The Vermont political season has begun. There is really only one real race at the top of the state ticket, for the office of Lieutenant Governor. Progressive Dean Corren, who qualified for public financing, will square off against incumbent Republican Phil Scott. Time to see if the Progs can make it to the big time.
On the local level, the contest for the two Windham County Senate seats should be interesting. Multi-term incumbent Jeanette White is seeking re-election while two-term incumbent Peter Galbraith is moving on. White deserves to be re-elected. She has served the county well and she has learned how to play to political game well enough to do what needs to be done for her constituents. White is the kind of person who has no pretense. What you see is what you get and that is, thankfully, a quality that many Vermont politicians possess.
There are two seats to fill for the Senate and there are five other candidates. Aaron Diamondstone and Jerry Levy are Liberty Union candidates. It is good to have them and their party in the race, but they will not be a deciding factor. Three Democrats will work hard to fill the seats and, although White is a long-time incumbent, she knows that because of the nature of this two-seat race that she could lose to newcomers. Voting strategy can become complex, even in this local race. Becca Balint, Roger Allbee and Joan Bowman are running as Democrats. What this means is that the primary on Aug. 26 will determine the winners in the general election. Two Democrats will win and they will become the Senators from Windham County. There will be a general election in November and the two Liberty Union candidates will be on the ballot against the two Democrats, but it is highly unlikely they will win either seat.
Balint is a political newcomer. She has served on local boards and has been writing a column in the Brattleboro Reformer. She is intelligent and engaged but I don't think she has enough experience with some of the major issues to qualify her for this election.
Roger Allbee is the former Secretary of Agriculture and is currently the CEO at Grace Cottage Hospital. The next legislative session will be spent dealing with financing for Vermont's new health care system. Allbee will be able to offer his CEO perspective and that is something that I don't think will represent enough of a broad cross section of Windham County voters. The Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems spends a serious amount of money doing very effective lobbying for all of Vermont's hospitals. They are always at the table when important issues are being worked on. I don't think we need to add a hospital insider to supplement the clout for the hospital association lobbying.
We do need someone to advocate for the people who will have to understand and access the state's new health care system. That person is Joan Bowman, someone who, I believe, would be the best candidate to join White in Montpelier. I must disclose that I work with Bowman and have known her for a few years, so I have a bias. She has many years of experience working on political issues and she is extremely well informed when it comes to health care reform. Bowman has been one of the state Health Connect navigators who have been enrolling people in the federally mandated health exchange insurance programs. There are very few people in the state who know as much as she does about the exchanges, as well as the intricacies of our current health care system. She has been one of the shining stars of the navigator system and that is why she was chosen to be on a panel of experts at the yearly Vermont Blueprint for Health conference. Not only did she do a good job, she wowed the crowd with her intelligence, enthusiasm and energy.
I have worked with many people over the past few decades on health care reform issues and Bowman is among the most knowledgeable and hard working people of the lot. She has a tremendous amount of energy to fuel her unwavering optimism. And she knows how to deliver the goods. You can't ask for better qualities in a senator.
I am sure all of the candidates have the potential to do an excellent job. The coming election will provide a healthy forum for the exchange of ideas among a field of well qualified individuals.
Richard Davis is a registered nurse and long-time health care advocate. He writes from Guilford and welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.