BRATTLEBORO—Running a business and going door-to-door speaking with voters takes serious multitasking skills. Still, House candidate Tristan Toleno said he enjoys speaking with the residents of District 2-3.
Toleno said his life has touched the issues facing District 2-3 — issues like the economy, jobs, and fostering a sustainable community.
In his life, these issues have translated into building and losing his business at the former Riverview Cafe, connecting to the community, starting a new catering business, and working with a sustainable food system.
Those issues are why he’s running, he said.
Toleno is running against fellow Democrat Kate O’Connor in the Aug. 28 primary to succeed outgoing Rep. Sarah Edwards, P/D-Brattleboro, who held the seat for 10 years.
Edwards, who used to be his stepmother, has endorsed Toleno. He doesn’t feel, however, that he’s strictly carrying on her legacy.
Edwards’ endorsement was not “issues based,” said Toleno. Instead, she endorsed him because of his ability to learn quickly and because she trusts that he will step up and do the work to serve his constituents.
“I’m an independent person with independent experience,” Toleno said.
Unlike Edwards, who served as a Progressive/Democrat, Toleno is running as a Democrat.
The Democratic party’s political philosophy best matches him, said Toleno. If he loses the primary on Aug. 28 to O’Connor, he said, he has no intention of running as an independent.
Voters have expressed to Toleno fears about the area’s long-term economic health. Things have changed a lot, he said. And he hears that people are worried that the detrimental changes are irreversible.
“I’m not stuck in a negative place, but I am honestly acknowledging the hard reality of where we are [economically] for some people,” he said.
He said that admitting flaws and working on fixing the problems that have caused too much suffering are necessary steps for communities.
People believe in Brattleboro’s future but are scared, said Toleno, who wants people to move from that place of uncertainty. “Let’s not stay there,” he said.
Toleno said his responses to this concern have varied, but he sees Brattleboro’s economy boiling down to a fundamental problem with the structure of economic development policy.
Rural communities like Brattleboro thrive when they have a density of good jobs to match their populations, he said. As a potential policy-maker, Toleno views the state representative’s role as finding opportunities to help Brattleboro grow its employment base in a sustainable way consistent with the community’s values.
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