By Guy Page
In recent weeks, GOP Chair Paul Dame has published brief biographies on some of the new faces (and a few well-loved familiar faces) among the Vermont House and Senate candidates facing Democratic or Progressive opposition. Victory in November could give the GOP the 51 votes needed to uphold Gov. Phil Scott’s vetos on carbon taxation and other bills.
Joe Gervais, a retired military officer, holder of patents, and Habitat for Humanity volunteer, is running for the Vermont House in Manchester and surrounding towns.
“One of the most egregious examples of gerrymandering that took place this year was in the Bennington-4 district,” Dame said. All 4 towns had agreed to a map that would split the 2-member district into two sections, one with Manchester getting its own representative, and a second section that was made up of Arlington, Sunderland and Sandgate which would get their own representative. But Democrats violated the expressed written consent of these towns in order to serve their two incumbents, instead of serving the people in this district, he said.
So Gervais is standing up to the Democrat machine and fighting to provide a voice to the towns outside of Manchester as well. Joe is a former military officer and business leader who is running to empower law enforcement to address the problem of crime and drugs that is plaguing Vermont. He also wants to restore accountability to our government to make sure it is acting in the best interests of its people.
Joe has worked in the IT field for years and holds a number of patents for his innovative work and outside-the-box problem solving. He has also served with Habitat for Humanity and now operates a small business where he does custom milling of lumber for local Bennington area customers.
Nichole Loati is running for the House to represent the towns of Morristown, Elmore, Woodbury, Worcester, and a small part of Stowe. This district’s population saw a decline in the 2020 census, so part of Stowe was added to make up for it. This is a two seat district where one of the seats is vacant and Nichole has been working tirelessly to earn a spot to represent this district.
Nichole owns her own marketing company and decided to run for office after seeing the damage COVID had caused in her local rural community. Many long standing businesses never re-opened, and those which did have had to deal with chronic staffing shortages and inflationary pressures on many of their supplies.
As a business owner and a mother to six kids, Nichole has been feeling the pressure of constant price increases which have made it harder to manager both her business and her household.
Paul Bean is one of our youngest Republicans running for office. His family has made their home in central Vermont for generations and he is committed to staying in Vermont and working to make it a better place for generations to come. Like many Vermonters Paul has two day jobs; he started his own online store “Treasurers Everywhere” and is on the leading edge of e-commerce. And his second business puts him in touch with Vermont’s land and natural beauty doing landscape work that gets him away from the laptop screen. He is unqiuely qualified to represent both the tradation and the future focus of Vermont’s changing economy.
Paul is running for Washington County Senate, a three-seat district which had previously been represented by Republicans Bill Doyle, and Gov. Phil Scott. And Paul is putting in the work in this district to become the next Republican to represent it. Paul has been endorsed by Gov. Scott, Gov. Douglas, Lt. Gov Brian Dubie and Rep. Heidi Scheuerman among others. This year with the retirement of long time Senator Anthony Pollina, Paul is running to fill that open seat with a younger perspective.
Dean Rolland doesn’t give up easily. He ran for the senate for the first time last election, and is coming back because many of the problems he faces as a local small business owner haven’t gotten any better – in fact they’re worse. With the 2022 redistricting map the infamous Chittenden County “six-pack” has been split up and Dean is now running to serve the south east half of the old district and to build off the name recognition he built two years ago.
As the owner of a sandwich shop in South Burlington, Dean has dealt with the impacts that Montpelier’s mandates have had on businesses, employees and customers like his. From supply chain issues on sourcing something simple like napkins, to the plastic straw ban and more weightier matters like some of the proposed payroll taxes, minimum wage hikes and other regulations, they have all put pressure on him and his business to constantly adapt not only to the demands of his customers – but the increasing demands of his legislators. Dean is running for a seat in the Senate to bring some badly needed balance and be a voice for Vermont’s small business owners trying to get by and support their workers and customers.
Sam Douglass saw an opportunity and is taking it head on. The 2022 redistricting map created an opportunity for a Republican to run against incumbent Bobby Starr in a head-to-head race for the first time. This newly shaped Orleasn Senate district cuts the incumbent off from some long time support and adds new towns to the district. But Starr’s reputation has been changing as he has been voting more consistently with the Burlington Progressives, and Sam Douglass is running to return the values of the Northeast Kingdom back to the Vermont Senate.
Sam’s family has lived in Orleans county for generations, where he continues to manage a small homestead farm while also working as a mental health crisis counselor. Being in that role has given him a deeper look than most at the difficulties many Vermonters are facing, especially in the more rural parts of Vermont.
Jon Christiano is stepping up to serve the ONLY Republican-held seat in Addison County.
For several years Republican Harvey Smith has represented the rural farming community that makes up the Addison-5 District. During redistricting part of New Haven was lost to another district, while Weybridge & Bridport remained, and a small slice of Middlebury was added.
Allison Duquette plans to to help Republicans expand into Chittenden County with this newly-created district which features part of Milton and all of Westford.
For years Chittenden County has been a tough area for Republican, but the recent census showed significant growth in Milton, a Republican stronghold. So much growth in fact that Milton may see its 5th representative – and we need to make sure to elect a Republican in this newly created house seat
One of Allison’s main reasons for running was to ensure schools were able to maintain local control and encouraged parent involvement while refocusing on academic performance.
“If you want to help improve our schools – who better than a mom?,” Dame said.
Rob North is one of the hardest working candidates Republicans have this year, Dame said. Running to represent Addison-3, this district which has been home to Vergennes, Ferrisburgh, Addison, Panton and Waltham has now added much of New Haven to the district. It’s a district that is currently being represented by two Democrats, but was held by two Republicans just a few years ago. With the addition of New Haven, which had elected a Republican rep in 2020, this race represents a real opportunity to pick up a seat.
“Rob is a smart guy, in fact he is literally a rocket scientist,” Dame said. He just retired from UTC Aerospace in Vergennes and on the campaign trail he is often found talking about the Vermont Legislature’s tendency for “GWAP” – Goals Without A Plan. Winning this race would give Republicans in Addison County some new representation in the statehouse
Vicki Strong has been serving for several years in the VT legislature, and has been one of the strongest supporters of the Republican entire platform. Everyone that has even met Vicki comes away thinking that she has to be one of the sweetest people you have ever had a chance to meet. Vicki has also been a staunch supporter of protecting individual rights for her constituents.
But this year Democrats had a once-in-a-decade chance to kick Vicki out of the House.
“In what I think is one of the worst cases of gerrymandering in the state, Democrats drastically redrew Vicki’s district, cutting it in half, pitting her against a fellow incumbent Democrat – her former seatmate – who was a carpetbagger that moved into Vicki’s district after losing twice in another part of the state,” Dame said.
Frank Empsall is running in St. Johnsbury, and he is primed to win for several reasons. He is coming back to run a second time, building on the name recognition he worked so hard for in 2020. He also has been faithfully serving his community on the select board.
Also, he is seeking a seat in the newly configured Caledonia-Essex district, which has become even more conservative than the race he ran two years ago. And finally, his opponent was a major sponsor for the Carbon Tax on home heating fuel that nearly passed, if it hadn’t been for the Governor’s veto.
This is a two-seat district, and Frank also has the advantage of running alongside Rep. Scott Beck who was the top voter-getter in the 2020 election. But Democrats want to bring back this carbon tax this winter, and they will do everything to protect the bill sponsors, like Frank’s opponent. But if Empsall gets elected, and flips the Democrat out – it might give pause to other Democrats to think twice before sponsoring a bill like this in the future, Dame said.
Guy Page is publisher of the Vermont Daily Chronicle. Reprinted with permission.