BRATTLEBORO — Supporters of Issac Evans-Frantz of Brattleboro, who is running for the Democratic Party nomination for U.S. Senate, are not worried about his underdog status in the race to succeed retiring longtime Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy.
“When Bernie [Sanders] ran for Congress, everyone said it couldn't be done, that he would be the spoiler,” said Nancy Braus of Everyone's Books of Brattleboro at Evans-Frantz's campaign kickoff rally on April 26 on the front steps of the U.S. Post Office.
Evans-Frantz - whose platform includes bold progressive stances on education spending, universal health care, campaign finance, economic justice, racial justice, and climate justice, as well as a foreign policy “grounded in respect and cooperation” - faces two strong Democratic primary candidates in U.S. Rep. Peter Welch and in Warren physician Dr. Niki Thran. On the Republican side, former U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan will seek her party's nomination.
“When people say it can't be done, sometimes it can be done,” the 39-year-old candidate said.
Evans-Franz has been involved in political activism since he was a student at Brattleboro Union High School, when in 2000 he became the first student appointed to be a voting member on the Vermont State Board of Education. He also canvassed for Sanders as a high schooler, and he led an initiative to provide support for LGBTQ youth in high schools.
He graduated from BUHS in 2001 and ultimately left Vermont to work as an educator in schools and in community health centers in New York City.
Evans-Frantz also helped to build Action Corps, a global human rights advocacy organization that trains activists in 20 states, including Vermont. He has stepped down as its executive director to run for the Senate.
One of the group's signature campaigns is trying stop U.S. participation in the Saudi Arabia war on Yemen. Action Corps brought together non-governmental and human rights organizations to lobby lawmakers to pass legislation calling for an end to the country's support.
The measure narrowly passed Congress, but was vetoed by then-President Trump. Action Corps is again trying to get the measure through Congress and get President Biden to sign it.
Stopping U.S. involvement with the war in Yemen is but one of many crises that the nation is facing, Evans-Frantz told the 50 supporters that attended the rally.
“We”re living through a time of intense crisis,” he said. “The public health crisis, the climate crisis, foreign wars, the housing crisis.”
“I'm running because we need leadership right now that we have not yet seen,” he continued. “For too long, we have seen our leaders worry more about getting re-elected, more about the performance of their stocks, more about getting those big donations from those corporate PACs, year after year.”
While he said he likes Peter Welch and that “he's done a decent job,” Evans-Franz said that “I think it's time for the torch to be passed to someone in my generation.”
Perspectives on the U.S. health care system
A native of Brattleboro, Evans-Frantz moved back to Vermont with his husband, Derrick Miller-Handley, early in the COVID-19 pandemic. The candidate says he wants to make it easier for other younger Vermonters like himself to return to their home state to live and work.
Evans-Frantz said his experience working in community health centers gives him a perspective on the ongoing problems with the U.S. health care system that few now in Congress have. But he also said that his good relationships with Congressional leaders through his advocacy on Yemen helped get legislation passed.
Some of his policy priorities if elected include reinstating the expanded child tax credit enacted last year during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The policy, which offered $3,000 to $3,600 per child to working families, played a major role in reducing child poverty, but it was allowed to lapse at the beginning of this year and unanimous Republican opposition in the Senate has kept it from being extended.
He also supports a “Medicare for All” health option for the un- and underinsured, as well as more money for public education and stronger initiatives to deal with the effects of climate change.
Dealing with big issues such health care and the climate crisis won't be easy, he said, but he spoke of the “tenacity” of Vermonters, and their willingness to stand up for what is right can make change happen.
“We are a determined bunch,” he said, “and we can make that change.”