On September 30, 2020

Three-way Windsor-Rutland House debate held

Kirk White (Courtesy photograph)
Sheila Braun (Rochester)
Wayne Townsend

By Curt Peterson

Three candidates are vying for the Windsor-Rutland District Vermont House seat being vacated after 15 years by Sandy Haas (Progressive).

The White River Valley Herald and the Rochester Public Library hosted a virtual debate on Wednesday, Sept. 23.

Democrat/Progressive candidate Kirk White (Bethel), Independent candidate Sheila Braun (Rochester) and Republican candidate Wayne Townsend (Bethel) participated.

Dylan Kelley, a Herald editor, was moderator.

White, 58, an acupuncturist, holds a master’s degree in mental health and addictions counseling and an honorary Doctor of Divinity. Well-known among Paganists, White operates a holistic health retreat. He co-founded Bethel Revitalization and Bethel University, two community projects.

Braun, also 58, has lived in Rochester for 25 years. Owner of Anovision, a statistical analysis and consulting firm focused on health and education, she feels state decisions are made for the wrong reasons.

“I decided to stop complaining and do my duty,” she said.

Townsend, 47, a Bethel native, was a forester and now runs his family’s dairy farm.

“It’s time for leadership and political balance in Montpelier,” he said.

Dylan Kelley asked the candidate’s opinions on various topics. Two involved Covid-19: Should Vermont schools have been reopened this fall, and how well has the president managed the national pandemic response?

Townsend, Braun and White agreed the schools should not have been reopened. Townsend said it was too soon, too risky for the children.

White feels the children are being used as “test cases.”

Braun, whose sister is a schoolteacher – worries about the risk for staff.

“The people making this decision to open aren’t going in to their work, why should teachers go to the schools?” she asked.

Trump’s pandemic response got bad marks from Braun:  “Badly failed the country,” and White: “Bungled and misrepresented it.”

Townsend noted the president had delegated the response to governors, and that Vermont Governor Phil Scott “has been doing a great job.”

On Gov. Scott’s controversial gun control legislation:

White thinks hunting firearms are acceptable, but it’s important to keep guns “out of the wrong hands.”

Braun said, “Firearms designed to kill people shouldn’t be in anyone’s hands.”

She understands why Scott’s rapid response to the “non-event” at Fair Haven High School upset some Vermonters.

Townsend feels Scott’s bill is unconstitutional.

“Officials take an oath to hold up the Constitution, not to step on it every chance they get,” he said.

White and Braun favor the Legislature’s climate change bill, passed over Scott’s veto.

Townsend feels Vermont already has a very low carbon footprint, and the bill will increase the tax burden.

“Vermont doesn’t always have to lead the way,” he said.

Townsend doesn’t see a Vermont race problem, that trouble comes from out-of-state he believes. Although police departments should use better hiring practices, he believes we should stand up for law enforcement.

Braun and White offered their solutions – Braun said people should try to “understand what it’s like to be ‘them’,” and she approves of the racial equity task force.

Kelley asked the candidates for their opinions on the $12.55/hour minimum wage goal.

White and Braun said $12.55 is not enough.

Vermont is an expensive place to live, Braun said.

White said higher minimum wages will help the economy.

Townsend suggested lowering state taxes would make the minimum wage go farther, achieving the same end.

The Mountain Times asked the candidates their main goal for running to replace Haas.

White listed a menu of policies he would pursue, but his general agenda is finding “creative ways to empower the revitalization of our small towns so that new families will want to move here and our kids want to stay.” He suggests state support of “a regional non-profit collaborative to coordinate economic and community development.”

Braun told us she is running as an Independent so she won’t be beholden to any political party.

“The legislature’s first priority at this time should be to protect Vermonters from the pandemic and its economic fallout,” Braun wrote. “Then we need to transform the political landscape from a … system in which candidates represent their parties, to a group of legislators who give voice to the people. The most important thing that I think is that my thoughts are less important than those of my constituents.”

Wayne Townsend did not respond to our requests for his perspective.

Do you want to submit feedback to the editor?

Send Us An Email!

Related Posts

Large turnout for Hartland school budget info session

May 23, 2024
By Curt Peterson The May 21 Hartland school budget information session may be the best-attended school board gathering in recent history — an estimated 40 people attended in person at Damon Hall in Hartland, and another 41 tuned in online. Hartland voters had already approved the $11,040,567 budget 320-311 on April 2. But a petition…

United Way of Rutland County names new exc. director

May 22, 2024
The United Way of Rutland County (UWRC) announced the appointment of Tina Van Guilder as its new executive director, May 17.  Van Guilder officially assumed her role as executive director May 6. With over seven years of direct non-profit leadership experience in the Rutland County area, coupled with recent roles focusing on grant coordination, budget…

Slate Valley school district to hold fourth vote on district budget

May 22, 2024
In response to the results of the last vote on May 9, and valuable community feedback during the school board meeting on May 13, the Slate Valley Unified Union School District will hold its fourth vote in an attempt to pass the budget on May 30. It will be a revote on the third FY25…

Where is the road construction this week? 

May 22, 2024
The Agency of Transportation produces this weekly report of planned construction activities that will impact traffic on state highways and interstates throughout Vermont. Hartford: Monday, May 20, through Friday, May 24, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., multiple concrete mixers will be moving in and out of the project area at either end of the…