Local News

Six candidates vie for Windsor Senate seats

By Katy Savage

Six candidates seeking three Windsor County Senate discussed the housing crisis, worker shortage, child care, and reproductive liberty, among other issues, at a forum in Ludlow on Oct. 13.

Incumbent Democrat Sens. Alison Clarkson of Woodstock and Dick McCormack of Bethel are running with fellow Democrat Becca White of Hartford. The Democrats face Republicans Alice Flanders, 67, of White River Junction, a former Navy engineer and teacher; Bill Huff, of Thetford, a former aviation engineer and a certified financial planner; and Dana Colson, Jr. the owner of North Country Welding Supply, in Tunbridge.

At the forum the candidates were asked how the short-term rental market has impacted the housing shortage.

Clarkson, 66, who was elected to the Senate in 2016 after serving in the House for about 10 years, said hotel owners have come to the Legislature with concerns about there not being enough equity when it comes to short-term rentals.

“We want to level the playing field and we have been working toward doing that,” she said, explaining both hotel owners and short-term rental owners are now subject to rooms and meals tax. “I’ve had many towns come to me and say we want to see the state regulate this. We don’t want to have it up to us.” Clarkson said the state’s 6,000 to 8,000 short-term rental units are taking away housing from full-time Vermonters. “We are desperate for rentals for our families who want to work and live here,” she said.

Colson, who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2020, said he’s heard from landlords, who say they wouldn’t consider leasing to long-term renters because the state is unfriendly to them.

Huff echoed Colson’s remarks.

“We have a housing shortage in this state and who in their right mind is going to invest capital in housing, when the state is going to come in and tell you who you can rent to. That’s going to be an impediment to increasing overall housing in the entire state,” said Huff, who ran unsuccessfully for a House seat in 2018 and 2020. Huff is seeking a House seat again this election.

Throughout the 1 1/2-hour long forum, the Republican candidates largely focused on the state’s tendency to overregulate as a problem for all issues, while Democrats repeatedly said the state needs more money to address the shortcomings.

The candidates were asked about childcare as an estimated 8,000 families are searching for daycare in the state. Childcare providers say they can’t find enough teachers to grow their businesses.

Huff said a change in licensing laws in 2017 hurt childcare providers.

“The end result was for the Legislature to over-regulate the industry and unintended consequences of that was that nearly half of the home daycare facilities went out of business as a result over that over-regulation,” Huff said.

Meanwhile, McCormack, 75, one of the longest serving members of the Senate, said the state needs more money.

“The fact is we need more money to pay workers better,” McCormack said. “And in terms of the government doing that, it’s not our money, it’s the taxpayers’ money. We are stewards and trustees of their money and the taxpayers are only willing to come up with so much.” Flanders, who ran unsuccessfully for a House seat in 2020, suggested that businesses should provide childcare. “I believe they would be able to get more workers,” she said.

When it came to Article 22, which asks voters to change the constitution to make reproductive liberty a right, Huff and Flanders were opposed, while Colson said he was also opposed but would vote in favor of the reproductive liberty amendment it because it was what most Vermonters wanted.

The Democrats, Clarkson, McCormack and White were in favor.

“I think it’s insulting to people who are pregnant to envision that they are not the person who should be making a decision,” said White, 28, who if elected would be the youngest woman elected to the Senate. She has served in the House since 2018.

The future of the candidates will be left to voters on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

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