BRISTOL — Once again, Democratic incumbents Michael Fisher and David Sharpe came out on top over their Republican challengers in the race for the Addison-4 Vermont House seats representing Bristol, Lincoln, Monkton and Starksboro on Tuesday.
Lincoln resident Fisher banked a total of 2,082 votes, with Sharpe, of Bristol, coming in at 1,891. Fred Baser finished third with 1,664 votes and John “Peeker” Heffernan followed with 1,474. Baser and Heffernan are also Bristol residents.
Baser took a wide lead in his hometown, finishing first with 813 votes — followed by Fisher (721), Heffernan (711) and Sharpe (673).
But in Lincoln, Monkton and Starksboro, the incumbents maintained a good lead over the challengers. Fisher won his hometown of Lincoln, along with Monkton and Starksboro, and Sharpe finished second in each. Even before the Lincoln votes had been tabulated early Wednesday morning, it was clear that Fisher and Sharpe would both go on to serve a sixth two-year term in the House.
“I’m very appreciative that voters trusted me to voice their stories,” Fisher said late Tuesday night as last results trickled in from Lincoln’s Burnham Hall. “I feel very good about the results, and I’m just very appreciative to be serving such great communities.”
Baser viewed his loss as a reflection of a statewide trend more than anything.
“I thought the competition was decent, but if you look at it from a state-wide level — I mean, when (Democratic state Sen.) Harold Giard, who is a nice guy, doesn’t get his papers in on time and still manages a win, well, that tells me that people were inclined to have the incumbents come back,” Baser said.
According to Baser, Vermont Republicans are suffering from what he sees as a negative view of the Republican Party at the national level.
“We’re taking a beating because of that national perception,” Baser said. “But we’re not like the rest of the Republicans — Vermont Republicans have always been more Primary-Independent types. I have a strong feeling that people just didn’t want to vote Republican in this election.”
Fellow Republican Heffernan, who ran for the seat in 2008, said he felt good going into Election Day.
“I should have just spent a little more time out and about,” he said. “I knew that going in from two years ago, but I needed to do even more.”
Heffernan finished third in the Addison-4 district in 2008. Though he finished fourth this time around, he said he would still consider making a third attempt.
“It’s a possibility. I’ve got some other things in the works, but we’ll see how it goes,” said Heffernan, who serves on the Bristol selectboard and is the town fire chief.
Even if the climate changes for his party in the next two years, Baser is unsure as to whether or not he would run again.
“I never imagined how much work it would be,” he said. “Every day from August on, it was the primary thing that I was thinking about. The amount of energy it takes, for any candidate who wants to win, anyway, is incredible. Mike Fisher, I know, worked very hard.”
In his most recent term, Fisher served as vice chairman of the Human Services Committee and co-chairman of the Mental Health Oversight Committee. People, he said, will be his first priority again when the Legislature convenes in January.
“We have a lot of work to do,” he said. “We have to keep the voices of the low-income and working classes in mind as we figure out how to downsize state government.”
Sharpe — who has served on the House Committee on Ways and Means, also cited economic concerns as a top issue in the coming session.
“It’s going to be an extremely difficult session what with state revenues falling short millions of dollars,” Sharpe said.
To help Vermonters save money, Sharpe plans to focus his energy on universal health care, alternative energy and improving public education.
“My rule of thumb is that Vermont education is about number four in the country, and I’d like to see us at number one,” he said.
Sharpe expressed a desire to hear more from the people in the Addison-4 district.
“I want to find ways to get out and meet more people and hear about their needs and concerns,” Sharpe said.
Both of the winners hope to keep in close contact with their constituents as they move forward on these issues.
“I really appreciate when people are in touch,” Fisher said. “I like hearing from them about what’s going on in their lives.”
Tamara Hilmes is at firstname.lastname@example.org.