Three Republicans, two libertarians and an independent are making their final push to unseat Chittenden County’s six liberal incumbent senators and bring back balance to the Statehouse.
The district is the largest in Vermont, representing over 137,000 residents. The incumbents are Progressive-Democrats Tim Ashe, Philip Baruth and Chris Pearson, and Democrats Debbie Ingram, Virginia Lyons and Michael Sirotkin.
In recent years, the power-block has pushed gun-control, $15 minimum wage, paid family leave, renewable energy and big spending increases.
The Republican challengers are Air Force veteran Dana Maxfield, of Milton; former state Rep. Paul Dame, of Essex; and business intelligence analyst Alex Farrell, of Burlington. The GOP candidates are expressing optimism that one or more of the “Chittenden Six” might be sent packing after Tuesday.
“I’ve been surprised at how many people know me,” Dame told True North. “We haven’t done a whole lot of advertising, especially considering how large the district is, but I’ve gone to a couple of events recently and people have either seen our ads or they’ve seen me doing sign waves.”
Dame said the state economy continues to be the number one issue out on the campaign trail. He noted that Forbes recently rated Vermont as 47th state in the nation for doing business.
On health care, Dame has been critical of Vermont’s continuing trend towards an all-payer model built around a single accountable care organization, OneCare Vermont. The group of providers is expected to manage health care for most Vermonters.
“Yeah, I mean the ACO model is great because you know, we’re gonna spend less because people aren’t gonna get the care,” he said sarcastically. ” … There is no place where a one-size-fits-all model is more inappropriate than in health care.”
Dame said Gov. Phil Scott’s leadership as governor has turned the tide a bit on fiscal issues in the state, especially in keeping budget increases limited to 2 percent instead of nearly 5 percent under former Gov. Peter Shumlin.
“I think people are pretty encouraged with what Scott has done,” he said. ” … People are optimistic that Scott has been the wedge to prevent us from falling backward.”
Farrell, in an interview with True North, said the three Republicans in the race have been working together.
“The three of us are all getting along together every step of the way, (such as) meetings and strategizing,” he said. “We all have our own ideologies. We think alike probably 90 percent of the time, but there are a couple of issues here and there (where we differ).”
Farrell, 26, is a fresh face in Chittenden politics. Most of his campaign points are in line with mainstream Vermont Republicans, but not everything he supports fits a conservative approach.
For example, Farrell opposes gun magazine limits but is supportive of other aspects of gun bill S.55 signed controversially by Scott in April. That bill included magazine limits, expanded background checks, and more.
Also in keeping with the governor’s agenda, Farrell supports expanding pre-kindergarten programs in Vermont. He said the program should not include new taxpayer investments, however.
Based on his recent campaigning, Farrell says property taxes are “first thing on people’s minds,” and that he hopes that will counter the impulse of voters to support liberal agendas like the $15 minimum wage and paid family leave.
This election Maxfield’s first, too, but he thinks his run has been successful.
“What everyone is telling me is that we’ve done very well considering my first-time candidacy,” he said. “We would have liked to do direct mailers and everything, but we’ve just been trying to compensate for a lack of money by just doing other things. We found social media to be pretty cost-effective.”
Maxfield’s campaign page highlights his fight for personal liberties, the Second Amendment, and support for veterans. Also, he opposes Common Core in schools and burdensome taxes and regulations.
“Most people are just sick of the never-ending taxes,” he said. “Every single time you turn around there’s something else. This time it’s the carbon tax coming at us again.”
Maxfield said the Second Amendment continues to be a big issue and S.55 doesn’t make schools any safer.
“It was just a convenient door for them to finally make a little bit of headway in a state that historically voted down gun legislation in the past,” he said.
He added that he would support armed officers and staff on school campuses and if they are properly trained.
“It is just more of a deterrent,” he said. “If you know that you are going to walk into that environment and there’s several armed security personnel you might think twice about doing it. Now in most cases, it’s just a target-rich environment, a gun-free zone.”
Other candidates in the Chittenden race include Dr. Louis Meyers, a 25-year physician from South Burlington who is also critical of the move towards the all-payer health care system. And there’s libertarian candidate Loyal Ploof, of Burlington, who promotes less government and more personal freedom.