Campaign season under way

Four running for two House seats

By Greg Duggan
Observer staff

Jay Michaud

Williston’s Independence Day Parade on Saturday marked the start of the campaign season for many local candidates.

Vermont’s primary elections take place Aug. 24, with the general election Nov. 2. The filing deadline for candidates was June 17, and seven Williston residents came forward to run for various positions. With the field set, nearly all local candidates participated in the town’s parade.

Two Republicans — Mike Benevento and Jay Michaud — have emerged to challenge incumbent Democrats Terry Macaig and Jim McCullough for Williston’s two seats in the Vermont House of Representatives.

Jim McCullough

All four will appear on the ballot for the primaries, though regardless of those results the same names will appear on the general election ballot as well.

Macaig, who also serves as chairman of the Williston Selectboard, has completed one term in the House. He served on the Committee on Corrections and Institutions, where he said tasks included work on the capital budget, bonding for state infrastructure and the corrections system.

“There’s a lot of work left to do for challenges to change, (or) modify the correction system and prisoner behavior,” Macaig said. “Hopefully I’ll be back in the same committee, with a chance to work on those things.”

Terry Macaig

In a press release announcing his bid for reelection, Macaig said, “He will focus his campaign on continuing to make health insurance affordable, environmental protection and fiscal responsibility.”

Fellow Democrat McCullough has spent four terms representing Williston in the Vermont House.

“I’m doing a good job and I’m having fun,” McCullough said when asked why he’s seeking reelection. “I’m doing a good job not only for Williston, but for the state as a whole.”

Mike Benevento

McCullough said he wants to remain in the House as long as he’s enjoying himself and successfully serving Williston and Vermont. Like Macaig, McCullough also pointed to the importance of accessible health care and the necessity of protecting the environment — and balancing environmental needs with those of businesses.

As a member of the Committee on Fish, Wildlife and Water Resources the past four years, McCullough said he has spent a lot of time dealing with aquatic invasive species and stormwater. He said one of his biggest accomplishments was creating groundwater in Vermont as a public trust.

On the Republican side, Benevento said his decision to run stems from a desire to serve his community.

“The bottom line is, I’ve been doing a lot of community service, basically my whole life,” Benevento said, noting time spent in the military and volunteering with Babe Ruth and Little League baseball leagues. “It’s a way to help out, have more impact in the community.”

A former right wing columnist for the Observer, Benevento said he considered running for the House two years ago. The Republican has never held elected office; he said he decided to run for a statewide position because he already volunteers locally, and follows state politics more than local government. Benevento wants to reduce the size of government and have fewer taxes, which he hopes will entice more businesses to Vermont.

In his outgoing Right to the Point column on May 20, Benevento wrote, “My goal is to represent all Willistonians — no matter what their political leanings are. Together, we can work for a better Vermont.”

Jay Michaud said the reason he’s running is “jobs, jobs, jobs.” As a FedEx ground contractor, Michaud said he regularly meets people and talks about the economy.

“I’m listening to people, and the pain that’s out there, and we need to put some people back to work,” Michaud said.

He called for a multi-tiered approach to revamping the economy, with a plan that includes internship programs and making Vermont more attractive to businesses. Michaud’s campaign is his first venture into politics, and he wants to immediately address his frustrations with government in the state capital.

“I’m just fed up with Montpelier,” Michaud said. “The super majority party I don’t think is listening to all Vermonters, and I think we need more balance in Montpelier.”

Beyond the House

The town has two candidates vying for Chittenden County’s six seats in the state Senate. Incumbent Sen. Ginny Lyons, a Democrat, will seek to retain her seat in the Legislature. Republican Shelley Palmer, after one failed bid for the Williston Selectboard and two for the Vermont House of Representatives, has also declared his candidacy for the Senate.

Lyons will face off against six other Democrats on Aug. 24, with the top six vote-getters appearing on the Nov. 2 ballot. Her fellow Democrats include Tim Ashe of Burlington, Philip Baruth of Burlington, Sally Fox of South Burlington, Frank “Guyer” Geier of South Burlington, Hinda Miller of Burlington and Andy Montroll of Burlington.

In addition to Palmer, the Republican field includes Dennis Bedard of South Burlington, Mike Branon of South Burlington, Annette Roque Renaud of Essex, Charlie Smith of Burlington and Diane Snelling of Hinesburg. All six will appear on the general election ballot.

Besides the major party candidates, the general election for the Chittenden County Senate seats will feature four independent candidates. Larkin Forney of Milton is running with the Justice for Vermonters party. Richard “Terry” Jeroloman of Burlington, Steve Laible of South Burlington and Mikey Van Gulden of Burlington are running as Independents.

In the race for secretary of state, Williston Selectboard member Chris Roy last year announced his bid to fill the position being vacated by Deb Markowitz, who hopes to replace the outgoing Jim Douglas as Vermont governor. Roy faces Jason Gibbs of Duxbury in the primary.

Democrats have two candidates seeking their party’s nomination for secretary of state: Jim Condos of Montpelier and Charles Merriman of Middlesex. Brattleboro Progressive Peter A. Cooper is also running for secretary of state.