Former VSEA president runs for House; Franklin County Senate race heats up; Lewis may be eying Illuzzi’s slot
by Taylor Dobbs vtdigger.org Robert Hooper, a longtime state employee and VSEA president, announced a bid for a House seat in his home district in Burlington’s North End. Currently Bill Aswad, a Democrat, and Kurt Wright, a Republican, sit in the district.
Wright confirmed Friday that he plans to run again for his seat, and Aswad could not be reached for comment Friday, but both Hooper and Wright said they had heard he is running for re-election.
Hooper, a retired social worker and probation officer at the Department of Children and Families, said he didn’t yet have an official platform developed, but in general he is “a proponent of issues for working people.”
Hooper said he had nothing negative to say about Aswad or Wright, but that a “fresh voice” representing the community might be a good change.
Hooper wants to see the North End benefit from legislation that helps foster job growth. The neighborhood, made up mostly of working families, has come upon hard times in recent years.
“In general, I’d like to see what the legislature could do in terms of fostering more job creation within the state,” Hooper said.
Hooper said he’d like to see the state do more to reduce the prison budget, which “has always been an area that eats up a lot of money,” and address the mental health system, which found itself in crisis when Tropical Storm Irene forced the closure of the Vermont State Hospital.
“I think that there’s a lot of work to be done both in the area of mental health and corrections,” he said. “I was initially enthusiastic about the mental health system and then the flood came along and that really changed the situation of how we do things.”
Caroline Bright settles rumors of Chittenden County residency
Caroline Bright, the former Miss Vermont now running for Franklin County Senate hopes to settle all doubts of her residency and loyalty to Franklin County. After her campaign announcement, which she made at St. Michael’s College just after her graduation, one of her opponents, Joe Sinagra, questioned the choice.
“I welcome Ms. Bright to the race, however it’s unfortunate that she decided to announce in Chittenden county, instead of the county she hopes to represent in the State Senate,” Sinagra said in a statement.
Following up on a tip received this week that Bright had leased an apartment in Burlington, VT, VTDigger asked Bright about her residency and her campaign announcement.
“I’ve heard this rumor floating around and I didn’t want to issue a press release and it’s such a ludicrous non-issue,” she said.
Bright said the only apartment she has ever had in Chittenden County was one she leased during her time at St. Michael’s College – “It was never my legal residence, it was only a school apartment that I rented in Burlington for school purposes,” she said of that property. That lease is now expired and she is living at her grandmother’s Georgia home.
As for a new lease in Burlington, Bright said it is a mix-up. Earlier in the year, some of Bright’s friends were seeking a housemate and asked her if she wanted to join on the lease. Ultimately, only Bright’s boyfriend’s name went on the lease.
“Three of my close friends are living with my boyfriend in Burlington,” Bright said of the rumor. Her name is not on any lease in Chittenden County, she says.
“It’s so obviously someone for whatever reason trying to discredit my campaign in the most ridiculous possible way,” she said.
As for the location of her campaign announcement, Bright said she saw it as a symbolic one and said it was appropriate.
“It wasn’t so much for scheduling purposes as it was for the symbolism of the moment,” she said. As she campaigns on education issues, she said she felt it important to start the campaign at an educational establishment.
“If there had been a four-year college in Franklin County that I could have attended, I would have and I would have announced my campaign from there,” Bright said.
The residence in Georgia where Bright now lives has been in her family for four generations, and she says she plans to live there indefinitely.
“I’m a Georgia resident,” Bright said. “I went to elementary school in Georgia. That’s where I live.”
Franklin County Senate race heats up
The two seats in representing Franklin County in the Green Room are up for grabs this year as Sen. Randy Brock and Sen. Sara Kittell both vacate, and no fewer than five candidates are hoping to fill them.
With campaign announcements already from Republicans Norm McAllister and Joe Sinagra and Democrats Caroline Bright and former Sen. Don Collins, Independent Judy McLaughlin joined the fray this week.
McLaughlin, who served for 31 years in the military and recently retired as a lieutenant colonel in the Vermont National Guard, is hoping to bring her experience into the Statehouse. McLaughlin is running on a four-part platform: Diversified agriculture, rural youth, entrepreneurism, and affordable energy.
The four tie together, McLaughlin says, as aspects of a successful, self-sustaining Vermont.
A self-proclaimed “homesteader,” McLaughlin says Vermont can reduce its energy footprint by thinking on the home level. She and her husband raise all their own food and are able to feed themselves and some of their friends with their yields. Along this line of thinking, she says, affordable alternative energy for one property is worth pursuing instead of current projects like the large wind farms around the state.
“I believe that we should be refocusing how we look at alternative energy in Vermont,” McLaughlin said.
That’s not to say she isn’t for alternative energy like wind, solar and others, “but it has to be conducive to the individual, to the community, to Vermont as a whole,” she said.
Her beliefs about diversified agriculture stems from her lifestyle also. Currently, she says, Vermont lacks the processing infrastructure to produce meat, produce and other farm goods for sale.
McLaughlin admits “diversisfied agriculture” is a buzz word in political circles, but her experience has shown her what is needed on the ground to help make it a reality.
“We cannot say Vermont needs to go with diversified agriculture if we don’t figure out the infrastructure that’s required to support it,” she said.
As for rural youth and entrepreneurialism, McLaughlin said there are far too many roadblocks in the paths of both.
Small businesses are set to be the “economic lifeblood of Vermont,” McLaughlin said, but they can’t get the boost they need.
“Guess why they can’t do it? Because our permitting process is stymied,” she said.
While rural youth don’t have to get a permit for higher education, McLaughlin says they have plenty of roadblocks in their way as well. Many children in rural communities, McLaughlin says, aspire to be the first in their families to attend a four-year higher education institution, but “they can’t be what they can’t see.”
Financial roadblocks prevent low-income families from getting their children through college, and McLaughlin says Vermont should take a look at this.
“I think we need to start rethinking higher education for our youth,” she said.
As for her campaign, “I’m doing it the old-fashioned way,” McLaughlin said.
She plans to get on her old mountain bike that she in the Republic of Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina doing diplomatic work and ride through the county talking to citizens and campaigning.
The low-budget ride might be explained by her campaign funding method.
McLaughlin is self-funding her campaign “in protest; for campaign finance reform. It’s ridiculous what people have to spend to finance a campaign,” she said. Supporters can sponsor her by the mile as she rides the streets of Franklin County, but that money won’t go to her campaign. All donations will go to the Franklin County Food Shelf.
McLaughlin does have some funds, but web outreach via Facebook and pursuing her “beat the streets” campaign philosophy are her primary means of getting the word out.
“I’m not crazy,” she said, “I mean I saved for this.”
Rep. Robert Lewis to make campaign announcement next week
Rep. Bob Lewis, R – Derby, is set to make an announcement about his future in politics early next week. Though he wouldn’t say exactly what the announcement was, he confirmed that it will be a run for office.
“It would be safe to say I’m running for a public office, yes,” he said in an interview.
Lewis may announce a run for state Senate with the hopes of taking the place of Republican Sen. Vince Illuzzi, but he would not confirm which office he plans to run for.
Lewis had not filed a petition with the Secretary of State’s office as of noon on June 8. Anyone running for elected office in Vermont must file a petition by June 14.
Donovan endorsed by AFL-CIO
Attorney General T.J. Donovan, in the latest of what seems to be a battle of endorsements, scored a hit on incumbent Bill Sorrell when the Vermont AFL-CIO endorsed him.
Donovan now has endorsements from the Vermont Troopers’ Association, Vermont Sherriffs’ Association and Sen. Dick Sears, chair of the Judiciary Committee, among others.
Sorrell, earlier in the week, got endorsements from five former Chittenden County State’s Attorneys. The group endorsed Sorrell despite Donovan currently holding the office. Sorrell held it twice before becoming Attorney General in 1997.
VTA endorses Condos, who is running unopposed
The Vermont Troopers’ Association this week endorsed Secretary of State Jim Condos, though the two-year incumbent has yet to see an opposing candidate file a petition or announce their candidacy.
Condos says the VTA gave him the endorsement because he is a “known quantity” to the organization, and he will continue to seek endorsements even if he runs unopposed this year in order to show voters that many Vermonters think he has done a good job.
“Even if I end up not having a candidate against me, and I suspect that I will, I will still go out and seek these endorsements,” he said.