Barrett defeats Franklin for state’s attorney nomination

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Jennifer Barrett.  Photo by Joseph Gresser

Jennifer Barrett. Photo by Joseph Gresser

copyright the Chronicle August 27, 2014

Jennifer Barrett was a clear victor in the Orleans County State’s Attorney’s race in the Republican PrimaryTuesday evening, and Paul Lefebvre won as a Republican nominee for the House district that covers parts of Essex County, Caledonia County, and Westmore in Orleans County.

Ms. Barrett had 953 votes to incumbent Alan Franklin’s 656 in the Chronicle’s unofficial election night results.

Mr. Franklin was overwhelmed by a strong challenge from his former deputy.  Ms. Barrett won in all but one of Orleans County’s 19 towns.

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In the Legislature: Local control in wind siting unlikely

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David Mealiea and Anna Dirkse, both of Burlington, were two of four singing pickets who stood outside the State House last Thursday in support of raising the minimum wage.  “We fight for human rights so all can be free,” they sang.  Photo by Paul Lefebvre

David Mealiea and Anna Dirkse, both of Burlington, were two of four singing pickets who stood outside the State House last Thursday in support of raising the minimum wage. “We fight for human rights so all can be free,” they sang. Photo by Paul Lefebvre

copyright the Chronicle March 26, 2014

by Paul Lefebvre

MONTPELIER — Regional and local planners are expected to be the big losers in a bill to open up the siting process for ridgeline industrial wind projects.

Scheduled to appear on the Senate floor, the bill was rerouted to the Senate Committee on Appropriations Tuesday as negotiations continued behind the scenes to strike a compromise and keep it alive.

“Unfortunately, regional planning is one of those things we’re probably not going to wind up with,” said Senator John Rodgers of Glover during a telephone interview Tuesday.

One of the stated purposes of the bill was “to strengthen the role of planning commissions and local selectboard and planning commissions in the siting review process for energy facilities by giving greater weight to their recommendations and plans.”

But at the end of the day, that’s not likely what’s going to happen.

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Starr, Rodgers, Johnson prevail in Primary election

by Bethany M. Dunbar

copyright the Chronicle 8-29-2012

State Senate candidates Bob Starr and John Rodgers and Representative Bill Johnson came out on top in local Primary elections Tuesday.

Mr. Starr and Mr. Rodgers survived a three-way contest for two nominations on the Democratic ballot with James Guyette of Derby Line.  Mr. Starr, of North Troy, is the one incumbent.  Mr. Rodgers of Glover has served in the House but not in the Senate before.

Mr. Johnson of Canaan, the incumbent, defeated challenger Maurice Connary of Brighton to claim the single Republican nomination in his Essex-Caledonia-Orleans District.  There were no Democratic or Progressive candidates on the ballot in the district.

Voter turnout for Orleans and parts of Essex counties was extremely low, about 9 to 10 percent.

Every vote counted.  In fact, in Bloomfield, Mr. Johnson got one vote, and his opponent had none.

With all towns in the Essex-Caledonia-Orleans district reporting except Lemington, the votes were 72 for Mr. Johnson and 25 for Mr. Connary.

“I’ve always thought it’s been an honor to serve my constituents,” said Mr. Johnson.  He has recently retired from dairy farming and has served in the House for 17 years.

He said he looks forward to going back to the Legislature, especially if he is reappointed to the Ways and Means Committee which handles taxes.

“One of the things that the Legislature has got to figure out is how to pay for the new health care,” he said.

“It’s going to take all of the resources that we can muster,” he said, mentioning that health care is one-fifth of Vermont’s total economy.  “It will probably be a payroll tax.”

Mr. Johnson said he had been afraid voter turnout would be very low.  In his home town of Canaan, he and his wife voted two hours after the polls had opened and were the first to vote.

The state Senate

 Not all the towns reported in as of press time Tuesday evening, but with all but a handful of results, it seemed clear that Mr. Starr and Mr. Rodgers would prevail.  Mr. Starr, who has 33 years of experience serving the voters in Montpelier, was top vote-getter with 947, and Mr. Rodgers had 816 to Mr. Guyette’s 476.

“If I win I’d just like to thank my supporters,” said Mr. Rodgers.  He said he looks forward to debates and forums and any chance he can get to get out there and make sure the voters know who he is.

Mr. Starr and Mr. Rodgers, the Democrats, will square off against Republicans Bob Lewis of Derby, who stepped down a representative for Orleans-1 in order to run for Senate, and Jay Dudley of Barton.

In the tightest statewide race of the day, at press time with 95 percent of precincts reporting, the incumbent attorney general, William Sorrell, was ahead with 20,614 votes compared to 20,000 votes for his challenger, Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan, according to WCAX’s website.

In Orleans County and nine Essex County towns, Mr. Sorrell had 612 votes and Mr. Donovan had 523.

contact Bethany M. Dunbar at:  bethany@bartonchronicle.com

For more free articles from the Chronicle like this one, see our Editor’s Pick pages.  For all the Chronicle‘s stories, pick up a print copy or subscribe, either for print or digital.

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Bernie Henault of Island Pond lived a life of advocacy

Bernard Henault of Island Pond.

by Paul Lefebvre

copyright the Chronicle August 1, 2012

MONTPELIER — As a one-legged fellow, Bernie Henault had a long stride:  a stride that carried him through the doors of one social agency after another in the Kingdom and into the State House committee rooms here in the state’s capital.

Perhaps it was fitting and most appropriate then that the last tribute paid to Bernie was in the cafeteria where politicians and lobbyists mingle over lunch and pitch issues.

“He spent a great deal of his life roaming through these halls and that’s the reason why we’re meeting in this cafeteria,” said Sharon Henault, Bernie’s wife and partner in working for the poor and those who must cope with a physical disability.

Saturday’s potluck tribute to Mr. Henault, who died June 4, came on what would have been his seventieth birthday.  A familiar figure at town meetings as well an animated talker on the streets of Island Pond, Mr. Henault was indefatigable in his advocacy for social justice for the poor and the disabled.  Nor was he afraid to step outside the box.

“He was the best antidote to group think I know,” said Susan Yuan of Jericho, who served on low-income committees with Bernie.

She said he had a larger vision than most of the other committee members in that he saw that advocacy begins at home.  She noted that Bernie urged other advocates to take the issues that affected their clients back to their local school boards and town meetings.

Ed Paquin of Montpelier, who once served as a state legislator in the House and is the current executive director of Disability Rights of Vermont — a nonprofit agency that provides legal representation to its clients — described Mr. Henault as a tenacious fighter for the cause and one not easy to appease.

“He was a great guy to call your bluff,” recalled Mr. Paquin, who gets around in a wheelchair.

Mr. Henault was 17 when he was struck by a drunk driver that led to the amputation of one of his legs, according to an interview he gave recently to a reporter with the Rutland Herald.

A man with an empty pant leg who relied solely on crutches, Mr. Henault was equally as passionate about education as he was social justice.

He served on the North Country Union High School Board and along with Sharon adopted two biracial girls, whom he guided on what to expect in a Northeast Kingdom public school system that historically sees few people of color.

Samantha, who is now a 21-year old single mom, living at home with her mother and going to college, recalled her public school experience as the “only girl with two disabled parents and the only mixed girl.”

Bernie, she said, taught her to feel proud that she was different, told her to hold her head high.

“He was always protective of me.  Always,” she said, as she contended with a different problem in the same hallways where her father had once bent a legislator’s ear:  Her two-year old daughter, Jaelyn, was acting up.

A Democrat who worked for Robert Kennedy in the party’s 1968 presidential primary, Mr. Henault was no stranger to electoral politics.  He repeatedly ran for a seat in the Vermont House and, although he never won, his ardor for public service never diminished.

No doubt it was a trait that U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders admired and praised when he showed up Saturday in the closing moments of the tribute.

Their relationship dated back to the 1970s when the two worked together on low-income issues, recalled Mrs. Henault in a telephone interview this week.

“If Bernie was looking down from above I know he’d be pleased,” she said, adding that the two men were friends as well as political allies.

People who worked with Mr. Henault recalled that he had a big voice and a pointing finger when it came to advocating on behalf of his clients.

Testimonials Saturday recalled that Bernie told his clients to see themselves as differently able people, never disabled, which gave them a different outlook about themselves and the world.

More than one speaker remembered him as the person who initiated the first wheelchair, “Mini Olympics” games in the state.  Or as the powerful voice who spearheaded the movement for independent living in the Kingdom.

Assertiveness was one of his traits.

“He was a guy to push you all he could if you represented the system,” noted one of the speakers.

Sarah Laundervill remembered meeting Bernie when she was teaching a class at Springfield College’s satellite campus in St. Johnsbury.  Her students were making their final presentations in a course on social work.  Bernie, who had come to the campus on another matter, stuck his head in the classroom to listen.  He wasn’t impressed.

“You must do better if you’re going out into the community,” he told one of the students.

Afterwards, Ms. Laundervill said she made a point of engaging Bernie in a conversation, but recalled having a difficult time getting him to listen to her.

Someone in the group quickly picked up the thread of her story, saying that at this moment Bernie was no doubt up in heaven telling them how they could do it better.

“I don’t think God could get a word in edgewise,” she concluded.

People Saturday characterized Bernie as someone who was infallibly human, someone who had his weaknesses as well as his strengths.  But most agreed that as an advocate he was a person who put the human in human services.

“It’s going to be very Bernie-like,” said Sharon, when she earlier characterized how she expected the tribute would play out.

“Very informal with people sitting around eating and talking.”

That’s pretty much the way it went with one exception:  On behalf of the Vermont Statewide Independent Living Council, Harriet Hall presented a plaque to Mrs. Henault in recognition of Bernie’s efforts for the group.

contact Paul Lefebvre at paul@bartonchronicle.com

For more free articles from the Chronicle like this one, see our Featuring page.  For all the Chronicle‘s stories, pick up a print copy or subscribe, either for print or digital.  

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Three seeking Illuzzi’s seat

Pictured is Vince Illuzzi at an energy meeting at Barton's municipal building in 2010. Photo by Joseph Gresser

by Tena Starr

copyright the chronicle June 13, 2012

So far, at least three people are in the running for the Orleans-Essex Senate seat that Vince Illuzzi has held for 32 years.

John Rodgers of Glover, a former state representative, Bob Lewis of Derby, a current representative, and Jim Guyette of Newport said this week that they are seeking the job that Mr. Illuzzi plans to leave this year in order to run for state auditor.

Republican Tom Salmon, who is currently auditor, is not seeking re-election.
Mr. Illuzzi, also a Republican, wasn’t saying much this week about his decision to run for statewide office.

“I’m not prepared to get into it right now,” he said on Monday.  He said he will be filing his nominating petitions, and he will have a statement later in the week.

The deadline for filing petitions for office is Thursday, June 14.

Mr. Lewis said he filed his petitions for the Senate seat on Monday.  “Basically, I will be announcing my candidacy in the near future,” he said.  He said he’s planning a press conference for early next week.

Governor Jim Douglas appointed Mr. Lewis to fill out the remaining term of Loren Shaw, who voluntarily gave up his seat.  He has since been elected in his own right and has been in Montpelier since March of 2008.  He serves on the Fish, Wildlife and Water Resources Committee.
Mr. Rodgers had initially planned to run for the House seat that he lost to fellow Democrat Sam Young by one vote in 2010.  In the general election, Mr. Young beat him by three votes.  That narrowed down to a single, critical vote in a recount.

Mr. Rodgers was a four-term incumbent, and the defeat came as a surprise.

He said he decided to run for the Orleans-Essex Senate seat instead when he heard that Mr. Illuzzi might not be seeking re-election.  “It’s something I’ve considered for a long time,” he said.  “I need another challenge in my life.”

He said he’d already had his paperwork done for the House seat when he shifted course and decided to run for Senate.

Mr. Rodgers said he’s been getting a lot of encouragement and many people have offered to help him.  And he’ll need all the help he can get, he said.  “It’s a huge area.”
Although Mr. Rodgers is well known in the southern part of Orleans County, he acknowledges that he’ll have a lot of work to do in the Newport and Derby area.  “And in Essex County, I’m fairly unknown,” he said.

Mr. Rodgers believes that he and the area’s other Senator, Bobby Starr of North Troy, would work well together since their political philosophies are similar.  “I’m a Democrat, but I’m a conservative minded Democrat,” he said.

He said he’s a “regular working guy” who thinks independently and does not necessarily follow the wishes of party leadership, but can work across party lines, a talent that Mr. Illuzzi was known for, and one that’s increasingly rare in partisan politics.
“I can get along with everyone,” Mr. Rodgers said.

He said that in 2010 he made a “calculated risk to not campaign,” a risk he won’t take this time.  “I’ve got a lot of ground to cover now.”

In a statement, Mr. Guyette said his reasons for running are simple:  “First, there is no economy and very few job opportunities in this area.  It seems to me the current local and state politicians have been unwilling to help improve the lives of residents when it comes to pocketbook issues.”

The area consistently has the highest unemployment, underemployment and poverty rates in the state because of bad economic policies, Mr. Guyette said.

“So how can we fix things?  To start, let’s look at new economic policies, infrastructure improvements, creating a natural gas pipeline, scrapping Act 250, changing local permit reforms, and putting a very tight legal leash on the activities of out-of-state groups who tend to have too much say in economic and job development issues.  I believe if I’m given the chance to be your senator, we can take steps to make drastic improvements in these areas.”

Mr. Illuzzi has made rumblings about running for statewide office before, but this is the first time he has actually decided to throw his hat into the ring.

At the moment, one question is whether he will run for auditor as an independent or as a Republican.

Another is whether he can continue with his job as Essex County state’s attorney.

Kathy Scheele, director of elections at the Vermont secretary of state’s office, said that’s a question with no clear answer right now.

There’s nothing in the law that prevents somebody from submitting petitions for more than one office, Ms. Scheele said.  “If they were to win, that would be a question for the General Assembly, the attorney general, or the courts to weigh in on.”

Mr. Illuzzi was first elected to the state Senate in 1980 when he was 27 years old.  In recent years, he’s run largely unopposed and has secured the Democratic nomination as well as the Republican.

contact Tena Starr at tena@bartonchronicle.com

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