House candidates Frank Davis of Derby Line, left, and Frank Davis of South Burlington, right. Courtesy photo

[T]he two men decided to meet on Saturday in a town equidistant between South Burlington and Derby Line — choosing Papa’s Place, a diner in Eden.

There, less than 24 hours after becoming aware the other existed, Frank Davis of South Burlington arrived at the diner and greeted Frank Davis of Derby Line.

The men share more than a name. They are around the same age. One is originally from New Jersey while the other is from New York. They are both former educators, and they both happen to be running for the Vermont House of Representatives in the November election.

Davis and Davis spoke over lunch and for well over an hour, commiserating over the difficulties of running for political office, and discussing platforms and life in general.

“One of the nice things about the dynamic is that the other Frank has run for office three times before. So in some ways he’s like my guardian angel,” said the South Burlington Davis, 61. “He was giving me some nice insight and some strategies.”

Davis, a first-time candidate who has taught business courses at different colleges on the East Coast, is running against John Killacky, formerly the director of the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, for one of the Chittenden House seats that was left vacant. Rep. Helen Head decided earlier this year that she wouldn’t run for re-election.

Davis said running for the seat has been frustrating at times because he is self-funded and that he was only able to afford 20 lawn signs. After three days, Davis said, five of his signs had already been stolen, but meeting his fellow Frank Davis has been a highlight of his campaign experience.

“As far as finding the other guy, what a treat,” Davis said, “we are basically running on the same platform. I really love this guy. He’s like my long lost brother.”

Both men are running on platforms that include an emphasis on protecting the environment as well as health care and education reform.

Davis, running as a member of the Progressive Party, and Killacky, a Democrat, are both first-time candidates and have had one debate that was aired on Channel 17/Town Meeting earlier this month.

Killacky, who is running on a platform focused on making Vermont affordable for young families and making sure new businesses are not hampered by state regulation, said the race has been competitive. He said he has knocked on 1,200 doors in his district, but now is turning his attention to making sure people go vote no matter which candidate they support.

“My plans over the next two weeks will be to meet and learn from people,” Killacky said, “I’m not sure if I will be able to convince anyone new to vote for me, but I will be working to get out the vote.”

Derby Line’s Frank Davis, is running as an independent against two incumbent Republicans — Brian Smith of Derby and Lynn Batchelor of Derby Line — in a district that is historically solidly red.

Davis, 59, a retired high school history teacher, has run unsuccessfully for a state House seat three previous times and said it is difficult for a non-Republican to win in his district.

“Most of the people I speak to are going to say one of two things. They support me because they know me,” Davis said, “and the others simply vote along party line. This is a red district and we are next to the only county {Essex} that voted for Trump in the 2016 election.”

Smith said he was confident about the election with two weeks to go, but was glad Davis was running and that he wished more people would take an interest in public service.

“Well just from the people I’ve been talking with, I feel pretty confident about the race. You never know how it’s going to turn out, but whatever I did or didn’t do in Montpelier, people here have been happy about,” Smith said.

If re-elected, Smith said he is going to focus on tightening the penalty for people caught texting and driving, making it easier for people to get their vehicles inspected and heavily taxing the legal cannabis industry.

Davis said he decided to run against Batchelor and Smith because he felt they were not showing leadership on issues important to him that include reform on sentencing and corrections, the child-care system and education.

“Lynn really hasn’t accomplished anything,” Davis said, “and Brian Smith practically has no voting record except to vote against a few things that have bothered me.”

In spite of challenging campaigns, both Derby Line’s Davis and South Burlington’s Davis said they plan on meeting each other again, win or lose in the upcoming election.

“If we don’t win, we’ll meet again I’m sure. Maybe we’ll go in together on printing signs for the next election. We’ll split the cost,” said the Derby Line Frank Davis.

Kit Norton is the general assignment reporter at VTDigger. He is originally from eastern Vermont and graduated from Emerson College in 2017 with a degree in journalism. In 2016, he was a recipient of The...