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Brenda Siegel has announced a bid for governor.

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Siegel announces a run for governor

Dance festival director and activist seeks to broaden range of voices in politics

BRATTLEBORO—The race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination got another candidate over the weekend.

Brenda Siegel, the executive/artistic director of the Southern Vermont Dance Festival in Brattleboro, announced her candidacy via an email to media outlets and supporters.

She joins three other Democratic candidates — environmentalist James Ehlers, former utility executive Christine Hallquist, and eighth-grader Ethan Sonneborn.

The four current candidates have one thing in common. None of them has served in, or has run for, public office.

Vermont’s party primary elections will be held on Aug. 14. Incumbent Republican Gov. Phil Scott will seek a second term in office.

Siegel, 41, was born in Brattleboro and grew up in Newfane. A single mother and a longtime political activist, she is vice-chair of the Newfane Town Democratic Committee and a delegate to the Windham County Democratic Committee.

In the past two years, she has been committed to the Raise the Wage coalition and supporting efforts by Rights and Democracy, as their goals heavily align with her own. She is also a member of The Women’s Action Team in Brattleboro and The Putney Huddle, and is known around the state for her frequent commentaries in local and statewide newspapers.

‘People in my position don’t run for office’

Siegel says she was inspired to run after she realized “that I am not reflected anywhere in our legislative body and I want to change that. People in my position don’t run for office because they don’t have resources and supports that others have.”

She said that she believes that Vermont “can be a strong leader in the nation on racial, economic, and environmental justice, as well as education, while also growing our Main Streets, farms, and industries.”

Siegel believes that the way we look at the economy is deeply flawed.

“We need to re-think our outdated beliefs about what makes a thriving economy. We know that poverty creates a drain on our state,” she said, “so it is in our best interest to make sure we build the economy from the bottom up instead of the top down. We don’t have to choose between supporting business and employees, we can do both.”

She said that to create a strong economy “that works for all of us, we have to fight issues of inequality within our system and create supports that allow Vermonters to spend money within our communities. Our residents and our businesses can work together to do this. One will never be strong without the other; we need both to have thriving communities.”

Education is also going to be a focus of her campaign, saying that “promoting our education system will attract families to the state, undermining it will not. We want to improve upon our already strong education system. The current administration’s constant attack on our teachers and, thus, on our children is not only disturbing but, also, shortsighted as to what will be best for our state in the long term.”

Addressing the ongoing opioid epidemic in Vermont, Siegel said the issue is intensely personal for her, having lost her nephew, the son of her brother who died 20 years ago, to a heroin overdose two months ago.

Addressing the opioid epidemic

She says that our state has the opportunity to be a leader in ending this epidemic. In a recent piece in The Commons, she wrote that “regardless of your opinion or belief, we have good evidence that what we are doing is not working. Our best chance at safe communities and raising children who don’t experience the death of their friends with great frequency is to follow best practices that lead to people having the tools for recovery or reduce the harm of their use. We know this; we don’t have another direction. The old way isn’t working. It is time to change it.”

Siegel said she wants to prioritize a plan that includes harm reduction, treatment, dual diagnosis support and prevention.

A formal kick-off event for Siegel’s campaign will be announced in the coming weeks, and she is embracing the idea of being a nontraditional candidate for public office.

“It is my desire that every person in Vermont stands up, knocks on doors, talks to their legislators, makes calls, fights for issues, and takes part in our communities,” she said. “That is what I love about Vermont, that we are in it together. Every voice counts and it is the job of elected officials to amplify those voices. The more we are all represented, the stronger our state and country will be.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #458 (Wednesday, May 9, 2018). This story appeared on page A2.

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