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Cartwright, Stuart face off in only contested House race in county

BRATTLEBORO—In the Democratic primary on Aug. 24, there will be only one contested race for the House in the county — in Windham District 3-1 in Brattleboro.

Lorie Cartwright, a local attorney and a member of the Brattleboro Town School Board, and Valerie Stuart, who runs a public relations firm, are competing for the seat held by Rep. Virginia “Gini” Milkey, D-Brattleboro, who is stepping down after 20 years in the Legislature.

The winner faces Republican Richard Morton of Brattleboro in November.

Cartwright, 40, is an attorney in the Brattleboro law firm of Fitts, Olson & Giddings and a 2002 graduate of the Vermont Law School. Most of her legal work is done on behalf of children and families.

If elected, Cartwright said she wants to serve on the House Education Committee. Windham County has not had a representative on that committee for many years.

“I think it’s important for a representative to have experience dealing with implementing the legislation that comes from Montpelier,” she said.

Milkey, who served on the House Health Care Committee for most of her time in Montpelier, has said she will support Cartwright in the primary. In a farewell speech at the end of this year’s legislative session, Milkey said that Cartwright’s “knowledge of education issues, through her tenure on the town school board, will be an important addition to the Brattleboro state rep team, and I hope the voters of District 1 will give her favorable consideration at election time.”

While education issues are Cartwright’s main interest, she said she appreciates the work that Milkey has done on health care and said she will continue that legacy. She said she’s also concerned about cuts to the state’s judicial system, and the effect they have had on the speed and quality of justice.

“Unless they are in the system, few people realize the impact of these cuts,” said Cartwright. “The delays have been terrible. I am a real advocate for equality under the law and equality of opportunity. I realize we’re facing a deficit, but I still believe we should be providing for all our citizens and not just making cuts that hurt the people who need help.”

Stuart, 52, has served as the marketing director for the Strolling of the Heifers. She also handled fundraising efforts and sat on the board of dozens of local businesses and nonprofits, including Youth Services and the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center. She has also handled media relations for former House Speaker and current House Ways and Means chair Michael Obuchowski, D-Bellows Falls.

Prior to moving to Vermont 16 years ago, she worked as an editor and in public relations in New York City for 14 years.

“People like ‘Obie,’ who have devoted their lives to public service, are the people I admire,” said Stuart. “I’m a creative and mission-driven person and I’ve always wanted to be part of the solution to protect the things I care about.”

Stuart said that in her travels around the district, the No. 1 concern she has heard from residents is jobs and the economy. “People are hurting, so the big challenge is to do as much as we can with the money we have.”

She sees local agriculture as a big driver of the state’s economy in the years ahead. “We’ve made great progress in that area, and it is also important in preserving our state’s landscape, which helps tourism as well.”

She also believes that “the future of Vermont will depend on our being able to attract small businesses, entrepreneurs and inventors,” saying that the state should do all it can to encourage the growth of the creative economy.

Other contested races

As for statewide races on the Democratic ballot, Democrats Peter Shumlin, Susan Bartlett, Matt Dunne, Deb Markowitz and Doug Racine will square off in the gubernatorial primary, with the winner to face Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, the lone Republican candidate.

• U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy faces a challenge from retired Navy physician Daniel Frelich of Wilmington.

• Former State Auditor and current Chittenden County state Sen. Ed Flanagan faces public policy analyst Doug Hoffer of Burlington in the Auditor’s race.

• State Rep. Christopher Bray of New Haven and State Rep. Steve Howard of Rutland City are running for lieutenant governor.

• And former state Sen. Jim Condos of Montpelier and attorney Charles Merriman of Middlesex square off for Secretary of State.

There are no contested races for the House or Senate on the Republican primary ballot in Windham County, but there are three statewide contests on the ballot.

• State Sen. Phil Scott, a Berlin construction contractor and stock car racer, is running against businessman Mark Snelling of Starksboro for lieutenant governor.

• Chris Roy, an attorney and Selectboard member from Williston, faces former Douglas administration spokesman Jason Gibbs of Duxbury for Secretary of State.

• And there’s a three-way race for the U.S. House, with conservative activist and talk show host Paul Beaudry of Swanton facing retired businessman John Mitchell of Rutland City and Keith Stern of  Springfield, who ran for the House in 2006 as an independent. The winner faces Democratic incumbent Peter Welch.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #63 (Wednesday, August 18, 2010).

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