Republican primary shapes up in Pawlet, Rupert

WELLS and PAWLET - There's a race underway in the Republican primary. Valerie Legh-Harriss and Eric Mach are both running to represent the towns of Middletown Springs, Pawlet, Rupert, Wells and Tinmouth. The primary election will take place on Aug. 26.

Legh-Harriss, a business owner and paralegal, said in an email she decided to run for state representative because Vermonters in her district need a strong voice and are frustrated that the legislature is not currently listening to their concerns. She cited experience on multiple bards and associations, like the Association for Gravestone Studies, the Vermont Old Cemeteries Association and the Wells Historical Society as beneficial to her as a candidate.

"Vermonters are being over-taxed, over-regulated, and their private property and constitutional rights are increasingly being violated," she wrote in an email to the Journal. "Just take a look at the number of tax increase bills that have recently passed including the $12.6 million increase to 2014 spending (H. 655); the $1.438 BILLION [Legh-Harriss' capitalization] general fund spending for 2015 (H.885), and the $56.2 million property tax increase (H.889)."

The seat Legh-Harriss is running for has been held the past 10 years by a Democrat, John Malcolm. He is not seeking re-election this year. She wrote that there needs to be more balance - Vermont has a Democratic Governor, Senate and House. While Malcolm has served, she wrote, taxes have increased, the cost of education has increased and health care is uncertain and will probably see a cost increase.

"In the same time period, we've seen a decline in the economy, businesses either failing or leaving, and hundreds of job losses," she wrote. "It is high time we replace this seat with a fiscally responsible Republican such as myself; and by doing so could only be a benefit to the voters in this district." Legh-Harriss is not a supporter of Single Payer health care. She called it "purely hypothetical and just an unknown." Vermont may have to return to the federally funded health care, she wrote, in an effort to provided a sustainable and affordable service. As for education finance and governance reform, Legh-Harriss wrote that it is very complex. Costs have risen, while student enrollment has dropped sine Act 60 and 68 were enacted, she wrote.

"However, in contrast, it's proven that tuition receiving independent schools are far more financially successful without jeopardizing student achievement," she wrote. "Understanding the many opportunities that independent schools have to offer, one can appreciate the tendency to move in this direction. That being said, we must continue to give Vermont parents a choice of where to send their children to school."

If elected, Legh-Harriss wrote she will advocate for job creation, school choice, economic growth, balanced spending and less government waste. The other contender, Eric J. Mach, has served as a justice of the peace in Pawlet for 30 years and as the zoning administrator since 1986. He said he has been considering a run for office for quite awhile now.

"I looked at the candidates that were running and didn't think either one would represent my interests," he said.

Mach, who has run for justice of the peace as both a Republican and an independent said he does not like the "mean-spirited" attitude of the national Republican party right now.

"I don't have an agenda, but I'm willing to listen to all problems we have and work on everyone with just as much enthusiasm," he said.

However, after reading a piece by Phil Scott, Lt. Governor, about bringing more moderates back to the party, he decided to run as a Republican. He said he believes in less government, as well as knowing more about where tax dollars are coming from before being spent.

"We need to compromise and need to move forward," he said. "If the other party has a good idea, we should work together to put our stamp on it too." As for health care, Mach said we need to find out who this plan will help and who it will hurt.

"It's on us now, " he said. "Let's try to make this work, don't break it down."

He said he's not sure whether Single Payer is the way to go or not, but that it is one option Vermont has now and should be looked at.

Education, Mach said, is something that should have a large amount of money spent on. However, he doesn't want to see Vermont become a place just with retired people and "summer people" because it is too expensive to live.

"We can't break the backs of the working people by [over] taxing them," he said.

While education and health care will definitely be topics of discussion during the next session, Mach said he has also heard from many people about gun control and the environment. As a former Marine, Mach said he owns guns and is a pretty good shot. But, with gun ownership comes gun responsibility, he said. He said he believes it is a Second Amendment right to bear arms and if a law abiding citizen wants to, they have the right to have a gun.

"We should keep guns away from felons and people with mental illness as best we can," he said. "I know some people want universal background checks, but we already have background checks [before purchasing a firearm]."

As for the environment, Mach said he would like to know more about how energy projects are sited and how it deals with land use.


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