An ideological divide: Orange Senate candidates differ on issues

  • John Klar (VtDigger photograph)

  • Mark MacDonald (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 10/30/2022 10:49:37 PM
Modified: 10/30/2022 10:50:01 PM

Voters in Orange County will choose a candidate to represent them in the Vermont Senate on Nov. 8.

Republican John Klar, 59, and Democrat Mark MacDonald, 79, will compete to represent the towns of Bradford, Topsham, Fairlee, West Fairlee, Corinth, Vershire, Chelsea, Washington, Strafford, Tunbridge, Williamstown, Brookfield, and Randolph.

MacDonald, of Williamstown, Vt., is the current Senator in Orange County, a position he’s held for several terms since 1996. Before his time as a Senator, MacDonald served several terms in the Vermont House of Representatives. He is a retired middle school history teacher and now raises beef cattle on his family’s farm in Williamstown which he’s done for 50 years.

MacDonald has also served on his local planning commission and currently serves on the Senate Committee on Finance and the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy; he’s also the Chair of the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules.

“I appreciate the support I’ve received over the years representing the interests of my Orange County constituents,” he wrote to the Valley News. “Working together with my legislative colleagues, I believe we’ve done some good work.”

If reelected, MacDonald wants to focus on issues such as reducing energy costs for Vermont families, completing broadband buildout, and expanding affordable housing, he said.

High costs of living related to housing, gas, heating fuel, and access to healthcare are some of the issues MacDonald has heard from constituents.

“Gasoline and heating homes with fossil fuels is burdensome and becoming unaffordable,” he said. “With no constraints on the fuel companies, they raise the price without regard for the burden this places on middle class working families as prices rise year after year.”

To address these issues, MacDonald says investing in renewable energy projects “will help lower costs and create much-needed good paying jobs.”

On the topic of school choice, MacDonald opposes the use of community-raised taxes to send a child outside of their designated district. “Until we change this situation, communities are on the hook for paying the bill,” he said.

On abortion, MacDonald opposes goverment interference in reproductive health care services. “Any decision to be made about reproduction should be made by the person involved, with guidance from their health care provider,” he said.

Klar, of Brookfield, Vt., is beef and sheep farmer, writer, and former attorney. His latest venture is publishing a book on regenerative agriculture.

Klar’s public service involvement includes volunteer pastoral work in Westfield, Vt., membership on the Board of Directors of a public access station, and pro-bono work as a Special Public Defender in Connecticut. Klar also ran for Governor in Vermont in 2020.

“Our state needs fiscal help desperately,” Klar said. He’s running for Senate to “represent regular Vermonters with a creative, informed voice,” he said.

Issues that speak to Klar include local agriculture, state pension funding and reform, improving public safety, improving schools, and “increasing counseling services for substance abusers and prison inmates,” he said.

Constituents have voiced concerns about affordability in Vermont related to high taxes and housing shortages, along with school curricula and pension vulnerability issues in Orange County communities.

To address inflation and rising energy costs, Klar says that supporting more locally grown food is one of the best solutions.

“Food inflation will spike more,” he said. “Fertilizer prices have tripled, and our food is transported from far away, even overseas.”

“Local, regenerative agriculture is Vermont’s cultural, economic, and inflation-resisting future,” he said, a topic he’s written about in his proposal to boost Vermont’s economy, The 2020 Vermont Farming Manifesto — an Economic Rescue.

Klar also supports school choice, “especially as partisan ideology has saturated schools,” he said.

Klar opposes late-term abortions and says that the repeal of Roe vs. Wade doesn’t threaten abortion practices for Vermonters.

“Roe recognized fetal personhood at viability: current Vermont laws do not,” he said. “I support recognition of fetal personhood in criminal law, so that pregnant women whose babies are killed in utero by a domestic partner or other assailant will have rights currently denied in Vermont.”

Rose Terami can be contacted at

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