Bennington County has been represented in recent years in the state senate by Dick Sears and Bob Hartwell. Sears has announced his intention to run again, but Hartwell has chosen not to. Sears first ran for senate in 1988, but lost. However, he won his election in 1992 and has held his senate seat ever since. He decided to run to work on different issues he feels strongly about, including health care, education and property taxes.
"Basically, we started [working on] several issues and I want to see them through ... like the opiate problem...it is certainly related to what we are seeing in the Department of Children and Families right now," he said. "I really believe strongly that we need to improve our economic development." Sears said he agrees with Gov. Shumlin's health care plan, but the state needs to see what it is going to cost, how this plan will be paid for, if it will really save any money, while also providing quality health care.
Hartwell, who was first elected in 2006 said he has been mulling over the decision whether or not to run again for a while, starting around the time of Town Meeting. He said he wants to spend more time with family and friends in Cape Cod, Mass., but also feels he has really accomplished all he can about the issues he feels strongly about. Some of the issues he said he believes are not being addressed include education spending and governance which effect property taxes and health care.
"I'm not offended by single payer, but what I think we should have done is adopt the President's program [the Affordable Care Act or more commonly referred to as Obamacare]," he said. "It is extremely costly. ... and I don't know if it can be fixed."
While Hartwell has chosen not to run again, he is not completely out of politics yet. He said he is very pleased Brian Campion has chosen to run and believes he will be a great Senator for Sears to work with.
Campion has served as a representative from a district in Bennington since 2010. He said he was originally surprised to hear Hart well was choosing not to run again; running for the senate was always a part of a longer term plan, once Sears or Hartwell retired.
"It's a great opportunity to serve the entire county [and] expand my interest in serving Vermonters," he said. "Representing the county will give me a much more comprehensive look at all sorts of issues."
Comprehensive education reform is one issue Campion hopes to work on in the Senate. He, like Sears, is also committed to finding a solution to sustainable property tax reform and the opiate addiction problem in Vermont.
He also wants to work on Vermont's economic development and draw job opportunities to the state.
"We have some demographic issues in this state we're an aging population," he said. "We need to attract young people here through job opportunities. If people grow up here, [with job opportunities] they can stay. How do we get people from out of state to consider Vermont?"
The Republican party will be represented in this election by Bennington resident Warren Roaf. An educator for 34 years, Roaf said he decided to run after the increase in property taxes the state has seen. He previously ran unsuccessfully for state representative in his district in 2012. Roaf said he believes that running as a Republican could benefit him, even though Bennington County has been recently represented by Democrats in the senate. "I think it's definitely an uphill battle. I think I understand why people in Vermont tend to vote Democratic most of the time," he said. "But I think if people hear me out and listen to my ideas, I think that I provide really a true alternative to some of the excess spending that I see going on, while maintaining the services that are important to people."
Health care and its associated cost, a topic many candidates and Vermonters care about, could be solved by partnering with the private sector, he said. As for education reform, as an educator, Roaf brings a different view point and said the solution is out there, but politicians just need to listen to what is being said.
"I think that I'm a competitive candidate. Even though I'm a Republican and new to the race, I think that people are looking for something that is new," he said.
There are also competitive races for the House of Representatives. In the Arlington, Manchester, Sunderland and Sandgate district, there are three individuals running. Cynthia Browning, a Democrat, will run for again for the seat she currently holds. Browning was first elected in 2006. She had previously run for state senate in 2004, but was defeated and has served as an Arlington select board member in the past. Jeff Wilson, who has represented the area since 2009, has decided not to run. Newcomers Steve Berry, a Democrat and Tony duPont, a Republican, will run as well. Representative Patti Komline, who has served since 2004 the Dorset, Danby, Landgrove, Mt. Tabor and Peru, area has decided to run again. Like Sears, Komline chose to run because there are issues, like health care and property taxes, she said needs to be worked on. Mary Barosse-Schwartz, a Democrat, is running against Komline. Schwartz is a first time candidate from Dorset.
In the mountain towns of Jamaica, Londonderry, Stratton, Weston and Winhall there is also a competitive race. Oliver Olsen, who represented the district from 2010 until 2012, he decided to run after Charles "Tim" Goodwin, an independent, chose not to run for re-election. Olsen, who previously ran as a Republican, has chosen to run as an independent this time around. Teresa Ellsworth, a Progressive, is running against Olsen. She is also a first time candidate.
The primary election will be held on August 26. Next week's Journal will feature a story about the State's Attorney race.