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Newcomers face off for District 1 House seat

BRATTLEBORO—The race for Brattleboro’s District 1 House seat — now open due to the retirement of Democrat Virginia “Gini” Milkey —  is a contest between two political rookies.

The Republican candidate is Richard Morton, the compliance and security officer with Brattleboro Savings & Loan.

He is opposed by Democrat Valerie Stuart, a local public relations and fundraising consultant for a variety of area nonprofits, who defeated Lorie Cartwright in the Aug. 24 primary.

For Morton, his motivation to run for legislative office stems from what he called his disappointment with the quality of representation in Montpelier.

“I think the Democrats have fallen short,” he said. “I think the Legislature was cowardly and unprofessional in dealing with the deficit. We’re going to be at least $115 million short next year, and we’re looking at an even bigger hole in the future. Given the current economic climate in Vermont, we need to focus on how to change it.”

Morton believes that the state needs to do more to be business-friendly by easing the tax and regulatory burden on businesses and scaling back the size and scope of state government.

“Businesses don’t have to come to Vermont,” he said. “Entrepreneurs don’t have to start businesses in Vermont. I think we can be more deliberate and protect our farms and our landscape, and still be welcoming to new businesses.”

Like the other Republican candidates running for office in Windham County, Moore said he believes the Senate’s 26-4 vote in February to block Vermont Yankee’s attempt get a 20-year extension of its operating license was motivated by politics, not the facts.

“If VY isn’t safe, why hasn’t the plant been shut down by the NRC? This was a hasty and ill-informed vote that helped Peter Shumlin’s run for governor and hurt the rest of us. There’s more tritium in a granite countertop than what was just found in the drinking water well at the plant.”

Moore supports the plant operating past 2012 and believes that if it has to close, it will devastate the economy of Windham County. “It’s going to affect housing prices, tax rates and scores of jobs,” he said. “There’s going to be some serious pressure on our communities.”

Stuart supports the plant being closed when its current 40-year license expires in 2012. She also supports the Senate vote.

“The public elected these senators and I would say that a 26-4 vote on any issue is pretty definitive,” she said. “What I don’t get is why nothing was done to prepare for even the possibility of Vermont Yankee closing in 2012. There was very little planning for this.”

While Moore is motivated to run out of concern for Vermont Yankee’s future, Stuart said she is running out of concern for the future of all Vermonters.

“I believe we should be investing in people from start to finish and that the family is the most important social unit in our society,” she said. “Anything we can do strengthen and support families and children — universal pre-school, better health care, better public schools — will ultimately save us money in the long run.”

Stuart said that Vermont, and the nation, are struggling with the legacy of three decades of underfunding social welfare programs and that most Vermonters reject the idea that we should do less for those in need.

“The effects of 30 years of ‘Reaganomics’ aren’t going to be fixed overnight,” she said. “People are hurting right now and they don’t want to see all the mudslinging. They want solutions.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #72 (Wednesday, October 20, 2010).

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