant, has also been endorsed by the Progressive Party and will have an opportunity to run under that banner in the General Election if she loses in the primary.

“I read their platform and found that our priorities overlapped and so I accepted their nomination,” Sheldon said. “It is a way to let voters know where I stand on some of the issues, in particular health care and the environment, although other parts of their platform also resonate for me.”

McEathron is a Middlebury College student, and Hughes is a former UD-3 board member who manages the Crown Point State Historic Site for the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation. The Independent has interviewed all of the challengers except Hughes, who will be profiled in an upcoming article.

Nuovo said that if re-elected, she would continue to support establishing a single-payer health care system in Vermont. She said it is up to the Shumlin administration and lawmakers to carefully select a financing mechanism to make the new health care system work. She said the Legislature will also need to work on the cleanup of Lake Champlain, promote the recycling of an increasing number of products, and come up with a way to lessen the burden of property taxes dedicated to financing education.

ADDISON-2

Incumbent Rep. Willem Jewett, D-Ripton, was the only candidate to file for the House seat representing Cornwall, Goshen, Hancock, Leicester, Ripton and Salisbury. He has held the seat for the past 12 years and currently serves as House majority leader.

ADDISON-3

Incumbent Reps. Diane Lanpher, D-Vergennes, and Warren Van Wyck, R-Ferrisburgh, are both seeking to retain their two seats representing Addison, Ferrisburgh, Panton, Vergennes and Waltham.

They are being joined in the race by Addison Democrat John Spencer, who has served his town in various elected positions and worked for several decades selling farm implements and agricultural products.

There is no second Republican candidate running in the district, which has historically been a GOP stronghold.

“Several folks were interested, but it was tough to get someone to cross the line and do it,” Young said. “We ran into several people who had the interest, but not the availability. There is an increasing sense (among candidates) that the Legislature is becoming a full-time job, and that deters some folks.”

Gov. Peter Shumlin appointed Van Wyck to an Addison-3 seat in January of 2012, following the tragic death of incumbent Greg Clark, R-Vergennes. Van Wyck served this past biennium on the House Committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee.

Lanpher is seeking her fourth consecutive two-year term in the House, where she has served her entire tenure on the Transportation Committee.

ADDISON-4

Incumbent Reps. Dave Sharpe, D-Bristol, and Mike Fisher, D-Lincoln, are again running for re-election for the two seats representing Bristol, Lincoln, Monkton and Starksboro. They face competition this year from Republicans Fred Baser of Bristol and Valerie Mullin of Monkton.

Sharpe is seeking his seventh consecutive two-year term in the House, while Fisher is vying for his eighth. Sharpe is a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, while Fisher is chairman of the House Health Care Committee.

Baser is a longtime financial planner and former Bristol selectman who has competed in the past for an Addison-4 seat. Mullin is a businessperson making her first run for the House. The GOP is fielding a full slate in Addison-4 after having not run a candidate in the district in 2012. The Independent has done candidate profiles of Baser and Mullin.

ADDISON-5

Rep. Harvey Smith, R-New Haven, will seek another term in the one-seat district representing Bridport, New Haven and Weybridge. He will face opposition this fall from New Haven Democrat Susan Smiley, who is making her first legislative bid.

Smith, former president of the Addison County Farm Bureau and a longtime farmer, was first elected to the House in 1998 and served to 2007, the year in which he was defeated by New Haven Democrat Chris Bray, who now serves in the state Senate. Smith won the seat again in 2010. He has primarily served his legislative career on the House Agriculture Committee.

Smiley also has a background in agriculture. She and her family moved to their 150-acre farm in New Haven in 1975. They raised various crops, Angus beef and dairy products. Her professional résumé includes time with Earth’s Best baby foods and QAI, a large, domestic organic certification company. She currently works part-time on special projects for Vermont Coffee Co. in Middlebury.

ADDISON-RUTLAND

Orwell independent Alyson Eastman was the only candidate to file for the House seat representing the towns of Benson, Orwell, Shoreham and Whiting. Eastman, 37, is president and owner of Lake Home Business Services Inc., in Orwell. The home-based business has a handful of employees and specializes in the completion of immigration paperwork for foreign workers taking part in the H2A seasonal work visa program.

This is her first run for the Vermont House. The Independent will conduct a sit-down interview with Eastman in the near future.

Interest in the Addison-Rutland House seat was expected to be keen in light of last month’s announcement by incumbent Rep. Will Stevens, I-Shoreham, that he would not seek re-election. But neither of the major parties were able to coax prospective candidates by the June 12 filing deadline. This apparently gives Eastman a clear path to the Statehouse, barring a challenge by a write-in campaign.

Stevens served in the Addison-1 seat for four consecutive terms. Prior to Stevens’ tenure, Rep. Mark Young, R-Orwell, held the position for eight years. The GOP has historically run very well in the district.

COUNTY SHERIFF

Incumbent Addison County Sheriff Don Keeler will seek a four-year term after having been appointed to the position in 2012 following the death of longtime Sheriff Jim Coons. He faces opposition this year from Middlebury Democrat Ron Holmes.

Keeler joined the Addison County Sheriff’s Department in 1972 as a part-time deputy and moved on to full-time status in 1988. He noted that the Addison County Republicans and Democrats both endorsed him prior to his 2012 appointment by Gov. Shumlin.

During his two years on the job, the ACSD has entered into service contracts with 17 of the county’s 23 communities (as well as the Green Mountain National Forest), hired an additional four full-time patrol people, and played a key role in the establishment of an Addison County Unit for Special Investigations.

“I think we are moving in a very positive direction,” Keeler said. “I think the towns are pleased with our performance.”

Holmes worked for the ACSD as a part-time deputy for 25 years, a tenure he said concluded when Keeler phased out part-time positions. Holmes, who is now retired, said he worked extensively in the law enforcement and security fields. He said he provided security for United Technologies in Vergennes (formerly Goodrich Corp.), General Dynamics in Burlington and the state of Vermont.

The only other race on the ballot will be for high bailiff, and it features Republican Charles S. Clark versus Democrat Ryan Mason. The high bailiff is an elected county officer who may serve writs that the sheriff is unable to serve. If an arrest warrant is ever issued against the sheriff, the high bailiff may arrest the sheriff. If the sheriff is confined or the office of sheriff is vacant, the high bailiff carries out the duties of the sheriff.

Probate Court Judge Eleanor “Misse” Smith is running for re-election unopposed.

Barring write-in campaigns, Gov. Peter Shumlin will have to appoint two side judges for Addison County. Veteran incumbents Frank Broughton and Betsy Gossens have both elected not to run for re-election.

Gossens served as a side judge for eight years. She said she was ready to move into retirement after having also worked for almost five decades as a fulltime physical therapist.

Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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