Who am I?
In 2008 I became the first successful fusion candidate in Vermonts history, winning a seat in the Vermont Senate as a Democrat while also receiving the nomination of the state's Progressive Party. I pursued this strategy because I believed that voters should have the opportunity to choose cooperation and unity between Democrats and Progressives, rather than conflict. I was grateful the voters agreed. At 31, I became one of the youngest Senators ever elected in Vermont. For the past two years Ive served as the Vice-Chair of the Senate Economic Development and Housing Committee and also serve on the powerful Finance Committee.
I graduated from the University of Vermont in 1999. A week after graduation I began work in then-Congressman Bernie Sanders Burlington office. During my two and half years there, I helped hundreds of Vermont veterans access low cost prescription drugs through the VA and helped coordinate one of the first bus trips of Vermonters across the border to highlight the exorbitant costs of essential prescriptions in the US. My time with Bernie cemented my belief that government can play a positive role in improving peoples lives AND that we must always strive to use public resources as effectively and efficiently as possible.
In late 2001 I took a position with United Academics, the faculty union at the University of Vermont. I began the campaign to organize adjunct faculty members who UVM, like most institutions, has come increasingly to rely upon for teaching. UVMs adjunct faculty voted to form an adjunct faculty unit and now bargain on equal terms with the administration, bringing much-needed improvements to the work lives of many dozens of UVM instructors.
From 2002 to 2004 I attended Harvards Kennedy School of Government. While there I was fortunate to serve as a teaching assistant to Ed Miliband, now a British MP and leader of the Labour Party. Upon graduating, while most of my peers moved to Washington or New York City, I came back home to Vermont.
In July 2004, I successfully sought a seat on the Burlington City Council. I won re-election in 2005 and 2007. The youngest member of the Council when elected, I was a stalwart supporter of policies to improve and increase the supply of affordable homeownership and rental housing in Burlington. In four years, I was pro-active in nearly every key municipal area.
Since the Fall of 2006, Ive been the Project Manager at Cathedral Square, a nationally recognized non-profit developer of affordable housing for seniors and people with disabilities. In my role at CSC, Ive managed projects creating or renovating 396 units of housing with budgets totaling more than $30 million.
I also served on the Board of Spectrum Youth and Family Services, a community organization serving at-risk youth, and have coached little league in Burlingtons poorest neighborhood.
I live in Burlington with Paula, my partner of more than 10 years.
Why am I running?
In my first four years in the Senate, I established myself as the most progressive member of the Senate. I also believe I quickly became one of the most effective members of the Senate. So the short answer is I am running in order to be the most effective, progressive voice in the Senate. My colleagues voted me Rookie of the Year after my first term in part, I hope, because they believe I will be just that.
More specifically, there are two things I hope to accomplish by serving a third term. First, I expect to play a leadership role with the progressive bloc in the Senate. With the departure of Senators Doug Racine and Peter Shumlin, a vacuum has been created for progressive policy leadership in the Senate. During my second term, I started to pick up the torch, challenging unfair tax policies that rewarded the wealthy, opposing the dilution of environmental legislation, investing in local agriculture, and cleaning up practices at Vermont slaughterhouses. I was also the leader in committee and on the floor in modernizing worker protections. My experience has me poised to play an enhanced leadership role in the next two years.
Second, I hope to continue to be the Senator who always returns the debate to whether this policy or that strengthens Vermonts middle class. While much attention in Vermont is appropriately paid to the safety net programs, and while some in both political parties vie to be the party that caters most to the wealthiest residents, the middle class is almost never discussed. Property tax fairness, health care bills, higher education costs, each of these significantly affects the middle class. My political experience has all centered around a deep respect for our middle class.
Id say there are really four key issues facing Vermonters.
The first is out of control health care costs. From annual double digit increases for businesses and public programs, to the outrageous executive compensation packages at Blue Cross Blue Shield, we have a system that is unaffordable, bloated, and slowly bankrupting Vermont businesses. I am a strong and pro-active proponent of a universal health insurance system that includes every Vermonter regardless of income or employment status. I will also renew my efforts to challenge the executive compensation at the health insurance companies. Board members of Blue Cross Blue Shield should not receive up to $45K for serving on a quasi-public non-profit board.
Second, we need to have a plan in place to replace the base load power we used to receive from Vermont Yankee. Its easy to say we want to close the plant. Its harder to replace the power in the scale needed to ensure a smooth transition to a post-nuclear Vermont. I will continue to be a vocal proponent of easing permitting requirements for larger renewable power generating facilities. I will also continue to refine the concept of focusing transmission line upgrade dollars in a manner that could accommodate new biomass facilities like Burlingtons McNeil station.
Third, we need to bring broadband to every Vermonter. This is, in my opinion, the single most effective and appropriate economic development initiative the state should pursue. Rather than the current corporate welfare handout system, universal broadband is an infrastructure investment that supports all Vermonters and Vermont businesses and enhances everything from home occupations to downtown business centers. I personally wrote the language deploying $8M for broadband in 2010. Amazingly, I had to contend with House Democrats who wanted to essentially hand the money to Fair Point under what I call the cross-your-fingers-hope-for-the-best strategy. In the end, through eventual agreement, we prevailed with language which protects the public investment and demands high-level broadband service.
Finally, and least comfortable for many Democrats, we need to stress tax fairness. The middle class in Vermont is really getting squeezed from all directions. I was a leader in trying to remove wealthy Vermonters from income sensitivity programs. I will continue to address that issue in the next term. Also, I was unfortunately the only member of the Legislature who thought it was vulgar to make changes to our estate tax laws that have the effect of handing $350K checks to the wealthiest 100 Vermont families each year. I will seek to undo that change, which passed against my vote. The very first priority in terms of state revenues should be making sure everyone is paying their fair share of taxes.
My DFA Values
This legacy campaign is missing this information
My Campaign is People Powered!
Two things differentiate my campaign from most other Senate campaigns. First, I do not take money from corporate entities and business PACs. A brief review of the contributors to the Vermont Democratic Party or the Vermont House and Senate Democratic committees is an eye opener in terms of influence. Corrections Corporation of America is just one of the alarming donors. I believe the appearance of conflict with these donations makes them troubling. The only donations I take are from individuals and progressive entities like the state employees union.
Second, unlike most Senate candidates, I do not enlist any paid Democratic staff people to work on my campaign. I do not want to run or win a campaign based upon being a Democratic candidate. That is precisely the reason, frankly, the Democratic Party has so many non-progressive elected officials. Many Chittenden candidates rely heavily on the Democratic machine such as it is to do their bidding for them. I have a growing cadre of volunteers who support my own agenda of universal health care, environmental activism, equal rights, and so on. I believe I strongly affirm progressive principles every opportunity I have, and I want to be judged on that alone.