State News

Sanders, Welch and Balint rally in Hartland

By Curt Peterson

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Congressman Peter Welch and state Sen. Becca Balint, calling themselves the “Delegation Tour for All” get-out-the-vote rally drew about 150 people to Hartland’s Damon Hall on Saturday, Oct. 23.

Sanders isn’t up for reelection this November. Welch, who has been Vermont’s representative since 2007, is running for retiring Patrick Leahy’s U. S. Senate seat. Becca Balint hopes to be taking Welch’s place in Congress. S

anders, not a member of either major party, caucuses with the Democrats. He preceded Welch as Vermont Representative, and was elected senator in 2007.

Campaigning is nothing new for him, he said in his rally-opening remarks. “I’ve been beating up on Republicans all of my life.”

The issues he believes deserve voters’ attention are: democracy versus autocracy, climate change and “big pharma” greed.

Sanders said voters must elect Welch and Balint to their desired federal government posts and “give Vermont the most progressive delegation in the country.”

It’s not surprising in this part of Vermont, that Sanders had many rounds of applause and standing cheers.

Welch spoke of his Hartland roots — he now lives in Norwich — and how, at his first campaign speech in Damon Hall years ago, he accidentally referred to Hartland as “Hartford.”

“My political career almost ended that evening,” he said. “Fortunately the people of Hartland are very forgiving.”

Citing 300 Republican candidates for U. S. national office who deny the 2020 presidential election results and who question the seriousness of the Jan. 6 attack on the capitol, Welch said he feels American democracy is threatened.

“Trickle-down economics” have always failed and should be “gone forever,” and calling unlimited political donations “expressions of free speech” in the Citizens United Supreme Court decision a denial of citizens’ right to access what should be public information.

Welch applauded Vermont culture, “where we look out for each other and not just for ourselves.”

Balint took the microphone in front of the podium, saying she wanted to “make eye contact with Hartland” and is too short to do that from behind the lectern.

Referring to raising two children, 12 and 15, and teaching middle school classes for years, Balint said, “If you can survive that, you can survive Congress. You just have to believe that change is possible.”

An animated firebrand, Balint asked everyone in the audience whose name appears on the Hartland ballot this year to gather with her for a group photo, and led a cheer — “We have to hold the House!” Balint told the Mountain Times through Emmet Avery, deputy communications director, “I was humbled by the turnout and enthusiasm at Damon Hall. Hartland’s turnout reflects Vermont voters’ commitment to democracy and progressive change.”

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