Our opinion: The good fortune of a difficult choice
If we had our way, the third-place finisher in next week's election for the Bennington-4 district in the Vermont House of Representatives would get a second-chance runoff against another House member — sort of like a wild-card playoff berth in professional sports. (The Red Sox won a World Series title that way in 2004, back when that only happened once every 86 years.) But the rules say the top two vote-getters win, and the third-place finisher stays home. And that means one of three excellent candidates for the Bennington-4 district — Democrats Cynthia Browning of Arlington and Kathleen James of Manchester and Republican Brian Keefe of Manchester — won't be going to Montpelier in January to serve Arlington, Manchester, Sandgate and part of Sunderland in the House. Browning and Keefe are incumbents; James is running in her first foray into politics.Browning has years of experience, a strong independent streak and an appetite for the granular details of how legislation and policy work. Keefe, completing his first term, has already guided three bills into law, including one addressing the "benefits cliff," and worked to support film and TV production in Vermont. And James, a community organizer and journalist, has made a strong first impression, voicing her commitment to equality and to addressing climate change, and showing the willingness to work and learn. Northshire voters are quite fortunate to have such a difficult choice. Rather than issue a recommendation in this race that will only serve second-guessing, we have something different in mind. We've asked the candidates to make one last statement of why they think they should be your state Representative. You'll find their cases made below.However, we do have recommendations in this race, for voters and candidates alike. First and foremost, as servants of the First Amendment, we value transparency above all else. Vermont still has too many exceptions to its public records law, and building a culture of the public's right to know is crucial to establishing greater trust in government. For example, it should not be possible for the state to pay a private business such as Keurig Dr Pepper millions of dollars without the taxpayers knowing exactly how much money was spent, as well as some reasonable explanation of how it was spent. So we ask that the Northshire's representatives in Montpelier should push relentlessly on improved openness, and work to greatly reduce the public records exceptions written into law and into state policy. Second only to transparency among our priorities is independence. Partisanship is an inevitable product of politics, both medium and message. But we saw party allegiances become more important than compromise during this past summer's budget battle. That trend needs to be nipped in the bud — on all sides. It starts with lawmakers being able to stand up and vote their conscience and work across the aisle to solve problems, rather than serve the dictates of party leadership first and constituents second. Vermont has but 625,000 people and a lot of work to do to address climate change, economic opportunity, affordability, and an opiate epidemic. We can agree to disagree on solutions, but we don't have time for reindeer games. Third and finally, to the third-place finisher in this race, we offer the following encouragement: You might wake up disappointed on Wednesday morning, but please don't make this your last involvement in government or public service. You have a lot to give, and this state still needs you. With that, and with our strongest possible urging that you vote on Tuesday, here are responses to our last question to the candidates, listed in alphabetical order. Our question to the candidates: "Make your last pitch in a few sentences. Why should folks vote for you?" Cynthia Browning:
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