Galbraith leaves open seat in Windham County

Galbraith leaves open seat in Windham County

Sen. Peter Galbraith, D-Windham.  Photo by John Herrick

Sen. Peter Galbraith, D-Windham. Photo by John Herrick

Maverick Windham County Sen. Peter Galbraith said Monday that he won’t seek a third term in November.

The Townshend Democrat said his growing involvement in an informal effort to find a political solution to the Syrian civil war won’t allow him to continue serving as a state senator.

Galbraith, 63, said he has become more involved in working with the Kurdish and Christian communities in Syria to help them develop strategies to protect their interests in that process.

He was an adviser to the Kurdish regional government in Iraq when the country was drafting its constitution in 2005, and said his involvement with the Kurds goes back 30 years.

Galbraith has had a long career in Foreign Service, serving as ambassador to Croatia and for the United Nations in Afghanistan. His father was the influential economist John Kenneth Galbraith.

While in the state Senate, Galbraith was known for his sometimes lengthy floor speeches and his willingness to buck his own party on some issues.

His counterpart from Windham County, Democratic Sen. Jeanette White, could not be reached Monday, but she has filed paperwork to seek re-election with the Secretary of State.

Democrats have two other candidates who will vie with White for Windham’s two Senate seats, according to a party spokesman.

Joan Bowman of Putney, who has worked for several community groups and as a navigator for Vermont Health Connect, is a candidate, according to Ben Sarle, the party’s communications director. Becca Balint of Brattleboro, an educator and former member of the town’s development review board, also intends to run, Sarle said.

“We’re very excited about that race and it’s wonderful to see three Democratic women stepping up for this,” he said.

David Sunderland, chairman of the state Republican Party, said the GOP is recruiting candidates statewide, but does not have a candidate for Senate in Windham County.

Galbraith said he was proud of his accomplishments in the Senate, which he said included helping Brattleboro become eligible to build a net-metered solar facility and giving property tax relief to Vernon after the impending loss of Vermont Yankee. He also touted his role in banning fracking in the state and introducing the first concrete plan to finance the state’s proposed single-payer health care system.

Galbraith said he had disappointments as well, such as not being able to pass legislation banning direct corporate contributions to candidates in the state and not being able to do more to protect forest land.

His strong base in Windham County and his lack of political ambitions for higher office allowed him to be an independent voice within the Democratic Party, Galbraith said.

“I think I did many things that antagonized the powers that be,” he said. “But I think they realized that I was not going to be subject to pressure.”

Though his single-payer financing proposal did not gain traction in the Legislature, he maintains that the mix of taxes he proposed is still the only viable way to finance universal public health care in Vermont.

Galbraith thanked the voters of Windham County for their support and wrote in an email that, “I intend to remain engaged in the affairs of the community and state that has always been my home, but, for the time being, I will do so under the title of citizen.”

Morgan True

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  • Dave Bellini

    Vermonters are losing a truly independent voice in the legislature. Imagine if all legislators voted their conscious and spoke the unvarnished truth?

    • Wendy wilton

      Senator Galbraith provided a much needed independent voice in the legislature. Good luck to him in all his future projects.

  • Wayne Andrews

    His latest action of not running for Vermont office merely shows that Mr. Galbraith is on a crusade for change. His heart appears not to be in Vermont but now Syria? Nice to know he had false sense of Vermonters first.

    • Come on, Wayne Andrews, Mr. Galbraith served Vermont extremely well and has done more than anyone could ask for. Makes perfect sense that he should pursue his goals. He knows best where he should focus his attention.

  • Rep. Tom Koch

    I sometimes agreed with Sen. Galbraith, but more frequently disagreed. That’s not important. What’s important is that his was an independent voice of conscience, and we need more of that in Montpelier! But if he can help in any small way to bring peace (and perhaps liberty?) to Syria, then that is where he should go. Best wishes in your efforts, Peter!

  • Randy Koch

    You’ve left out one significant story about this impressive public figure that belongs in the mix when assessing his career:

    NY Times, 11/12/2009
    “Now Mr. Galbraith, 58, son of the renowned economist John Kenneth Galbraith, stands to earn perhaps a hundred million or more dollars as a result of his closeness to the Kurds, his relations with a Norwegian oil company and constitutional provisions he helped the Kurds extract.

    In the constitutional negotiations, he helped the Kurds ram through provisions that gave their region — rather than the central Baghdad government — sole authority over many of their internal affairs, including clauses that he maintains will give the Kurds virtually complete control over all new oil finds on their territory.

    Mr. Galbraith, widely viewed in Washington as a smart and bold foreign policy expert, has always described himself as an unpaid adviser to the Kurds, although he has spoken in general terms about having business interests in Kurdistan, as the north of Iraq is known.

    So it came as a shock to many last month when a group of Norwegian investigative journalists at the newspaper Dagens Naeringsliv began publishing documents linking Mr. Galbraith to a specific Norwegian oil company with major contracts in Iraq.”

  • Wayne Andrews

    An independent voice I agree. The sudden about face and travel to Syria really has me wondering where his loyalties have been while representing Vermonters.

  • Margaret Harrington

    Thank you Senator Peter Galbraith for your service in the senate on behalf of the people of Vermont. You set a high bar on discourse and commitment and you will be missed by voters like me.

  • Franky Boyd

    Mr Galbraith is a well intentioned person but his long windedness really annoyed all the other Senators.

  • John MacGovern

    Surely, I would have disagreed with many of the public policy positions of Senator Galbraith. But he stands out from the rest of the crowd up in Montpelier as a man of character and independence. It’s sad to see him leave the State House as there are too few of his kind in the world of politics, in either Party, whether in Montpelier or in DC.

  • Senator Galbraith, if you are reading this: We have Kurds of our own, I’m afraid: the Vermonters facing displacement by a proposed wind ‘farm’ in Grafton and Windham. Not to mention the Nelsons, the Therriens, etc.

    I know you have done your best to help them, and I hope you will continue to do so. I actually believe that the developer may be seeking a face-saving way to withdraw from the project: suddenly complaining about the “rough terrain,” “gusty winds” and such.

    There is some very good news out of Spain today, which I hope will color Iberdrola’s plans to decimate the towns you have been trying to represent. It means the Spanish wind companies will get no more breaks, AND they will have to pay back some of the subsidy money.

    Spain passes retroactive subsidy cut law

    SPAIN: Spain’s right-wing People Party government has finally passed the decree ratifying deep retroactive cuts to renewables power, amid fears it will lead wind operators to default on loans.


    I often wondered if you were related to John Kenneth Galbraith, and now I know.

    Best of luck with your future plans.

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