Elections 2012: Vermont, state rep contests on tap for Tuesday

Saturday November 3, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- A presidential election tends to drive up Election Day turnout, and some Vermont town clerks already have noticed that trend in the arrival of large numbers of early voters.

But there are plenty of other races on Windham County ballots -- most of them for statewide office including governor, U.S. senator, U.S. representative and even a hotly disputed contest for state treasurer.

Most locals won't find many choices when casting votes for the state legislature, however, as many incumbents lack challengers. One exception is a battle between two independent newcomers in the Windham-Bennington-Windsor state House district.

Here's a look at the highlights of Tuesday's races, from the top of the ballot down:

-- U.S. Senate:

The big battle: Independent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (www.bernie.org) vs. Republican John MacGovern (www.johnmacgovern.com).

Sanders is seeking his second six-year Senate term; he previously served 16 years in the U.S. House and declares himself "the longest-serving independent in the history of the United States Congress." He has recently discussed deficit reduction (in part by receiving more tax revenue from corporations and the wealthy) and preserving Social Security as priorities.

MacGovern is a Windsor resident and former Massachusetts state legislator who lists the national debt and a stagnant economy among his main concerns.

Also on the ballot: Pete Diamondstone of Brattleboro, Liberty Union Party; Cris Ericson, United States Marijuana; Laurel LaFramboise, VoteKISS; Peter Moss, Peace and Prosperity.

-- U.S. House:

The big battle: Democratic U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (www.welchforcongress.com) vs. Republican Mark Donka (www.markdonkaforvt.com).

Welch is seeking his fourth term as Vermont's lone House representative. Welch has said cutting defense spending is a key way to reduce the national debt and argued that the federal Affordable Care Act is "critical" to Vermont's efforts to enact a single-payer health-care system.

Donka is a Woodstock police officer and former Selectboard member in Hartford. He is concerned about the national debt and says "ObamaCare" will shift more health-care costs to middle- and working-class people or will lead to more governmental borrowing.

Also on the ballot: James "Sam" Desrochers, independent; Andre LaFramboise, VoteKISS; Jane Newton, Liberty Union.

-- Governor:

The big battle: Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin (www.shumlinforgovernor.com) vs. Republican Randy Brock (www.randybrock.com).

Shumlin is a Putney native vying for a second term. He touts Vermont's low unemployment rate and says he has worked to improve education, broadband access and agriculture. He is a vocal opponent of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in Vernon and is pushing for Vermont to enact a centralized, single-payer health-care system later this decade.

Brock is a state senator from Franklin County and a former state auditor who also worked in finance. He wants to make Vermont more business-friendly by addressing a "heavy-handed regulatory environment" and has been critical of Shumlin's health-care plans, releasing his own 25-point plan to address health-care costs.

Also on the ballot: Dave Eagle, Liberty Union; Cris Ericson, United States Marijuana; Emily Peyton, an independent from Putney.

-- Lieutenant governor:

The big battle: Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott (www.philscott.org) vs. Democrat Cassandra "Cass" Gekas (www.gekas2012.com).

Scott is a former state Senator from Washington County seeking his second term as lieutenant governor. He cites his "hands-on" efforts to help the state recover in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene last year among his accomplishments.

Gekas, making her first political run, said her priorities include universal health care and renewable energy. She most-recently worked in Montpelier as a policy advocate for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group.

Vermont's lieutenant governor fills in for the governor when he or she is out of state, presides over the state Senate and casts a tie-breaking vote in that legislative body.

Also on the ballot: Ben Mitchell, Liberty Union.

-- Treasurer:

The big battle: Democratic incumbent Beth Pearce (www.bethpearce.com) vs. Republican Wendy Wilton (www.wendywilton.org).

Pearce served as Vermont's deputy treasurer before being appointed treasurer in January 2011. She is touting her experience in public finance and Vermont's AAA bond rating.

Wilton said she, as Rutland's treasurer, has helped turn around that city's finances. She also says the state treasurer's office needs more transparency and independence and has been critical of Pearce's management, citing high overtime costs.

Pearce said the overtime was necessary and has called Wilton's campaign "offensive."

Also on the ballot: Jessica "Jessy" Diamondstone of Dummerston, Liberty Union.

-- Auditor of accounts:

The big battle: Republican Vince Illuzzi (www.vinceforvermont.com) vs. Democrat Doug Hoffer (www.hofferforauditor.com).

Illuzzi is the Essex County state's attorney and spent 32 years in the state Senate before deciding to run for auditor. He was elected to the Senate as both a Republican and a Democrat for a dozen years. Illuzzi has said one of his top priorities would be to conduct a review of the state's information-technology spending.

Hoffer is a self-employed policy analyst who notes that he worked under contract with the state auditor for five years. The author of the Job Gap Study says he is a "stubborn investigator" who wants to ensure state money is being spent wisely.

The state's current auditor, Republican Tom Salmon, decided to not seek another term.

Also on the ballot: Jerry Levy, Liberty Union.

-- Attorney general:

The big battle: Democratic incumbent William Sorrell (www.billsorrell.org) vs. Republican Jack McMullen (www.jackmcmullenag.com).

Sorrell has been in office for 15 years and survived a stiff primary challenge from Chittenden County state's attorney T.J. Donovan. He touts his experience in criminal justice, environmental-regulation enforcement and consumer protection.

Among his current cases is an appeal in federal court regarding the state's attempts to shut down Vermont Yankee.

McMullen is experienced in business law and currently works as a consultant to technology companies. He contends Sorrell has pursued an "activist," partisan agenda and wants to devote more resources to combating drug-related crime.

Also on the ballot: Ed Stanak, Progressive; Rosemarie Jackowski, Liberty Union.

In the only other statewide race, Secretary of State James Condos is listed as a Democrat, Republican and Progressive. His sole opponent is Mary Alice Herbert, a Putney resident and Liberty Union candidate.

At the legislative level, there are few local races.

-- Windham County state Senate (two seats available):

The ballot includes incumbent Democrats Peter Galbraith of Townshend and Jeanette White of Putney. With two nominations available, Democrat Mary Cain of Brattleboro lost in the primary and is not on Tuesday's ballot, though she has campaigned for write-in votes.

Also on the ballot: Aaron Diamondstone, a Liberty Union candidate from Marlboro.

-- Windham-Bennington-Windsor state House (one seat available): Independents Emmett Dunbar (emmettforhouse.org) and Tim Goodwin (www.goodwinforhouse.com) both are making their first run for state office.

The district covers the towns of Jamaica, Londonderry, Stratton, Weston and Winhall. Republican state Rep. Oliver Olsen of Jamaica did not seek another term.

Dunbar is a South Londonderry farmer and educator whose concerns include education funding and taxes. He said tax breaks and increased broadband access could help boost the district's population.

Goodwin, of Weston, is a retired federal employee and certified public accountant. He has served on school boards and lists preservation of local school choice among his priorities along with economic development.

Aside from two Liberty Union candidates, there is no opposition for any other Windham County state House seat:

-- Windham 1 (Vernon and Guilford, one seat): Republican state Rep. Mike Hebert is unopposed.

-- Windham 2-1 (portion of Brattleboro, one seat): Democratic state Rep. Valerie Stuart is unopposed.

-- Windham 2-2 (portion of Brattleboro, one seat): Democratic state Rep. Mollie Burke is unopposed.

-- Windham 2-3 (portion of Brattleboro, one seat): Democrat Tristan Toleno defeated Kate O'Connor in the primary and is opposed by Liberty Union candidate Ian Diamondstone.

-- Windham 3 (Athens, Brookline, Grafton, Rockingham, Windham and part of Westminster; two seats): Democratic state Reps. Carolyn Partridge and Matthew Trieber are unopposed, having defeated Chris Moore in the primary.

-- Windham 4 (Dummerston, Putney and part of Westminster; two seats): Democratic state Reps. David Deen and Mike Mrowicki are opposed by Liberty Union candidate Owen Diamondstone.

-- Windham 5 (Marlboro, Newfane and Townshend; one seat): Democratic state Rep. Richard Marek is unopposed.

-- Windham 6 (Halifax, Wilmington and part of Whitingham; one seat): Democratic state Rep. Ann Manwaring is unopposed.

-- Windham-Bennington (Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro and part of Whitingham; one seat): Democratic state Rep. John Moran is unopposed.

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.


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