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Election shaping up to be one of least contested in recent history

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By JOHN FLOWERS

ADDISON COUNTY — A spirited, six-candidate race for Addison-3’s two House seats figures to provide the most excitement in what is otherwise shaping up as one of the least-contested Vermont House and Senate election slates that Addison County has seen in at least two decades.

Information provided by Addison County Superior Court and local town clerks shows that incumbent Democrats are unopposed in their re-election bids for Addison County and Brandon’s two state Senate seats, as well as in two of the area’s six House districts.

Candidates had until Monday, July 17, to file their nomination papers to get on the November ballot.

Paul Forlenza, chairman of the Addison County Democratic Committee, said the lack of competition could be construed as an endorsement of the job the incumbents have been doing in Montpelier.

“There may be a sense that this county has a very strong ‘D’ representation,” Forlenza said. “I think people are happy with our representatives.”

Rep. Harvey Smith, R-New Haven and vice chairman of the Addison County Republican Committee, said the lack of GOP challengers this year is a reflection of the tremendous time commitment needed to serve in the Legislature, as well as this being an inopportune time for some prospective candidates.

“There are a lot of good people out there interested in running for office, but this wasn’t the right year,” said Smith, one of the county’s most tenured lawmakers who is running for re-election in the Addison-5 district.

“I’m a little disappointed we were not able to fill all the positions, but that’s the way it goes,” he said.

Still, both Smith and Jim Barnett, chairman of the Vermont Republican Party, said they are pleased with the GOP candidates who have decided to step forward this year.

Barnett said Republican hopefuls will compete for 40 seats other than those that the GOP already controls. The Democrats currently hold substantial majorities in both the House and the Senate.

“We have tremendous candidates who I think stand an excellent chance of prevailing in November,” Barnett said.

He believes many voters will turn against the Democrat majority on such issues as health care, gasoline taxes and property taxes.

But Jon Copans, executive director of the Vermont Democratic Party, does not anticipate such a backlash. Quite the opposite, in fact.

“If Vermonters were unhappy with the work of the Legislature, they would be much more likely to find Republican challengers to run against Democrat incumbents,” Copans said. “Generally, we are not seeing this.”

Copans believes Democrats could even strengthen their majorities in the Legislature this fall.

DISTRICT BY DISTRICT

While Republicans took a pass in a few local House districts this year, they are keenly interested in the two seats in the Addison-3 district, which includes the communities of Addison, Ferrisburgh, Panton, Vergennes and Waltham. There, incumbent Rep. Greg Clark, R-Vergennes, will square off in a GOP primary this September with fellow Republicans Tom McGrath and Kitty Oxholm, the former mayor of Vergennes.

The top two finishers in the primary will join a field for the general election that will include Democrats Elizabeth Markowski and Diane Lanpher, as well as Progressive April Jin, the current mayor of Vergennes.

Some of the interest in Addison-3 is undoubtedly being created by the decision of longtime incumbent Rep. Connie Houston, R-Ferrisburgh, not to run for re-election.

The following is a run-down of the candidate line-ups in Addison County’s other House and Senate districts:

• In Addison-1, incumbent Reps. Steve Maier and Betty Nuovo, both Democrats, are unchallenged for new, two-year terms representing Middlebury in the Vermont Statehouse.

Nuovo is the county’s most tenured lawmaker, while Maier is seeking a third consecutive term.

Nuovo served on the House Ways and Means Committee during the 2005-2006 biennium, while Maier was a member of the House Committee on Health Care that helped craft the state’s new Catamount Health insurance plan.

Maier said having no competition this year will not keep him from doing some door-to-door campaigning.

“I think it’s something that people have come to expect,” Maier said.

• In Addison-2, Rep. Willem Jewett, D-Ripton, is unopposed in his re-election bid for the district that includes Cornwall, Goshen, Hancock, Ripton and Salisbury. Jewett, seeking his third consecutive term, has served his entire legislative career on the House Judiciary Committee.

• In Addison-4, incumbent Reps. Michael Fisher, D-Lincoln, and David Sharpe, D-Bristol, face competition from Lincoln Republican Barb Rainville in the race for two seats representing Bristol, Lincoln and Starksboro.

Fisher, seeking his fourth consecutive two-year term, served as vice chairman of the House Human Services Committee during the last biennium.

Sharpe, a Bristol selectmen, is seeking a third straight term in the House. He is a member of the House Transportation Committee.

This is Rainville’s first run for the House. The cousin of Republican congressional candidate Martha Rainville is an executive with Maple Landmark Woodcraft in Middlebury.

• In Addison-5, Smith will face competition from Christopher Bray, a New Haven Democrat and chairman of the Middlebury Area Land Trust board.

Smith, a senior member of the House Agriculture Committee, is seeking a fifth consecutive term.

Bray will be profiled in an upcoming issue of the Addison Independent.

• In Addison-Rutland-1, Republican Steve Jackson and independent Will Stevens — both of Shoreham — are competing for the seat held for more than a decade by Rep. Mark Young, R-Orwell, who is retiring.

This is the first House run for both Jackson, a local entrepreneur, and Stevens, who co-owns Golden Russet Farm. The Addison-Rutland-1 district includes the towns of Benson, Orwell, Shoreham and Whiting.

• In the quest for Addison County and Brandon’s two Senate seats, incumbent Democrats Claire Ayer of Weybridge and Harold Giard of Bridport are running unopposed for re-election. It is the first time in at least 18 years that there has not been competition for the two seats.

Ayer is seeking her third straight term in the Senate, while Giard is in line for his second. Ayer served last year on the Finance and Natural Resources and Energy committees, while Giard served on the Government Operations, Agriculture and Institutions committees.

In other elections of local interest, incumbent Addison County Probate Judge Amy Douglas, a Shoreham Republican, faces competition from Cornwall Democrat Missy Smith; incumbent Addison County Assistant Judges Frank Broughton and Wayne Heath faces a challenge from resident Jeff McDonough; and Rutland-7 incumbent Rep. Joseph Acinapura, R-Brandon, is being opposed by Brandon Democrat Mitch Pearl, an attorney with a practice in Middlebury.

In other uncontested county elections, Sheriff Jim Coons, State’s Attorney John Quinn, and High Bailiff Don Keeler are all seeking returns to their respective offices.

Election officials stressed it’s not too late for candidates to get on the November ballot.

Anyone seeking a belated run for the Vermont House can get on the November ballot by getting at least 26 write-in votes (and a majority of the total number cast in that election) in the September primary. Anyone interested in a state Senate seat or county office must get at least 51 tallies (and a majority of the total votes cast).

Candidates may also enter a race belatedly by running as an independent. Those choosing that route must file their petitions with the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office between Sept. 8 and Sept. 15.

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