BARRE — When it comes to a local legislative race, all the action is on the Democratic side heading into the Aug. 14 primary. Three Granite City Democrats, one an incumbent and the other two hoping for the opportunity to represent the party in November, have entered a race one will lose. Rep. Tommy Walz, D-Barre, leads a field that includes former Barre mayor Peter Anthony and Paul Flint, a progressive Democrat who serves on the local Board of Civil Authority. Walz, 72, of Camp Street, is hoping for the chance to run for what would be his third consecutive two-year term. Appointed to fill the vacancy that was created when former lawmaker Tess Taylor resigned in 2014, Walz was elected later that year and re-elected in 2016. Anthony, 74, of Scampini Square, and Flint, 63, of Averill Street, have similar aspirations, setting the stage for the first contested political primary in a local legislative race in recent history. Barre Democrats haven’t fielded a full slate of candidates since Rep. Paul Poirier’s post-election conversion from Democrat to Independent in 2008. A veteran lawmaker, Poirier has since run, and won, four times — once in a single-member district that included the south side of the city, and three times in the two-member citywide district that was created in 2012. Because he is an Independent, Poirier doesn’t have to worry about a primary in two weeks. Republican hopeful John Steinman does, but Steinman doesn’t have any competition in his primary in the two-member district. Steinman will advance, a Republican write-in is possible, and Poirier will be on the November ballot. They will be joined by two of the three Democrats who have something to lose on Aug. 14. Anthony served as Barre’s mayor from 2004 to 2006 and represented Ward 3 on the City Council from 1996 to 2000. He is a retired economics and environmental law professor who hauled granite for a local trucking company and worked more recently as a UPS driver. Flint, who mounted a last-minute write-in campaign that almost earned him a City Council seat in 2009, is more of a political outsider. He worked for 28 years as a consultant for the federal government, three years for the Vermont Department of Labor, and describes himself as an independent technical consultant, security analyst, author, inventor and educator.
Prior to serving in the Legislature, Walz was one of Barre’s elected representatives to the Spaulding High School Board. He worked for 35 years in the local school system, retiring in 2008 from his job as director of information technology for the Barre Supervisory Union.
All three Democratic candidates recently took the time to answer three questions posed by The Times Argus in an effort to provide voters a sense of why they are running:
What is the biggest challenge facing the state?
Peter Anthony: “Too many Vermonter incomes have been stagnant long enough to damage our quality of life. Consequently, both state government functioning, investment and the upkeep of private and public property has suffered. "Some new approaches to supporting the majority of Vermonters' standard of living have to be explored." Paul Flint: “In a broad sense, our biggest challenge sugars down to whether the people of Vermont consider our state a ‘lifeboat’ or a ‘country club.’ At this point our state seems to be a ‘lifeboat’ run by a ‘country club.’” Tommy Walz: “The opioid crisis. Its social and economic toll is immense.”
What is the issue you’d most like to work on, and why?
Peter Anthony: “At the head of my list are: Revisiting the Vermont workforce training, and economic development models. As Auditor (Doug) Hoffer recently urged, it’s time to ask questions surrounding effectiveness of state dollars spent in this area for policy. "Any state dollars freed up should go to local initiatives for upgrading existing owner-occupied housing — a sort of revenue-sharing for housing. "Success in these policy areas supports wage and job growth; thus moving incomes upward.” Paul Flint: “The issue I would most like to work on is the economic redevelopment of the people of Barre City. I intend to focus on implementing the Barre Brain Barn (vtbbb.org) with the goal of training and support in Barre City, of entrepreneurs, artists hackers and craftspersons as opposed to developing real estate parking lots.” Tommy Walz: “To put more money in working Vermonters’ pockets. We can do that by creating more affordable housing, affordable health care, raising the minimum wage, instituting paid family leave, and decreasing the reliance on property taxes. The results would be greater financial stability, an increased tax base, and incentives for young people to come to Vermont and for our seniors to stay here. Economic well-being and stability leads to a healthier society.”
What is your top criticism of the 2018 Legislature?
Peter Anthony: “State expenditure budget debates are bound to be a test of skill and patience. The 2018 group did not find a way to avoid a Gov. Scott confrontation. A costly tactical failure. Paul Flint: “A legislature's productive function is to create just and good law. Legislature should never pass laws just to demonstrate activity. Section 1 of S.94, 'An act relating to promoting remote work' apparently attempts to graft workforce development from the Department of Labor and onto the Department of Commerce and Community Development. "Instead of encouraging workers application for government cash, we should, through tax incentives, be encouraging employers to allow more remote work for existing citizens. "The good news is that section 5 of S.94 may positively contribute to the development of the Barre Brain Barn project. Finally, there appears to be a lot of unrelated stuff tacked on the end of this bill, which I consider a bad legislative practice.” Tommy Walz: “We put in a lot of extra time for relatively meager results in June. The communication and collaboration between the administration and the Legislature were not at their best.”