BRISTOL — Two Bristol residents will be the Republican standard bearers in the general election race for the two Addison-4 Vermont House seats.
Bristol Selectman John “Peeker” Heffernan and investment counselor Fred Baser on Tuesday won the three-way race in the GOP primary for the two House seats that represent Bristol, Lincoln, Monkton and Starksboro. Starksboro resident Dan Nugent finished third.
In the Nov. 2 general election, Baser and Heffernan will face Democratic incumbents Mike Fisher of Lincoln and Dave Sharpe of Bristol, who both won the uncontested race for the two spots for their party on the ballot.
In the four-town district, Heffernan polled the most votes with 327, followed by Baser at 271 and Nugent at 187.
Town by town the results were:
• Bristol: Heffernan, 184; Baser, 181; Nugent, 52.
• Lincoln: Heffernan, 50; Baser, 37; Nugent, 28.
• Monkton: Baser, 32; Heffernan, 32; Nugent, 28.
• Starksboro: Nugent, 79; Heffernan, 61; Baser, 21.
A lifelong Bristol resident, 48-year-old Heffernan is the co-owner of Heffernan’s Excavating, which he runs with his brother, Steven. He’s in his third year serving as chief of the town’s volunteer fire department and his eighth as a town selectman.
Heffernan’s bid for the House seat is his second. He finished third behind Fisher and Sharpe when he ran for the house in 2008. He hopes things will be different this time.
“I learned that I need to get out and meet the people,” Heffernan said. “People in Bristol know me, I see them every day, but people in the outlying towns, not so much.”
To get his name, his face and his ideas out to more possible voters in Lincoln, Monkton and Starksboro, Heffernan said he will expend a lot of shoe leather, possibly including some door-to-door campaigning with Baser.
Heffernan also said the mood of the electorate may be different this year than in 2008.
“I get the general concern that people aren’t happy,” he said. I’d like to think I could make them happy … I think we need common sense all over the place.”
In addition to bringing a common sense approach to problem solving, Heffernan said he will stress the need for reforming education funding and reforming the permit process.
Baser, who runs Bristol Financial Services with his wife Marian, currently serves as town moderator, justice of the peace and chairs the local revolving loan fund committee, and he is a former Bristol selectman and former longtime member of the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center board. Baser also served with the Addison County Habitat for Humanity board for six years.
Baser didn’t attribute his victory to any one thing, but he noted that when he knocked on doors canvassing for votes, he was often asked about the moniker “Progressive Republican,” which he used in his campaign literature to describe himself.
“To me, it’s about an attitude for reform and change,” Baser said. “It differentiates me from the national Republican party. I tend to be a pretty middle-of-the-road guy.”
He said he also got questions about whether the Vermont Yankee power plant should be reliscensed and about health care reform, which could be important issues in the general election.
Given his relatively weaker showing outside his hometown of Bristol, Baser said he expects to campaign heavily in the other towns in the district. He said his campaign would include a combination of meeting people face to face and reaching out by mail and phone. “I’ve got to get out to Starksboro, Lincoln and Monkton.”
Nugent was philosophical about his showing in the race.
“I’m a little disappointed, but I have a lot of confidence the others will do a good job in the general election,” he said, referring to Heffernan and Baser. “It was a good experience.”
Nugent said his overall experience in the election was positive and he believes his presence on the ballot helped his party.
“It was good there was a primary (race), it got people out there pushing each other,” he said.
Reporter John McCright is at firstname.lastname@example.org.