4 candidates compete for 2 seats in Orange-Washington-Addison District in Vt. House

  • Jackie Klar (Courtesy photograph)

  • Larry Satcowitz (Courtesy photograph)

  • Wayne Townsend

  • Jay Hooper (Courtesy photograph)

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 10/27/2022 9:24:10 AM
Modified: 10/27/2022 9:27:07 AM

RANDOLPH — Four candidates in the Orange-Washington-Addison District are competing this election for two House seats to represent Randolph and four surrounding towns.

The incumbents, Jay Hooper and Larry Satcowitz, are both Randolph Democrats. They face Republican candidates Jackie Klar, of Brookfield, and Wayne Townsend, of Randolph, to represent the district, which also includes Granville, Roxbury and Braintree.

The candidates show wide-ranging differences in positions on hot-button political topics like abortion, rising energy costs and school choice.

The candidates’ views on Article 22, also known as Prop 5, which would amend the Vermont Constitution to “ensure that every Vermonter is afforded personal reproductive liberty” differ by party affiliation. Both Democrats support the measure, while the Republicans oppose it.

Hooper, 28, seeking his fourth term in the house, said, “I definitely support full unrestricted access to reproductive liberty. … I believe in a woman’s right to her own health decisions.”

Like his Democratic counterpart, Satcowitz, a 56-year-old high school math teacher, is in favor of the article. “It will be a constitutional guarantee that Vermonters’ current access to reproductive healthcare will not be restricted,” he said.

In stark contrast, Klar, a 57-year-old former OB-GYN who raises grassfed beef and lamb, said she’s concerned the article’s passage might lead to minors undergoing hormone therapy without parental consent.

“I am not in favor of Article 22 because Vermonters already have laws in place allowing for abortion up ‘til birth and Article 22 contains ambiguous language,” she said in an email.

Townsend, a 49-year-old metalworker, agrees with Klar that the language is unclear.

“I’m probably going to vote against Article 22,” He said in a phone interview. “There’s no term limit on it.”

The candidates’ views on how to address inflation, particularly the high cost of fuel and electricity were more varied.

Hooper said he plans to learn more about implementing effective alternative energy sources.

“As we transition to electric vehicles, you know, you don’t want to plug into a fossil fuel grid. … I think the utilities tend to have a stronghold on those policy conversations, which I intend to explore this next session pretty aggressively.”

Satcowitz suggested another approach: raising taxes on second-homeowners to discourage the practice.

“We should be taking a close look at the effects that vacation homes and short-term rentals have on the housing market, as high housing costs are a significant source of inflation,” Satcowitz said. “We should increase the property tax on most of these types of properties accordingly, to discourage this kind of use and to raise money to help ameliorate these effects.”

Rather than increasing revenues from taxes, Townsend said he would like to see state spending reduced.

Vermont needs to “get fiscally responsible in our spending” in reference to taxes and funding social programs, he said. “We shouldn’t be forced to pay for somebody else for these programs” that provide low-income people with assistance with housing and heat.

Klar also said that taxes are a burden.

“Many are being forced out of their homes when (inflation) is combined with high taxes,” Klar said. “Regressive taxation affects all Vermonters — those who are on a fixed income, as well as the rest of us that are just scraping to get by. The $37 million we pay in extra electric rates to fund solar panels and electric cars for those who can afford them is not the answer.”

The candidates had similarly varied views on school choice.

Hooper, a graduate of The Sharon Academy, said he “leans in the direction of keeping public dollars in public education” but noted, “I’m sensitive to the notion that not any given public school is going to be suitable for any given student.”

Satcowitz also said that public money should primarily go to public schools, with some exceptions.

“In places where public schools are not feasible, private schools that accept public money ought to be required to adhere to the same standards as public schools,” Satcowitz said.

In contrast with the Democrats, the Republicans in the race expressed support for the idea that money should follow students to their families’ schools of choice.

“I believe in school choice,” Townsend said. “Sometimes school systems aren’t always the best fit for some of our children.”

Similarly, Klar said that families should have options in choosing the right school for their children. She said she thinks that income-sensitive assistance for private schools should be provided by the state.

“If a Vermont family wants to choose a private school for their children I do not think that they should have to pay twice,” Klar said, referring to families who pay taxes to support public schools and private school tuition.

Randolph polling will take place on Nov.8, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. at the Randolph Town Hall, 7 Summer Street.

Laura Koes can be reached at laurakoesjournalism@gmail.com.

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