by Doug McClure
CRAFTSBURY – Five candidates are running for election for the Essex-Orleans District Senate’s two seats. The incumbent candidates are Democrats Bobby Starr and John Rodgers. Rodgers is running as an Independent this year due to a filing issue. Also running are Democrat Ron Horton and Republicans Russ Ingalls and Jonathan Morin.
Gazette towns represented: Craftsbury, Greensboro, and Wolcott.
Horton and Ingalls replied to the Gazette’s questions.
“I’ve lived in Vermont 20-plus years, on two different occasions. After retiring from Delta Air Lines, at age 50, I spent 15 more years on the West Coast before getting the chance to return home.
“I live in Jay, with my wife, dog and cat. Sadly, we lost our 21-year-old college daughter this March, as a direct result of the ineptness of the handling of COVID-19.
“I’m an Air Force veteran, 1966-1970; a professional saxophonist since 1966; and retired from Delta Air Lines in 1998. I’ve done many things with my life before, and after, retirement, as I don’t like having grass grow under my feet. My hobby jobs include lifeguard, radio board op, Aflac salesman, car sales (that I wrote a book about), writer, screenwriter, greenskeeper, umpire, and financial adviser. I taught the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University course for nine years while in Oregon.
“I started two not-for-profit organizations that helped struggling entertainers.
“I’m an aerobatic pilot and have owned two planes. I like snowmobiling, sailing, my motorcycle, tennis, golf, and living on our 10 acres, surrounded by many other acres we get to use.
“My daughter was a Make-A-Wish kid. Her wish was to meet President Obama, which we did as a family. We were hosted by this great man in the Oval Office for 25 minutes, and again for 10 minutes before he and Michelle boarded Marine 1 to go to Dallas after a mass shooting tragedy. My daughter became a Make-A-Wish of Vermont Ambassador. I was also asked to speak at functions before her.
“My decision to run for state senate happened after coming back to Vermont and seeing so much poverty and hardship among the people in the Northeast Kingdom. And I didn’t see anything being done to fix the problem areas.
“Helping people stay in their homes and survive their tax burdens will be one of my top priorities. This is, however, a multi-tiered solution to many of our rural problems.
“We must get more clean industry to relocate to rural Vermont. That will bring new jobs, build the tax base which can reduce the overall tax burden of everyone, and it will give a voice to the effort to bring broadband and Wi-Fi to all areas of the state. To make this happen we must develop our transportation system to include all of the state. We need bus, rail, and air transportation. This will give industry the security to agree to relocate in our area.
“It’s a cart before the horse problem, but I feel we can work one to benefit the other. Industry won’t move here without transportation available, and transportation won’t expand to our area without a reason. I see one hand washing the other to accomplish both.”
“I live in Newport. I am self-employed. I own RE/MAX All Seasons Realty and the Derby Carwash. I think that our area politicians have forgot about the people they represent and what’s important to them. It’s time to put Vermonters First!
“I work incredibly hard. seven days a week. I think that sometimes you just need to get down in the trenches and get stuff done. Sometimes the hard work that’s needed doesn’t get the glory that some of the soundbite rich national issues get, but that’s OK. We have little to no broadband in the Northeast Kingdom, something that the larger Democrat areas do not have to contend with. Our kids don’t stay here after receiving one of the best educations in the country because there are no jobs here for them. There has been a 50-year war on farmers that can be simply solved by doing the only thing they have ever asked for, pay them for their milk. Act 250 needs to go away and a new plan that supports growth but still watches out for our precious assets put in its place. And the list can go on. Focus on Vermonters first!”
Horton: “To me, for a family to be affording life as a Vermonter means they have expendable income. Right now, there are too many hands extended, with palms up. Vermonters have given until they bleed, and that’s evidenced by how many have decided they can’t stay in the state they love.
“Until we reduce the tax burden, bring in quality jobs, and increase the wages, living here is not affordable.
“I believe, with the programs I have presented, we can do all of this. We will also be able to show our youth that staying in Vermont is a wise decision. My programs will offer them opportunities they currently don’t have. In Newport, my development plan will offer them recreational opportunities that are not even considered. Kids tend to get bored, which leads to ill-advised activities, which can lead to drugs and crime. We have a way to reverse this trend.”
Ingalls: “Affordability needs to happen by adding more people who contribute to the tax base and share the cost. Jobs do that.”
Retail Market for Marijuana
Horton: “I was glad to see it pass, however, now the really hard work needs to be done. We want to learn from any mistakes found by states that have come before us. In the long run the financial gain to the state will be tremendous. I just want to make sure we have ironed out any potential problems before we open the first dispensary.”
Ingalls: “I think that when you are losing the war on death to drugs, to allow this bill to pass is irresponsible policy.”
Police Use of Force Bill
Horton: “This is a very intense subject and opinions can flow like water when discussing the options. I believe there are times when deadly force is necessary. I also believe that, for some individuals, giving them carte blanche to commit deadly force is just that. We have all seen the films of deadly force being abused.
“An unarmed person running from a police officer does not pose a deadly threat to that officer. If the person is someone who might pose a threat if they are not put in custody, then they should be subdued with something other than deadly force. The center mass shot is taught in the academy, but so should the take down shot. Too many people are being killed and, after the fact, it is being recorded that they should still be alive.
“I support law enforcement, but I don’t support “Hollywood Cops.’ I’ve had two cops in my immediate family, and they were more civil servants than Robo Cops. I feel training needs to be increased and vetting done better. Our officers are being asked to be experts in fields that are way out of their wheelhouse. It’s way past time for sitting down in committee to see what kind of revisions we can make to our police force are available to us.”
Ingalls: “The bill should have never been written. It was written under false pretense that our law enforcement agencies are racist. I support the Women and Men in uniform and respect the job that they do.”
Horton: “Taxing our way out of financial debt won’t work. I’m also endorsed by Vermont NEA [National Education Association], and I take my endorsement seriously. We have Act 46, that was shoved down our throats. In my humble opinion, it stinks. The state should not be making decisions for smaller communities. Our teachers are overworked and underpaid. And Act 46 is just a throw-it-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks-method to fix the problem.
“This is why we need to come up with ways to fund the education department that don’t require Vermonters to dole out any more of the money they don’t have. My idea for development of the State of Vermont Airline is one that, if I can convince non-aviation politicians, will bring in millions in revenue that can be funneled into our education system, thus cutting our tax burden by, at least, 50%. Forward thinking is the only way we will start moving Vermont forward and start bringing people out of poverty.”
Ingalls: “Act 46 is a disaster that should have never happened. It is a complete takeover by the State of the education system and demolished any beliefs that any community has a say in their children’s education. Local control is non-existent. When everything was consolidated and made easier to manage, why didn’t we cut half of the superintendents’ offices with them? That would have saved millions! That alone is just a small part though. We have to pay for education one way or the other. We can shift the cost to here or there but at the end, it’s the same dollars. We need to create more revenue if we want to spend at the same rate. The way to do that is not to keep raising taxes on the people that are here. Let’s make Vermont a business-friendly state and let the expansion of businesses who start up or relocate here help pave the way. We have to find a way to keep our children here after graduation and the only way to do that is to have jobs for them. To have jobs for them we need to have businesses who can afford too to be here.”
Horton: “If we can get industry to agree to move here, we will have leverage to make statewide broadband a reality. Saying we need it, that it’s the right thing to have for our kids, for our businesses, is all fine and good; but it doesn’t seem to have moved the needle much. When you’ve taken an idea to its limits and back, and you still don’t have a solution, I feel it’s time to step back and start fresh.”
Ingalls: “Again, let’s let private enterprise take the helm. Let’s bid it out with clear goals and expectations and maybe some years of exclusivity so that the winning company can over time, recover their investments and earn a profit. But to have only the wealthy and more populous areas have all the choices, that isn’t the way it should be.”
Minimum Wage and Paid Family Leave
Horton: “The governor says he wants a more affordable Vermont; however, he doesn’t want to bring the wages up to living wages, and he doesn’t want to help Vermonters by approving paid family leave. He can’t have it both ways. We need to pass both of these laws now!”
Ingalls: “If there is to be a minimum wage, let’s have a two-part system. For the workers who are still in high school, let’s start them out at a lower wage to be determined. Why? because they do not have the same pressures that people living on their own have. Their housing, health insurance, food costs, cable bill etc. are already covered for the most part. And the higher-level wage, yet to be determined should be flexible as well. If you have a high school diploma or equivalency you could be at one level. If you are actively enrolled in higher education, you may even be at a higher level. A minimum wage should be something that encourages you to better yourself through education so that you can become more valuable as an employee. The more valuable you are, the more you will make.”
The Opioid Crisis/Criminal Justice
Horton: “Law Enforcement is being asked to do far too much. There are many things that I feel need to happen with regard to all drug abuse in the state.
“We must start with our kids. Getting drug prevention programs into our schools should be priority number one. Then we need to make sure our kids have activities, jobs and civic opportunities that will help them stay on a path of good.
“Our dispensing of opioids needs to be addressed even more than it is currently. Opioids are over prescribed and under supervised. There should never be enough opioids given out as to get someone in trouble with them. Pain management needs to be regulated better. If a patient needs 10 days of the drug, maybe they should get five days and be required to get the other five days’ worth on day six.
“Serious crimes need to be handled… seriously. If a person is someone more likely to reoffend, then they should remain in custody until a secure method to monitor them is obtained. Ankle monitors are one method. Halfway houses may be another method. But just releasing a violent criminal back onto the street is not common sense.
“On the other side of the coin, minor offenses need to be handled differently. There should be more education requirements, similar to DUI training. We spend too much time putting low income, minor offenders, in the courts and jail, while we look the other way when faced with an “important” person who has committed a serious white-collar crime.
“Having the records of our minor drug offenders being expunged is a good start.”
Ingalls: “[We should do] whatever it takes to combat [the opioid crisis]. The deaths and the toll that it takes on our Vermont families is unacceptable. We have lost a whole generation to the opioid crisis. Treatment to end the dependency. and that doesn’t mean to supplement in with methadone or the likes. End the dependency. Compassion only can go so far. If treatment doesn’t work, then incarcerate. If someone enters jail as an addict, they should not come out of jail still an addict.
“If you commit a crime there needs to be a consequence. If not, then you see the same people over and over. Why is it fair to the vast majority of people who follow the law to see the people who do let off with no consequence?”
Protecting the Rights of Women, Minorities, and LGBTQ+ Citizens
Horton: “I’m endorsed by Planned Parenthood of Vermont for a reason. I believe government doesn’t belong in our churches, bedrooms, or doctor’s offices. We must, now, more than ever, ensure the rights of women, and all minority groups, to control their own lives, by passing rigid self-controlling legislation.
“What we are facing with the Supreme Court is many steps backwards. Only the individual states will be able to add the protection needed so that backroom abortions, lynchings, and all the other horrific things trump supports, don’t happen. By the grace of God, we will have a new President in January. But we will still have the disaster that the Trump administration has created. It will take every bit of Progressive effort to keep from falling back into the 50s.”
Ingalls: “I am pro-life. I do not support government dollars going for abortions. In our country it is illegal to discriminate against anyone. The law is clear and severe for anyone that does.”