BRATTLEBORO >> Two state representatives seeking re-election are facing contested races, with two political newcomers throwing their hats into the ring.
Representatives David Deen, D-Westminster, and Mike Mrowicki, D-Putney, are seeking re-election to the positions they have held for a number of years. Eddie Cutler, a Republican from Westminster, and Bonnie DePino, a Republican from Westminster West, hope to unseat Deen and Mrowicki to represent the Windham 4 District in the Vermont House of Representatives.
Both Mrowicki and Deen pride themselves on the work they have done with the passage of the Vermont Clean Water Act, protecting the habitat of threatened and endangered species, moving forward on health care and mental health care reform, and supporting a renewable green energy future. Meanwhile, the Republican candidates wish to address gun ownership and hope to "change the atmosphere in Montpellier."
"If you want lower taxes and more freedom vote for me; if you want higher taxes and less freedom, vote for Mike and David," said Cutler.
Cutler, a self-proclaimed libertarian, has lived in Westminster since 1989 and is originally from East Dorset. After the gas shortage in 1974, Cutler said he struggled to find a job in his field of toolmaking in Manchester and Bennington. He then spent three years in Massachusetts and Connecticut and worked as an apprentice toolmaker in Connecticut until about 1989, when he decided to move back to the Green Mountains.
"I always loved Vermont; it's a different world up here. I always hated crowds, didn't like standing in lines; just going to grocery store or movies, I had to stand in lines," said Cutler. "We looked all over Vermont and New Hampshire and spent two and half years looking before we found a place we fell in love with."
Cutler noted that he and his wife like the area because it offers enough industry to get work. He started a home business of machine work around the area. Another aspect of Vermont that Cutler loved was its lack of gun laws. Changes in the Legislature led him to take a stand and around 1997, he co-founded a club called Gun Owners of Vermont, a non-partisan pro-gun organization committed to a no-compromise position on firearms ownership rights.
"Vermont is the safest state in the country, lowest murder rate, lowest violent crime rate, with people in the State House who want to confiscate all types of firearms," Cutler said.
He went on to note the Ivory Bill, which bans the sale of ivory. Cutler said this legislation also banned lead bullets for hunting. He noted that Deen and Mrowicki approved of that bill, but Cutler argues that every bullet has lead in it and there is no other option.
But Mrowicki, the lead presenter on the Ivory Bill, told the Reformer it was passed to protect children from lead paint in the environment, but has nothing to do with the lead in bullets. Deen and Rep. James McCullough of Williston, sponsored the bill.
"Cutler led the opposition to that bill, claiming it was a back door attempt to prevent gun owners from making their own bullets," said Mrowicki. "The bill had nothing to do with bullets. It was about protecting children from lead paint, especially in all the older housing stock we have in Vermont, and, because the Vermont Department of Health was discovering high numbers of children in places like Bellows Falls, who had high levels of lead in their blood. For small children that damage can be irreparable. Our children come first. Period."
Cutler said his primary focus in running is aiming to lower taxes and "letting people be more apt to take care of themselves without government interference." He also emphasized that he will vote against anything that is unconstitutional as he has been lobbying at the State House for several years and feels that even "small violations of the constitution" are an issue.
In some ways, DePino shares similar ideas. They stand on the same ground in regards to gun control and the Ivory Bill, but they also take an anti-wind stance as they feel it damages Vermont's landscapes.
"I'd like to address big wind; there's a lot of damage that comes from big wind farms in damaging our watershed, lakes, streams, which are going to be filled with silt," said DePino. "There's evidence of wildlife birth defects, which will damage our deer herd and we have a problem with our bats and we can't be senselessly killing them; we have to be preserving bats that are there."
DePino lives in Westminster West, but mostly grew up in Connecticut and Massachusetts. She earned a degree in laser electric optics from Springfield Technical Community College as she was fascinated by the study of holography. DePino worked off and on from 1987 to 1995 at Digital Equipment Corporation as a quality control and repair person and then worked at Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company for three years.
"I moved to Vermont because I loved the countryside, the rural feel and the friendly people," said DePino. "We loved how the laws were structured, and we primarily looked at gun laws, and absence of gun laws, which appealed to us because we believe in freedom and as long as you are a law-abiding person, you should be able to keep a firearm."
On another note, DePino said she thinks the budget needs to be adjusted to see where the state can save money. She also notes she is strongly opposed to Act 46, which she says should be repealed. While on the topic of education, she mentioned her support for home schooling. She believes that the "waste" that is placed in other areas in the state should be put toward home schooling efforts such as monetary assistance with books. DePino home schools her 13-year-old son.
DePino said she also will focus on job creation in Vermont and would like to talk to a committee and the governor about this need.
"We need to do a few things to encourage all kinds of business in the state. We put many obstacles in front of people trying to start a small business. It doesn't have to be huge technology companies; this was a great manufacturing state at one time, and could be again," DePino said.
Both Cutler and DePino are retired and if elected are determined to change the atmosphere at the State House in Montpelier. Cutler said he would love to see more input from Vermonters, particularly during committee hearings. DePino notes members of the majority party in Montpelier act with an attitude that they can pass "whatever laws they want and any ways they want without regard to people or law."
On the other side of the coin are Mrowicki and Deen who have run uncontested for the past several years.
"My primary motivation for returning to the Legislature is to continue the work of the Vermont Clean Water Act passed last year, specifically to bring the Lake Champlain and Connecticut River cleanup plans to reality," Deen stated in a press release. "It means having the means to clean up runoff from roads, parking lots, rooftops; poor agricultural practices that cause violations of our water quality standards."
Deen is chairman of the Fish, Wildlife, and Water Resources Committee and he remains interested in keeping Vermont's water clean and related this as his reason for seeking re-election. As river steward for the Connecticut River Watershed Council, Deen has been working for decades to maintain the clean-up efforts for the Connecticut River, and as a member of the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel making sure that Entergy will decommission Vermont Yankee in a timely and safe manner. Deen continues to serve as a board member of the local Connecticut River Chapter of Trout Unlimited.
As for Mrowicki, the Putney Democrat has represented the district for five terms and sits on the House Human Services Committee. Mrowicki feels it is important that Vermont protect elders from financial predators and increase support for early education and for those caring for the disabled. He also noted the need to tackle the opioid crisis.
Mrowick said he feels it's important that certain demographics have more input throughout the communities in Windham County. "While it is essential that we continue to balance the budget and match budget growth with state revenue growth, we must also be the voices for those without, the elderly, the disabled, and young children in poverty," Mrowicki stated in a press release.
Mrowicki was recognized this year with 36 others nationwide by the National After School Association for long-time direct work and advocacy on programs on behalf of school-aged children. He continues to volunteer with the Putney Food Shelf, Putney Affordable Housing Committee and as a board member for Sojourns Community Health Center.
Both representatives said they are looking forwarding to working with the new governor and building on the successes of the current administration. Both hope to offer the new administration some historical perspective on issues facing the state and build upon the successes of the recently concluded legislative session. .
For contact information on Deen and Morwicki, visit www.windham4.net.
Maddi Shaw can be reached at 254-2311 ext 275