Yard signs are aplenty throughout Essex as people proudly display who they’ll be voting for next week -- or have already voted for with their early ballot.
If the spread of support seen in letters to the editor the Reporter has received over the last few months is any indication of how the results will shake out, the two contested primaries for seats in the Vermont House of Representatives could be decided by just a few votes.
Both the Chittenden-8-1 and 8-2 Demorat races are being contested by three candidates for two spots on the November ballot with all six having seen a great amount of backing throughout the community.
As seen recently with the tremendous turnout in voting for the school district’s budget, mail-in voting has become wildly popular ahead of the Aug. 11 primary. In 2018, Essex had 2,986 votes cast in the primary with 566 of those being by absentee ballot. As of Wednesday afternoon, the clerk’s office had received and counted 3,562 ballots of the 6,042 that were requested and mailed out with more waiting to be added to that number.
Secretary of State Jim Condos said recently that ballots should not be mailed back after Aug. 4. Instead, they can be brought to the clerk’s office at 81 Main Street or directly to a polling station on Tuesday. The town is aware that the drop box at its office is on the small side and makes a tight return of a completed ballot, but Selectwoman Dawn Hill-Fleury said at Monday night’s meeting that a much larger lock box has been ordered and will be installed in time for November’s general election.
Polls on Tuesday will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Village residents are to go to Essex High School while the rest of the town is to vote at Essex Middle School.
Marybeth Redmond is an incumbent in the district's race, seeking her second term in Montpelier.
“2020 has certainly been the most outside-the-box year to run a campaign,” said Redmond. “I made a commitment early on to put my constituents’ health and safety first. I chose not to knock on doors making Essex residents potentially uncomfortable on their own front stoops. Hopefully my strong constituent service and regular public communication will speak for itself in terms of my being re-elected."
Redmond’s received endorsements from Sierra Club, Vermont State Employees’ Association, and Dawn Irwin, a constituent who launched an early-learning child care program called Growing With Wonder during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Marybeth asks hard questions during committee meetings to ensure our concerns are being addressed,” said Irwin. “She has done everything she can to push legislation in the right direction for our children, families and educators, including advocating for $50 million of Coronavirus Relief Fund monies to be allocated towards prek-12 education.”
Brian Shelden is seeking his first term as a State Representative.
“I'm looking forward to extending my service to Essex to the statehouse,” said Shelden. “I'm already a year-round advocate for Essex, not just during campaign season: I’m a member of Essex Resists, the Essex Economic Development Commission, the Saxon Hill Advisory Board, and the Essex Democrats, where I serve as chair. As an engineer and small business owner, I understand how to solve complex problems. You need to listen to all sides of an issue. Then, I use science and data to find the best way to move forward. I know to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Last, I know enough to know that you can't caucus with two parties in Montpelier. As the chair of the Essex Democrats, I'm already building relationships with the majority party in the statehouse. I will be in the room when solutions affecting Essex are crafted.”
Among those endorsing him are Greg Morgan, ex-chair of the Essex Economic Development Commission, former Essex High track coach Steve Dowd, and State Senator Ginny Lyons.
“Essex voters are really fortunate to have Brian Shelden and Marybeth Redmond as candidates
for the VT House of Representatives in the August 11 primary,” said Lyons. “Brian will bring his expertise in tech, business, and economic development.”
Tanya Vyhovsky is also running for her first term in Montpelier.
“In my personal life as a long-time Essex resident and in my professional life as a social worker and small business owner, I am driven by the belief that we all deserve dignity, affordable housing, healthcare, a clean environment, and high quality education no matter who we are,” said Vyhovsky. “Especially in the time of COVID-19, amidst the tragedy and loss, we have an opportunity to rebuild in a way that includes and supports everyone. If elected to represent Essex in the State House I will fight for an economy that doesn’t leave racial, social, and climate justice behind and work hard to ensure that all our voices are heard so that together we can build our Vermont and secure our future.”
Vyhovsky has been endorsed by Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, former State Representative and Rights and Democracy Movement Politics Director Kiah Morris, and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders.
"In the years I've known Tanya, she has impressed me with her dedication to working class and marginalized Vermonters,” said Sanders. “At this very difficult moment for working families in Vermont, she has been a tireless advocate for justice. I have no doubt that she will be a strong and dedicated representative for every Vermonter who has looked to the statehouse and wondered if anyone there cared."
Karen Dolan is attempting to win her first seat as a State Representative.
“This campaign has been an energizing learning experience in so many ways,” said Dolan. “I knew going into this that I was entering new territory and at the same time I was confident in my skills and strengths from my EmergeVT training. It was just a matter of transferring my leadership skills to a political landscape. Then COVID disrupted life for all of us. While my campaign transitioned to this new reality, I found my confidence growing as it became even more evident that my values of connection, curiosity, and collaboration are key strengths needed for successful recovery efforts. No matter the outcome, I feel fortunate for this opportunity to further connect with my community and look forward to the path ahead.”
Dolan has received endorsements from Vermont Conservation Voters, village resident Peter Schmalz, and her family, who she lists as her earliest endorsers.
"I know Karen from her work at the Essex Community Justice Center, and can say without reservation that she is exactly the kind of person that we need in the legislature,” said Schmalz. “I’ve been impressed with her thoughtfulness, diligence, and compassion for people. She has the intelligence, creativity and experience to represent us well."
Incumbent Lori Houghton is seeking re-election to the House as she goes for her third-straight term in Montpelier.
“I am honored to be representing Essex Junction and have thoroughly enjoyed the last four years meeting many of you and working on issues important to our community,” said Houghton. “2020 will go into the books as a memorable year. The pandemic has disrupted nearly every aspect of our lives and brought to the surface the many inequities in our communities and support systems. I am running for re-election because I care deeply about the well-being and the future of Vermonters. We need voices in our legislature that represent our communities – as a working mom and small business owner I am that voice. I have a proven track record of leadership in the Statehouse and the Village and a commitment to our community. Please contact me with any questions. I would appreciate your vote!”
Houghton has received endorsements from Rep. Dylan Giambatista and Essex Junction community members Karen Tucker and Bridget Meyer.
"Hardly a passive bystander, Lori meticulously digs into the details and makes informed decisions based on logic and analysis rather than questionable partisan objectives,” said Meyer. “Her aim is consistently focused on long-term public benefit illustrated by her eight year tenure as an Essex Junction Trustee, her work with Heart and Soul of Essex, founding and working for years on Five Corners Farmers Market; publishing a community services brochure for Essex, organizing the fabulous Gather at The Table event and more. All of this on top of working full time and raising a child!"
Patrick Murray is looking to obtain his first term as a State Representative.
“This year has obviously not been the race that anyone envisioned when we were considering running for office,” said Murray. “In light of the ongoing crisis of COVID-19 it's clear now more than ever that we need experienced leadership to represent Essex Junction and its interests in Montpelier for the coming legislative session to be sure our citizens will have every advantage and opportunity for relief from my first day in office. As I've done with the school district and the Town of Essex, I will be a bridge between the state and our local government with a focus on educational opportunities, broadband access and doing everything in my power to keep taxes reasonable in the years to come.”
Murray has been endorsed by the Vermont State Employees’ Association, Essex Westford School District School Board Chair and longtime legislator Martha Heath, and Max Levy, longtime Essex selectman and the former chair of the Vermont and the New Hampshire Valley Region Red Cross Board of Directors.
"As our country struggles with the pandemic we need someone in Montpelier who will be ready to speak with authority and knowledge from the very first day,” said Levy. “Patrick has experience with how tax burdens may impact businesses, how schools will need assistance in continuing education for children, and how best to help our local government maintain services for our whole community during these challenging times. As a former colleague I feel that Patrick has the ability, patience, and expertise to shoulder all of these challenges while envisioning a brighter future for every member of our community"