Danby resident in center of Progressive primary recount

DANBY - Annette Smith, who has been seeking candidacy for the Progressive Party's nomination for Governor, has been catapulted into the center of Vermont politics. Following an initial corrected ballot total of primary voting held Aug. 28, Smith lost her party's nomination for governor by the thinnest of margins - 1 vote - and now awaits the final result of a recount.

The recount is scheduled to start in civil courts in each county beginning Thursday, Sept., 13th at 9 a.m.

"I still am not in the camp that think I'm an automatic winner," said Smith, "What I've said all along is that I will deal with that when it comes."

Smith was competing for the nomination with Martha Abbott, who initially seemed the winner of the Progressive Party's primary by a 17 vote margin. But voting irregularities brought to light afterwards prompted a second look at the results, which shaved Abbott's apparent victory to only a single vote. It turns out Smith's candidacy was not planned. She was almost chosen by default to take on the write-in campaign.

"I just said you can write my name in the ballot if you would like. I didn't really do anything before the election," Smith said.

Besides running for office, Smith is also the co-founder and Executive Director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, or VCE, which is a statewide, non-profit organization founded in 1999 that believes Vermont's economic growth depends on its environmental health.

"Vermonter's for a Clean Environment began around a proposal for a billion dollar natural gas and pipeline project proposed for Rutland and Bennington counties. My concern was not the pipeline but the power plants. They wanted to use our land, our air, our water, our people and give us nothing in return," said Smith, who is referring to Omya, a leading global producer of industrial minerals based out of Switzerland.

The project involved blasting ledges of Emerald Lake, located in East Dorset, and the pipeline would go through Beebe's farm. This means that there would be no horse show if that happened, said Smith.

After winning that fight Smith became the unintentional leader of VCE, taking on projects that she believed need a voice from the citizens and the victims that these types of projects ignore.

"When you are these people who are watching these mountains that they love and their whole family history and livelihood is connected to the land its just sad," said Smith. "We have not done anything on a statewide level to address the fact that we are sacrificing thousands of people."

Victims include families who are told they need to move away from the wind turbines for health issues. Children are being effected. Constant headaches that are caused from the noise of wind turbines, Smith said.

"The people who are responsible for this, like Peter Shumlin, need to take responsibility for the victims they are creating and they won't," said Smith, "They won't even meet with the people who live around these mountains."

"The wind issue was something once I started to understand I noticed just how serious this was," said Smith, "It's not just about how the mountains of Vermont look. Putting [wind] turbines on ridge lines effects noise, you can hear them from miles away. It effects the ground water and runoff from the mountains that find there way into small streams. It effects the wildlife of Vermont. It decreases property values."

Her strong concern for the environment and the local citizens living in it has been a major factor in her surprising success.

"People feel like their freedoms are disappearing left and right and I think all of that is behind the whole write-in candidacy and they were looking for a candidate. I'm pretty sure I wasn't their first choice, but I said you can write me in if you want."

After all, she is a local. Smith has lived in Danby for 26 years, since 1987, and has a strong passion for the area.

"When I came to this place it just really felt like home to me. There is something about it that just seemed relaxing and peaceful," Smith said, "this area of Vermont is just extraordinary."

Smith lives off of the values that she has been fighting for. Everything from issues involving natural gas projects to wind power. Her home is almost completely powered by solar panels. She grows her own food and raises her own livestock.

In the end Smith just wanted to be a voice for the people who needed one.

"I've just seen all of our rules and laws thrown out the window. The only thing I've said is if I get a seat in the debates I will take a seat in the debates. The purpose of this campaign was to have a voice," said Smith, "I think that Shumlin needs to be called out on what he is doing."


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