NORTHFIELD — One of the two of incumbents isn’t running this year, but six candidates are still vying for the right to represent Northfield and neighboring Berlin in the Legislature.
The list features two Republicans – including the lone incumbent — two Democrats — including the only candidate from Berlin — and a pair of Independents — one of them a Democrat who lost the August primary and created the “Berlin-Northfield Alliance” to keep his candidacy alive.
With Rep. Patti Lewis, R-Berlin, opting not to run for what could have been her fifth two-year term this year, five of the six candidates are from Northfield.
That includes Rep. Anne Donahue, R-Northfield, who is running for what would be her ninth consecutive two-year term in the two-town, two-seat Washington 1 legislative district.
With Lewis out of the running in the conservative leaning district that hasn’t elected a Democrat since it was created in 2012, Republican hopeful Kenneth Goslant, chairman of the Northfield Select Board, has entered the race that will be decided by voters in Northfield and Berlin on Nov. 6.
One of the Democrats – Denise MacMartin – and both Independents – Gordon Bock and Rebecca Trower – are also from Northfield.
Berlin Selectman Jeremy Hansen, a Democrat, rounds out the unusually crowded field.
Though Donahue and Goslant weren’t challenged in this year’s Republican primary, MacMartin and Hansen easily paced a field of four Democrats that included Northfield resident John Stevens and Bock in August.
Bock, like Trower, opted to run as an Independent, though the “Berlin-Northfield Alliance” appears beneath his name on ballots that are already available now that early voting is underway in both communities.
Gordon Bock believes health issues that have kept him off the campaign trail this election season are to blame for his distant fourth-place finish in the Democratic primary in August.
Undaunted by the disappointing result, Bock, went the Independent route – creating the “Berlin-Northfield Alliance” and remaining in a race he ran and lost as a Democrat two years ago.
“I just thought the name spoke to the notion of two towns getting together and getting along,” he said.
Bock, 63, said he remains hobbled by the fractured toe that was among the health issues that prevented him from campaigning door to door over the summer. However, he said he firmly believes the lobbying he has done as state director of CURE Vermont give him a level of experience matched only by Donahue.
“No one else has spent time in and around the State House,” said Bock, whose organization advocates for the fair, humane and lawful treatment of Vermont’s prisoners, former prisoners and their loved ones.
“It helps to know the players and understand how the game works,” he added.
Bock said he would like to help bring an end to the “divisiveness” in Montpelier.
“We should build bridges, not burn them,” he said.
Bock said he is wary about proposals to cut taxes and reduce spending – particularly “at the expense of the poor and the middle class.”
“What I’d like to see is more economic development,” he said. “That would broaden the tax base and lessen the burden on Vermonters.”
Bock said taking steps to address climate change are crucial in his view and, if elected, he would continue to be an outspoken advocate for criminal justice reform.
A resident of Northfield since 1998, Bock lives on Route 12A.
Anne Donahue might be the only incumbent running in Washington 1 this year, but the eight-term Republican lawmaker isn’t taking her re-election for granted.
Described by some of her competitors as a clear favorite in the race, Donahue said many thought the same thing about former lawmaker Patsy French before the Randolph Democrat wound up losing a race everybody thought was for a vacant seat in the Orange-Washington-Addison legislative district.
“I don’t want that to happen to me,” Donahue said.
First elected to the Legislature in 2002, Donahue, 62, said she conducted the same end-of-session analysis she has every two years before deciding to run again.
“I ask myself: ‘Am I still contributing something of value?’” Donahue said, noting she then poses the same question to her constituents.
Donahue said her candidacy reflects the results of that evaluation and her desire to continue working on the issue that prompted her to run for the first time 16 years ago.
Donahue, who is now the vice chairwoman of the House Committee on Health Care, described health care reform as: “an active, ongoing process” that will benefit from her participation.
“Fresh ideas are good but institutional knowledge is important,” she said.
Donahue said dealing with the state budget will again be a priority if she is re-elected, she is hopeful lawmakers can agree to an elusive solution to education financing and come up with a “broad-based and equitable” way to finance the clean up of Lake Champlain.
“We have work to do,” she said.
A Northfield resident since 1990, Donahue is also a member of the House Committee on Health Care and is a member of the House Rules Committee, and editor of “Counterpoint” – a free quarterly mental health publication.
Kenneth Goslant is hoping to parlay the nine years he’s spent on the Northfield Select Board into a two-year term in the state Legislature.
If Goslant is elected in November, he said he won’t surrender his seat on the town board, but he will step down from the time-consuming role as its chairman.
Goslant, 59, has served in that capacity for two years, developing a reputation for “common sense” constituents first governance he believes will serve him well if he wins.
“I’ve always been able to put my personal views aside and focus on what is best for the community,” he said. “I stand behind the decisions I make, but I’m willing to tweak them … if someone can show me there’s a better way.”
Goslant said he isn’t running to be part of the blame game in Montpelier.
“I want to be a force for progress and solutions that make sense,” he said, vowing to bring a businessman’s perspective to the Legislature.
Goslant has worked in the local granite industry for 37 years – the last 30 of them as the proprietor of Goslant Granite Co., which is a wholesaler of granite monuments.
Goslant is banging the “affordability” drum, complaining that “health care isn’t working” and seniors and veterans aren’t getting the care they deserve.
“We need to work together to find common ground,” Goslant said, stressing cost is a consideration.
“Whatever we do it has to be affordable,” he added. “I want to keep Vermonters here.”
Though Goslant is opposed to raising taxes, he said he would like to invest in the public safety, the state’s aging infrastructure and a solution to the opioid crisis.
“We need to roll up our sleeves and get the job done,” he said, suggesting that will require a level of fiscal responsibility that has been absent in Montpelier.
“We’ve outspent what we take in,” he said. “We can’t keep doing that.”
A long-time Northfield resident, Goslant lives on Honeysuckle Terrace and has served on the local recreation board. He is an alternate on the District 5 Environmental Commission.
Jeremy Hansen has run this race twice before and he’s hoping the third time is the charm.
If Hansen is able to improve on a pair of third-place finishes – one in 2014 and again two years ago – he’ll land the legislative seat that has thus far eluded him.
Hansen isn’t ready to declare victory, but he believes the open seat will boost his chances of finally breaking through.
“It feels like less of an uphill struggle,” said Hansen, who has served on the Berlin Select Board since 2013 and is currently its vice chairman.
Hansen, 41, said education, infrastructure and universal health care are the main reasons he’s running this year.
When it comes to education, Hansen said, finding a way to take pressure off of property taxes would be a priority. He said he is intrigued by income-based solutions that would provide a relief to residents on fixed incomes.
Hansen said the state needs to invest in roads, bridges, water and wastewater infrastructure and, he believes, broadband internet should be added to that list.
Hansen spearheaded the creation of Central Vermont Internet and is eager to explore ways the state can help the 16-town communications union district achieve its goal of bringing high-speed internet to residents in its member communities.
“Modern broadband internet service can be a great driver for economic development and support educational initiatives,” he said.
Hansen said he remains convinced universal health care is a viable long-term solution, but would be willing to settle for universal primary care as a step in that direction.
“We have to do something,” he said. “We have a responsibility to people who are at risk of going bankrupt just because they need medical care.”
Hansen lives on Black Road in Berlin and is a member of the board of the Berlin Volunteer Fire Department.
Denise MacMartin hasn’t yet suffered a setback in her very young political career and she’s hoping to notch another win in November.
In her first run for public office, MacMartin, 63, edged fellow Democrat Jeremy Hansen to pace a four-candidate field in the August primary. Now the long-time Northfield resident is pulling for a top-two finish in the six-way race that will be settled by voters in Northfield and Berlin on Nov. 6.
“I have the time, the energy, I’m interested in the issues and I feel like I can serve these communities,” MacMartin said referring to the two-town legislative district.
MacMartin said concerns about economic opportunity motivated her candidacy and will drive her decision-making if she is elected.
“I want to address some of the barriers I see as being in the way of younger people, in particular, fully particiapting in the workforce and in our communities,” she said.
MacMartin said a higher minimum wage, accessible and affordable child care and a solution to the problem of student debt are all on her legislative to-do list.
“By addressing those issues it would benefit all of us,” MacMartin said of measures that would help “retain and attract younger people” to Vermont.
MacMartin said she would support a bill vetoed by Gov. Phil Scott that would have increased the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024, but was open to other options that would achieve the same goal.
MacMartin said making sure the capacity of affordable childcare keeps up with demand and subsidies available to those who need them keep pace with inflation would be a priority, as would helping providers obtain the necessary credentials to provide what she views as a critical service.
MacMartin, who worked for 30 years as a college administrator, said while student loan debt is regulated at the federal level a Vermont solution is needed.
“As a state we need to not wait for the federal government but come up with a creative solution to address that issue,” she said, noting Vermont has one of the highest debt-to-income ratios in the country.
Now retired, MacMartin runs a quilting business out of her Vine Street home and is on the board of Community Emergency Relief Volunteers – CERV.
Rebecca Trower has built her Independent candidacy on the belief that politics in Vermont have gotten too political and something should be done about it.
“I believe that Vermonters are no long being represented,” she said. “It’s more like a political thing where people are caring more about their (political) party than the people of Vermont.”
It’s why for the firs time ever, Trower decided to run for public office.
“I thought: ‘This is the time to not complain and to run and see if other people think that perhaps the politics have gotten a little out of hand,’” she said.
So far, Trower’s campaign has been “word of mouth” not door-to-door, and while that might change as the election approaches her outsider’s message won’t.
“I just think something needs to change,” she said.
Trower, a retired veteran who served with the Vermont Air National Guard, has worked for the state since 1995. Formerly employed by the state Tax Department, she currently works for the state Department of Children and Families. A long-time member of the Vermont State Employees Association, Trower is the chairperson of the union’s non-management bargaining unit.