Berry announces run for State House

MANCHESTER - A new face wants to represent Manchester, Arlington, Sandgate and Sunderland in Mont pelier. Steven Berry, a former minister at the First Congregational Church in Manchester Village, will be running for a seat in the state House of Representatives this fall.

The district is currently represented by Cynthia Browning and Jeff Wilson, both Democrats. Browning has announced she is running for re-election for what would be a fifth term. Wilson has stated he will not be running for what would have been a fourth term in office, citing family reasons and the difficulty of balancing his work in the legislature with work demands.

Berry, who is making his first try for elected office, will be running as a democrat, he said in an interview Tuesday. He is currently seeking enough signatures for a petition to qualify for a spot on the primary election ballot.

Berry said he was encouraged to run after speaking to some friends and because of Wilson's decision. He has always been an independent politically, and has always tried to vote his conscience.

Encouraging the state to adopt a joint resolution to call for a constitutional convention to mitigate the impact of money in politics was one motivating factor which pushed his decision to throw his hat in the political ring, he said.

"I think that the last couple of months were important because I became involved with JRS 27," he said, referring to the title of the joint resolution, which was adopted by the state legislature towards the end of the recently concluded legislative session. Vermont became the first state in the nation to adopt the resolution, which calls for a constitutional amendment to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the Citizen's United case. That controversial decision, reached in 2010, removed campaign contribution limits on corporate and union political donations.

"I received a call out of the blue from a young man in New Jersey to help get a bill passed in Vermont to call for a constitutional convention to get money out of politics."

Berry was involved with the process and helped bring Bennington County Senators Hart well and Sears on board to the idea. He said this experience was a factor in his decision to run.

Berry has worked as a community organizer, Congregational minister and has served on a multitude of boards and committees. He said while he has not worked within government before, he has worked in conjunction with government agencies and municipalities, which he said will be beneficial experience if he makes it to Montpelier.

Many candidates are currently focusing on the big issues facing Vermont - education financing and health care. Berry also believes these are important, but said he will focus more on the fundamentals.

"I welcome working on those issues [education and health care] in a collegial manner and to come up with acceptable solutions to the citizens of Vermont," he said. "However, as important as those issues are for me, they do not predominate. My concerns are more rudimentary. I am concerned about citizens exercising their rights to vote, to have a say, while we still have an opportunity to do so."

Berry said he looks forward to learning more about these issues and bringing the concerns of his constituents to Montpelier.

According to the Vermont Secretary of State's website, would-be candidates have until June 12 to submit petitions in order to appear on primary election ballots. The primary is scheduled for Aug. 26.

In a previous version of this article, Berry was running as an independent. He has since clarified and is running as a democratic.


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