Trail Tidbits: House leader leaves; Zuckerman shoots for Senate; Tillinghast challenges MacDonald in primary

Party leaders Don Turner, Chris Pearson and Lucy Leriche meeting with Speaker Shap Smith at the podium. VTD/Josh Larkin
Party leaders Don Turner, Chris Pearson and Lucy Leriche meeting with Speaker Shap Smith at the podium. VTD file photo/Josh Larkin

House leader decides not to run

Rep. Lucy Leriche, House majority leader, won’t seek a fifth term.

Leriche, who represents Hardwick and has been part of the Democratic leadership team since 2009, said she couldn’t afford to stay in the Legislature.

Her husband, she said, had subsidized her political career.

“It was starting to feel really wrong,” Leriche said. “I wasn’t contributing enough to the household; I needed to pull my own weight on the home front.”

Leriche served on House Speaker Shap Smith’s leadership team for four years: two sessions as assistant majority leader and the last two as majority leader for the Democrats.

Smith described Leriche as an incredibly talented person. He said it’s “a real bummer” she couldn’t stay.

“She’s a great person, a great leader and she’s a good friend, but I think she needs to make some money and that’s a reality we have to face with a citizen legislature,” Smith said. “It’s too bad because we’re losing a talented person, but I couldn’t persuade her to stay.”

Rep. Willem Jewett, D-Ripton, the assistant majority leader of the House, is her most likely successor.

Leriche, the former executive director of the Lamoille Housing Partnership, said she is proudest of two pieces that she supported as a lawmaker — the groundbreaking gay marriage law and Catamount Health, a program that extended government-subsidized health care to uninsured Vermonters.

“I think one of the things I’m most proud of was being one of people responsible for creating Catamount Health,” Leriche said. “As I walk around this district I encounter a lot of people taking advantage of the program who really need it.”

Leriche fought hard to obtain her seat in 2004 in a hotly contested race with former incumbent Hardwick representative Dave Brown, a Republican. That year, she won by a narrow majority of ballots. Before Brown, Hardwick was represented by Paul Cillo, who also became majority leader and went on to found Public Assets Institute.

Leriche says she misses the Legislature already — though perhaps not the 14-hour days.

“I miss the idea of it,” Leriche said. “I don’t really think that I’m who I am without that job. I definitely put myself into it. It was a bottomless pit of job. I gave every ounce to it to the exclusion of everything else in my life. I don’t regret it at all, but that kind of effort is not sustainable.”

Leriche is passing her baton to Democratic candidate Kristina Michelsen, a Hardwick attorney.

~Anne Galloway

Zuckerman in the ring for Miller’s seat

Former Burlington representative David Zuckerman announced his bid for Senate today after a two-year break from the Statehouse. The Progressive is running in the Democratic primary against Burlington City Councilor Ed Adrian for a chance at the Chittenden County Senate seat vacated by retiring Sen. Hinda Miller.

“I wasn’t chomping at the bit to take on incumbents, necessarily,” Zuckerman said, “because a lot of them were doing a good job.” Now that there’s an empty seat and Zuckerman and his wife have finished moving their organic farm to Hinesburg, he says it’s time to get back to Montpelier to work on some of his pet issues.

Former Rep. David Zuckerman, P-Burlington

What’s been lingering in the Statehouse for two-plus years in his view? Marijuana reform, health-care reform and Death with Dignity, to name a few. Zuckerman’s Progressive views on these issues are known to his constituents from the House, but he hopes to take them to the Senate to give that body a push in the left direction.

Zuckerman thinks marijuana should be legalized and taxed, so that commercial sales of the drug could generate state revenue that would help pay to treat addictions to other drugs such as the opiates that were such a hot issue in the last session.

“I was sort of an original legislator at least in contemporary times to bring up marijuana policy as a whole,” Zuckerman said in an interview.

A champion of the Death with Dignity legislation that’s been up for debate in the Statehouse for years, Zuckerman says the debate has been helpful to the issue.

“I think every single time it’s discussed, it moves forward,” he said.

Zuckerman said his philosophy on taxation aligns with that of Sen. Bernie Sanders. He says the state didn’t tax wealthy Vermonters enough in the wake of the recent economic downturn, and he hopes to push these policy ideas in the Senate.

“Rather than cutting programs,” he said, “I would have done at least a temporary income tax surcharge on the wealthier Vermonters.”

Thetford selectman to run for Orange County Senate seat

Thetford Selectman Tig Tillinghast declared his run against fellow Democrat Mark MacDonald for the Orange County Senate seat last week.

Tillinghast, a longtime select board member, said his experience in local government gives him a unique insight into how lawmakers can better meet the people’s needs. While his issues aren’t necessarily new – he wants universal statewide broadband, more jobs, protection for working landscapes, and improved vitality for small and medium-sized villages – Tillinghast says he will take a fresh approach to the issues.

As a member of Thetford’s Select Board he said he has helped to facilitate conversations.

“I would say that we’ve done a boatload of really cool things — some of them unprecedented — here in Thetford in the last five years,” Tillinghast said in an interview, “and one of the things I’m proud of is that very few of those were my idea.”

Tillinghast said one fault of the Senate, which had its issues this year, is a disconnectedness from both constituencies and stakeholders in legislation.

“I think that sometimes the culture of the Senate can be one where once people are in session they’re kind of focused on themselves,” he said.

Solid waste legislation that went through the Legislature this year came dangerously close to striking a fatal blow against the permitted but unopened landfill in Windsor County.

“No one consulted the Greater Upper Valley Solid Waste District on the solid waste bill,” Tillinghast said, despite the legislation’s direct impact on the district. Such disconnects are unacceptable in Tillinghast’s view, and his work at the local level, taking calls from citizens about all sorts of issues, he says, will help close this gap.

“As a senator for these 11 towns, it would worry me that all of this legislation that’s going through affects, in some cases uniquely, these towns … I’d want to know how. Because I could affect the legislation much better if I knew that ahead of time,” he said.

Tillinghast hopes to keep an open dialog with constituents and stakeholders about legislation in the works.

Many of his views align with MacDonald’s, he said, though his approach would be different.

“I’m not running so much against Mark, who in many, many, many positions probably comes down exactly as I would, but I think that as a method of seeking input and what I would do with that input, I think I would operate differently because I have had to operate in the very local political stew that is a select board,” he said.

One of Tillinghast’s stated goals is a familiar one: “Providing broadband Internet service availability to all homes and businesses.” Gov. Peter Shumlin promised this would happen by 2013 during his 2010 campaign for governor, and maintains the state is on track to meet that goal.

“It’s not gonna happen,” Tillinghast says. The state, according to Tillinghast, is taking a flawed approach to the problem by using middle-mile connections as the primary marker of success. Middle-mile connections are high-speed connections at places such as libraries or schools, whereas last-mile connections is service to homes and businesses.

“The state should have been concentrating on last mile over middle mile,” Tillinghast said. “We now have some nice middle mile infrastructure, but I believe we are unlikely to see complete coverage of last mile by the 2013 timeframe originally promised.”

Beyond that, the state’s efforts appear to Tillinghast only loosely coordinated, further hindering the state’s progress.

“You have kind of an alphabet soup of these different groups that have been partially responsible for bringing Internet, and they all mean well … but no one person there is responsible for it really happening.”

Statewide Internet isn’t an end in itself, but a means to an end, Tillinghast says. Local businesses in Thetford are stuck, unable to expand into e-commerce or to innovate online. Bringing high-speed Internet to every home and business in the state would allow businesses to thrive where they are, and would draw young Vermonters into jobs that match their education level instead of driving them out of state to look for work after college, Tillinghast said.

Sorrell endorsed by former Chittenden County state’s attorneys

Attorney General Bill Sorrell said he could “play the endorsement game” at his campaign launch, and he’s made the latest move in the volley of endorsements between he and challenger TJ Donovan.

Monday, the Sorrell campaign announced that four of seven living former Chittenden County state’s attorneys endorsed him in the Democratic primary for the office.

Chittenden County State's Attorney TJ Donovan gives a speech at the launch of his campaign for Attorney General. VTD Photo/Taylor Dobbs
Chittenden County State's Attorney TJ Donovan gives a speech at the launch of his campaign for Attorney General. VTD Photo/Taylor Dobbs

Tuesday, the campaign issued a correction. There are eight living former Chittenden County state’s attorneys, and five of them endorse Sorrell. The fifth: Mark Keller, who served in the office from 1979 to 1983.

Lauren Bowerman, Scot Kline, Francis Murray and Bob Simpson also endorsed Sorrell, who worked with the Sorrell throughout his career. Sorrell worked under Francis Murray while Murray was state’s attorney, and Simpson worked as an assistant attorney general under Sorrell. He worked with the others as Chittenden County atate’s attorney during his two separate tenures in the office. He served after Gov. Richard Snelling appointed him to the position in 1977; he served again from 1989 to 1992.

The endorsements are a testament to his work from people “who understand from their own history what it’s like being a criminal prosecutor and for several of them to work in other areas of the law that are relevant to what the Attorney General does.”

Donovan, who is challenging Sorrell from his current role as Chittenden County state’s attorney, said he wasn’t fazed by the endorsement.

“I saw that endorsement and I know all four of them and I think highly of all of them,” he said, “but what I’m talking about is how do we address the challenges we’re facing today, and how do we move forward so we really have a 21st century criminal justice system.”

The candidates so far have run positive campaigns, mostly talking themselves up without attacking each other, but there’s a distinct pull in the campaign between past and present. While Sorrell constantly refers to the lawsuit he took action on “four weeks to the day after taking office” in 1997 (the big tobacco settlement) and the money that suit’s settlement still brings into the state. Donovan, on the other hand, has plans to implement rapid intervention court programs statewide and increase the attorney general’s influence in the Statehouse, something he says has been lacking under Sorrell.

The candidates have identified different priorities. Donovan hopes to take on prescription drug abuse, while Sorrell warns of the dangers of the Internet.

Child pornography, identity theft, scams and personal privacy breaches are all made easier online, Sorrell said in an interview. These dangers must be addressed as more and more Vermonters go online, he said.

“I say that across a broad spectrum of issues within the authority of the attorney general from the criminal justice arena to the consumer protection arena, personal privacy arena, the online world presents great opportunities but great challenges also,” Sorrell said.

Donovan, in an interview, addressed the discrepancy in the candidates’ priorities: “It says to me that I’m talking to the people like me who are on the ground, working in the courts, working in city halls, working on the street, the police in the cruiser, the clinician working at the social service agency with the walk-in clients. I’m talking to the people who are in the trenches. That’s what that says to me, and I think [my] endorsements underscore that point.”

Sorrell said his priorities come from the office itself.

“It’s not like somebody told me it’s the online world that’s the problem,” Sorrell said, “it’s just that doing the day-in, day-out work of the attorney general, it’s become clear to me.”

Gubernatorial contenders disclose tax forms

As election season heats up, candidates are beginning to release their tax information to the public. Gov. Peter Shumlin and his challenger, Sen. Randy Brock, both released tax returns last week.

The governor’s adjusted gross income last year was $502,253, a 31 percent drop from the previous year’s $732,445. Shumlin filed jointly with his wife, Deborah Holway, and claimed the separated couple’s two daughters as dependents. Much of the drop was in real estate holdings, which brought in less than half of the income from 2010.

The page of the returns dealing with such holdings was not present in the governor’s initial release, and when asked, Shumlin said there wasn’t much to see on that sheet.

“It’s mostly losses,” he said.

Sen. Randy Brock submitted his petition to get on the ballot as a gubernatorial candidate. VTD Photo/Taylor Dobbs
Sen. Randy Brock submitted his petition to get on the ballot as a gubernatorial candidate. VTD Photo/Taylor Dobbs

Brock’s release, filed jointly with his wife, Andrea, showed $268,014 in adjusted gross income, which included almost $112,000 in taxable interest on the couple’s investments. A financial statement released by Brock listed the couple’s assets and investments as of Jan. 1 of this year, with about $6 million in net worth. The couple owns $3.033 million in rental properties in Naples and North Naples, Fla., and investments of more than $10,000 in Apple, Exxon Mobil, IBM and various other companies.

Shumlin’s tax withholding and tax credits covered his owed federal taxes with $77,021 to spare and his state taxes with $12,098, which he put toward next year’s taxes. Brock ended the tax year owing $13,351 federally. Brock did not release his Vermont state return.

Candidate filings pile up

As the Secretary of State’s office winds down after the first week of accepting petitions from candidates running for office, many statewide races are still blank. There are not yet petitions filed for Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Treasurer or Auditor. With the exception of Auditor Tom Salmon, all incumbents in those offices have said they will run again.

As of about 3 p.m. Friday, petitions had come in from 24 candidates.

Kate O’Connor, a longtime political operative who worked behind the scenes for Howard Dean as governor and during his presidential campaign, is hoping to enter politics herself as she runs for the seat Rep. Sarah Edwards, P-Brattleboro, is vacating. http://vtdigger.wpengine.com/2012/06/05/oconnor-runs-for-brattleboro-house-seat/

The filing deadline for candidates is June 14, and Secretary of State Jim Condos said he would have his petition in sometime next week.



Running for

Peta LindsaySocialism & LiberationU.S. President
Randy BrockRepublicanGovernor
Cris EricsonUnited States MarijuanaGovernor, U.S. Senator
William SorrellDemocraticAttorney General
H. Brook PaigeRepublicanU.S. Senate
Bernie SandersIndependentU.S. Senate
James “Sam” DesrochersIndependentU.S. Representative
David DillRepublicanVt. Senate (Caledonia)
Richard “Terry” JerolomanProgressiveVt. Senate (Chittenden)
Shelley PalmerRepublican, Tea Party (Independent)Vt. Senate (Chittenden)
Bill CarrisDemocraticVt. Senate (Rutland)
Peter GalbraithDemocraticVt. Senate (Windham)
Dave SharpeDemocraticVt. Rep. (Addison-4)
Bill FrankDemocraticVt. Rep. (Chittenden 3)
Ed StoneRepublicanVt. Rep. (Chittenden 4-1)
Carolyn Whitney BranaganRepublicanVt. Rep. (Franklin-1)
John I. MitchellRepublicanVt. Rep. (Franklin-2)
Paul L. MonetteIndependentVt. Rep (Orleans-2)
Tom KochRepublicanVt. Rep. (Washington-2)
Francis “Topper” McFaunRepublicanVt. Rep. (Washington-2)
Adam GreshinIndependentVt. Rep. (Washington-7)
Kate O’ConnorDemocraticVt. Rep. (Windham 2-3)
Alice M. EmmonsDemocraticVt. Rep. (Windsor 3-2)
Paul KeaneIndependentVt. Rep. (Windsor 4-2)


Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the filing deadline for candidate petitions is June 15. It is the 14th.

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Taylor Dobbs

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Thanks for reporting an error with the story, "Trail Tidbits: House leader leaves; Zuckerman shoots for Senate; Till..."
  • Patrick Cashman

    http://www.7dvt.com/2010vermont-legislators-admit-cheating-system-are-they-justified : 2010 7Days article in which Mr. Zuckerman and some others admit to abusing the legislator compensation system.

  • Lucy Leriche

    I would like to offer a clarifying point to the piece about me not seeking re election to the Vermont House. The issue is not that I cannot afford to run, but rather, my pride is pushing me toward contributing more financially to our house hold. It has only been through my partners generosity that I have been able to keep this position for 8 years. I would like to thank him for all he has done to allow me to serve the people of my district.
    Lucy Leriche
    House Majority Leader
    Vermont State Legislature