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Family-friendly policies

Newcomer Mary Cain sets sights on State Senate

BRATTLEBORO—State senate hopeful Mary Cain’s bright blazer adds spark to the atmosphere of the The Works Bakery Cafe in downtown Brattleboro.

“It’s critical to realize that the very same tools for managing a family, decision making, budgeting time and money are the same as being able to multitask in the field of politics,” said Cain reading from her two typed pages of talking points.

“Encouraging women to run is critical to making family-friendly policies in the work place,” she said.

The Democratic candidate is challenging fellow Democratic incumbents Jeanette White of Putney and Peter Galbraith of Townshend in the Aug. 28 primary.

Cain has centered her campaign on developing family-friendly policies such as paid parental leave, equal pay, ending childhood hunger, and revitalizing Windham County’s economy.

Cain, a justice of the peace, Brattleboro Town Meeting Member, and single mother, said she has won every race she has entered. A keen ability to “frame the conversation” underscores her success, she said.

Cain’s resume on the networking website LinkedIn lists years of event planning and marketing experience.

For Cain, running for the state senate serves as a natural progression for her as a woman active in her community.

“We have to change the face of political leadership so that women look like that they are your next door neighbor, who jogs, organizes clothing drives, schleps her kids to soccer practice and still represents her community,” said Cain.

Like the protagonist of the film Slumdog Millionaire, Cain said she feels her entire life has prepared her for to serve as State Senator.

“Women are acting in the community. It’s only natural they should seek to make a difference in politics and policy,” she said.

“I have been advocating for most of my life, starting from the first election [class president] I won in 1974,” she said. “I have been at school board meetings, town and Selectboard meetings, interactive TV, and at the State Capital giving testimony for issues.”

She counts former governor and ambassador Madeleine M. Kunin as a mentor and referenced Kunin’s 2008 book Pearls, Politics, and Power: How Women Can Win and Lead throughout the interview.

In that book, Kunin writes about the need for a new “political leadership” in America. In the introduction, Kunin attributes a quote to 17-year-old Jessica Riegel, and her mother, who wrote to Kunin saying, “We have to change the face of political leadership so that ‘the woman who looks like their next-door neighbor, who jogs in the morning, who loves horror movies, spills coffee, organizes clothing drives, schleps her kids to soccer practice and orders takeout, is responsible and driven enough to represent them [the voters]’.”

“You can be assured that I will listen, I will help, and I will try to revitalize our Windham County community through getting more jobs, by thinking Vermont in decision-making and by helping to show how by working together, all of us can make Vermont a better place to live for ourselves and future generations,” she said.

Cain said she has listened to the concerns of seniors at Brattleboro’s Melrose Terrace housing complex afraid they’ll be forced to leave their homes. She said she has also heard the concerns of new graduates facing the decision to leave their home state to find jobs.

She said she would like to see Vermont partner with local food suppliers to eliminate childhood hunger.

“I’d like to see a program implemented similar to WIC in which [food] is delivered to the homes of our most vulnerable senior population, which would help sustain these Vermonters with a minimum of healthy food so that they can stretch their Social Security dollars for other areas.” said Cain.

Paid family leave

Pointing to Europe, Cain said that paid family leave could act as an economic development driver by supporting women’s earning potential, removing the fear some women carry of losing their job if they choose to have a child, equalizing gender roles, and making Vermont an attractive place to potential businesses looking to relocate.

“The marketing possibilities are endless in implementing this small change,” said Cain.

In her own experience, California’s paid family leave program helped her raise her three small children while living on the West Coast. She said she empathizes with single parents trying to juggle family duties while trying to make ends meet.

Cain, who once worked as a caterer, said she helped set up the delivery of leftover food from events she has supervised to shelters.

Her experience in catering brought Cain to work at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power station in Vernon, helping to feed refueling outage contractors. This experience provided insight into the VY issue from both outside and inside the plant, she said.

The prospect of more green energy projects in Vermont also excites Cain, she said.

Disappointment inspired Cain to run for state senate. She expressed frustration with aspects of Vermont government, like the languishing of the early education workers unionization bill, H.97.

Cain said it’s hard for lower to middle income Vermonters to take an active role in politics. The time commitment facing Vermont’s citizen legislators requires them to have financial stability before running for office. For Cain, meeting this need translates into someone who is wealthy, retired, or self-employed, she said.

Windham County residents need someone who understands them, said Cain. The county also needs a passionate marketing professional to promote the area. Cain said, if elected, she would travel to trade shows to help attract environmental and family-friendly companies to the region.

On her campaign website,, Cain also celebrates her Cavendish childhood, lists herself as a member of the Brattleboro District Agency of Human Services Advisory Council 2007-2010, and details her pride at being the granddaughter of a veteran who served in the Navy’s Construction Battalions, otherwise known at Seabees.

The website states that she possesses traditional family values, earned a University of Vermont degree, and is what she called an “unofficial Ambassador” for Vermont.

“I hope the people of Windham County think it’s a great match,” she said.

Cain’s website also promotes her as “an award winning Justice of the Peace.”

During the interview, Cain said she understood that no awards exist for justices of the peace.

Cain explained this sobriquet as “semantics.” Cain said that she has won numerous awards since the 1970s, including a recipe contest. She is also a justice of the peace. Therefore, this combination earns her the title of award-winning justice of the peace.

Cain landed in hot water this month when she signed a marriage license for the wedding of Jennifer Dusenbery and Michael Martin, now deceased — a wedding Cain did not officiate at.

This action is against Vermont statute. The Vermont State Police confirmed it is investigating the incident, but would not comment whether Cain is targeted in the investigation.

Despite the flap, Cain is seeking support.

“My campaign is a grassroots one which focuses on issues, not in wasting money on signs that are strewn all over our Vermont landscape and then frequently left for weeks, unpicked up,” said Cain. “The money that I spend will be in getting the message out to Vermonters, so that if they wish to see real change, then they should join the Citizens for Cain campaign and elect me to represent them.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #163 (Wednesday, August 1, 2012).

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