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Local House, Senate races highlight ballot

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Posted on August 23, 2010 |
By John Flowers



MIDDLEBURY — A Republican runoff in the Addison-4 House district; a write-in campaign for the state Senate; two local men vying for lieutenant governor; and a five-way race for the Democratic nomination for governor should give Addison County residents extra incentive to show up at the polls for Tuesday’s primary election.

Voter participation is notoriously low for mid-term elections, and Vermont officials are particularly concerned about light turnout this year because of a particularly early primary date.

But with several statewide offices up for grabs and some intriguing area contests, local residents have ample reason to take a late-summer stroll to their polling places — particularly in the Bristol area, where three Republicans will face off for the right to run for Addison-4’s two House seats during the Nov. 2 election. The Addison-4 district includes the communities of Bristol, Starksboro, Monkton and Lincoln.

Competing for the two available slots on the GOP side of the ballot are Bristol Financial Services co-founder Fred Baser; Bristol Fire Chief and Selectman John “Peeker” Heffernan of Heffernan Excavating Inc.; and Dan Nugent of Starksboro, a contractor and town planner.

The top two finishers in that contest will then move on to the general election and face incumbent Reps. Mike Fisher, D-Lincoln, and Dave Sharpe, D-Bristol.

Due to ongoing renovations to Holley Hall, Bristol voters will cast ballots at the town’s American Legion headquarters, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Meanwhile, voters who select the Democrat ballot will be able to shape the race for Addison County and Brandon’s two state Senate seats.

Incumbent Sen. Harold Giard, D-Bridport, is seeking re-election, but is having to wage a write-in campaign because he missed the filing deadline to get onto the general election ballot. East Middlebury Democrat Amy Sheldon has also decided to jump into the race. The winner of the write-in campaign will have to garner at least 50 (and a majority) of write-in votes during the Aug. 24 primary to join incumbent Sen. Claire Ayer, D-Weybridge, on the Nov. 2 Democrat ballot. Those two Democrats will face Republican candidates Mark Young and Andrea Ochs, both of Orwell.

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR

Addison County voters will also have a special stake in both the Democrat and Republican primaries for lieutenant governor.

On one side of the isle, Rep. Christopher Bray of New Haven is competing with fellow Vermont House member Steve Howard of Rutland City for the Democrat nomination for lieutenant governor.

Bray was elected to the House in 2006 and has served two terms on the House Agriculture Committee. He is a graduate of the University of Vermont, where he also taught for four years in the English Department. He then worked at National Life of Vermont as a project manager, and later with IBM, Intel and Apple. He founded and still operates Common Ground Communications, which provides writing, editing and production services to technical clients and the publishing industry. He and his family operate an 82-acre farm in New Haven.

Howard is 12-year veteran of the Vermont House, now serving his second stint in that chamber. He previously served during the mid- to late-1990s, on the House Ways & Means Committee and the Commerce & Institutions Committee. In 1995, he was named chairman of the Vermont Democratic Party. He is now a consultant in the field of community organizing.

On the Republican side, Mark Snelling of Starksboro is up against state Sen. Phil Scott of Berlin.

Snelling is the eldest son of the late Gov. Richard Snelling and former Lt. Gov. Barbara Snelling. He was raised in Shelburne and has lived in Starksboro for 31 years. After graduating from Harvard University in 1974 with a degree in government, Snelling worked at his dad’s factory in Shelburne, gradually taking over management of the business. Later, he became owner and operator of businesses in the ski, bike and hardware industries, and today is president of the Shelburne Corp., a manufacturer of brass wire products. Snelling currently serves as chair of Gov. Douglas’ Council of Environmental Advisors. He was a founding director and board chair of Housing Vermont and has served on the Vermont Land Trust, and Medical Center Hospital of Vermont boards, among other positions.

A member of the Vermont Senate since 2000, Scott currently serves on the Institutions and Transportation committees. He is co-owner of DuBois Construction Inc. in Middlesex and during the summer months races at Barre’s Thunder Road International Speedbowl, where he is known as the “Flying Senator” to stock car racing fans.

Progressive Marjorie Power of Montpelier is also in the races but faces no primary.

GOVERNOR

Five well-known Democrats are vying for the right to challenge Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie for the state’s top executive post this November.

Susan Bartlett of Hyde Park is a UVM graduate, businesswoman and former public education administrator who in 1992 was elected as the first Democrat and first woman to represent Lamoille County in the Vermont Senate. She has served much of her legislative career as chairwoman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

Matt Dunne of Hartland if a former state senator, former director of the federal AmeriCorps*VISTA program, and is currently employed as manager of community affairs for Google. Dunne attended Brown University and majored in Public Policy, then returned to Vermont and, at 22, was elected to the state Legislature representing Hartland and West Windsor.

Deb Markowitz of Montpelier is Vermont’s six-term Secretary of State, the first woman to hold that position. She was elected to the post in 1998 in what was her first bid for elective office. Markowitz touts a record of eliminating a backlog of professional licensing complaints in the Office of Professional Regulation; strengthening the office’s prosecutions to protect Vermonters from neglect, fraud and abuse; and advancing a serious of election reforms. She is a UVM alumna and received her law degree from Georgetown University.

Doug Racine of Richmond graduated from Princeton in 1974 and immediately went to work on Patrick Leahy’s first U.S. Senate campaign. After the election he worked with Leahy as a legislative assistant until 1978, then joined the family business, Willie Racine’s Inc., a Jeep dealership in South Burlington. He was elected to the state Senate in 1982 and was particularly keen on environmental issues, serving as chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee. He also served on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Racine went on to be elected Senate president pro tem. He ran successfully for lieutenant governor in 1996, winning successive elections against Barbara Snelling and Dubie. Racine ran for governor in 2002 and lost a close contest to Middlebury Republican James Douglas. He returned to the Senate in 2006.

Peter Shumlin of Putney is the current Senate president pro tem. He and his brother Jeff run the family business, Putney Student Travel. Shumlin entered politics in 1980, when at 24 he was elected to serve on the Putney selectboard. Former Gov. Madeleine Kunin appointed Shumlin to a vacancy in the Vermont House in 1990. After three years in the House, Shumlin ran successfully for one of Windham County’s two Senate seats.

During his 13 years in the Senate, Shumlin has served on the Rules Committee, the Finance Committee, the Transportation Committee and the Appropriations Committee.

Progressives Martha Abbott of Underhill and Boots Wardinski of Newbury will also square off in a primary.

U.S. Senate

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., is currently the second-longest serving member of the U.S. Senate (35 years) and is hoping to extend his run for at least another six years. To do that, he must first top fellow Democrat Daniel Freilich of Wilmington, with the winner to face Pomfret Republican Len Britton in November.

Leahy of Middlesex was first elected to the Senate in 1974 and remains the only Democrat elected to this office from Vermont. He is a graduate of Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, received his Juris Doctor from Georgetown University Law Center and served for eight years as Chittenden County state’s attorney. Leahy is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and is a senior member of the Agriculture and Appropriations committees.

Freilich, a physician, associate professor and U.S. Navy captain, completed 13 years of Active Duty Naval service in September 2009. He continues to serves in the Active Naval Select Reserves, based out of White River Junction and Maryland. He moved with his family to Vermont in 1992. He completed his residency in internal medicine at UVM in 1994, then briefly went into private practice in Jeffersonville and teaching before returning to Navy active duty in 1998.

U.S. HOUSE

Three Republicans will compete to determine which among them gets to face incumbent U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, a Democrat, on Nov. 2.

Paul Beaudry of Swanton joined the Vermont Army National Guard in 1979 while still in high school. He served as an armor crewman, instructor and recruiter, concluding his career as a combat arms and leadership instructor in December of 2000 after 21 years. He most recently workers as a radio talk show host in Vermont and is a member of the Swanton Zoning Board of Adjustment.

John M. Mitchell of Rutland City graduated from Dartmouth College with an A.B. in Economics and in 1961 he received an M.B.A. from Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business Administration. After graduation, he entered the business world. From 1988 to 2006, Mitchell worked as CEO of the Vermont Marble Company of Proctor, which operates as Omya. He has served for over 20 years as a member of the Board of the Associated Industries of Vermont and for 15 years as a founding director of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Keith Stern of Springfield co-owns Stern’s Quality Produce in White River Junction. Stern said he wants to reform the income-tax system and impose a flat tax on all wage earners. Under his plan, people making less than $75,000 would pay nothing in income tax; everyone above that threshold would pay a flat rate on their income.

SECRETARY OF STATE

The race for secretary of state will include primaries on both the Republican and Democrat ballots.

On the Republican side, Jason Gibbs of Duxbury faces Chris Roy of Williston.

Gibbs is a graduate of Otter Valley Union High School and the University of Massachusetts, and former press secretary to Gov. Douglas. In 2008, Douglas appointed Gibbs commissioner of Forests, Parks and Recreation. He served in that capacity for 18 months before launching his first statewide campaign.

Roy graduated from Harvard University in 1986 with a degree in government, then graduated from Cornell Law School in 1989. In 1990, Roy joined the law firm of Downs Rachlin Martin PLLC, with whom he has practiced over the last two decades. He previously served as a member of the Vermont Environmental Board and the Vermont Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and was a member of the leadership team for the Vermont Lake Champlain Quadricentennial Commission. He is currently a member of the Williston selectboard, and served as a member of the Burlington Planning Commission in the early 1990s. Roy was secretary of the Vermont Republican Committee during the late 1990s, and played a leadership role in Sen. John McCain’s Vermont presidential campaigns in 2000 and 2008.

On the Democrat side, Jim Condos of Montpelier is facing Charles Merriman of Middlesex.

Condos, a UVM graduate, served 18 years on South Burlington City Council and has served eight years as a state senator from Chittenden County. He is a longtime businessman and currently serves as manager of government and community relations for Vermont Gas Systems in South Burlington.

Merriman, a former assistant attorney general, has been a private practice lawyer for 15 years. He and his family moved to Vermont in 1992 so that he could attend Vermont Law School in South Royalton.

He worked throughout law school, first with the attorney general’s office, then at the Vermont Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care as a market conduct chief. Their son, Sam, was born in 1995, four days after the family moved to Middlesex. Merriman currently works in private practice with Gerry Tarrant, Paul Gillies and Dan Richardson.

Progressive Peter Cooper of Brattleboro is also in the race for secretary of state but faces no primary competitor.

The Aug. 24 primary also features a Democrat contest for state auditor. Former state Auditor Ed Flanagan of Burlington faces Doug Hoffer, also of Burlington. The winner will join Monkton Progressive Michael Bayer to face incumbent auditor Thomas M. Salmon, a St. Johnsbury Republican.

Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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