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John Gregg: Doyle Poll Reflects Voters’ Glare Over Solar

  • Sen. Bill Doyle, R-Washington, reads up before the start of the session Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012 in Montpelier, Vt. The gavel has fallen to begin the 2012 session of the Vermont Legislature.(AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

Published: 3/24/2016 12:31:15 AM
Modified: 3/24/2016 1:00:39 AM

Voters who attended Town Meeting across Vermont had some clear messages for lawmakers in Montpelier.

Among the loudest: give cities and towns more control over large-scale renewable energy projects proposed in their communities and ease the burden of property taxes when it comes to school funding.

Those were some of the results released this week from the 46th annual Doyle Poll, the Town Meeting survey conducted by state Sen. Bill Doyle, R-Montpelier.

The poll results from more than 10,700 Vermonters in 145 cities and towns found that 90 percent believe communities “should have a voice in siting industrial energy projects.”

“I’ve gotten so many phone calls on that issue. That 90 percent, that’s one of the highest scores on the survey,” Doyle said in a phone interview Wednesday. “Obviously, it’s a great concern of the local communities.”

The only item in the 14-question survey that scored higher was one that asked if respondents are “concerned about the increased use of opiates in Vermont.” Ninety-two percent said yes.

Another question asked if Vermont relies “too heavily on property taxes for funding education,” and 77 percent said yes, with 9 percent saying no and 13 percent unsure. “I think we place too heavy a reliance on the property tax, and I think most lawmakers do, too,” Doyle said.

Along the same lines, 53 percent of respondents said Vermont has too many school districts given its declining student population, with only 15 percent saying no. In other results, only 22 percent said Vermont is a business-friendly state; 64 percent said water quality is a major issue in the state; and 75 percent said Vermont should reduce its prison population by using alternatives for non-violent offenses.

As for marijuana legalization, voters were split — 42 percent said yes, 44 percent said no. Though a legalization bill was approved recently by the Vermont Senate, members of the Vermont House have signaled passage there is much less likely, at least this year.

Political Musical Chairs

Though filing deadlines are later this spring, some potential candidates are starting to emerge for seats in the Upper Valley. With Gov. Maggie Hassan having nominated state Sen. Jerry Little, R-Weare, to be banking commissioner, the race for Senate District 8 could be contentious in November. The district includes Newport, Grantham, Sunapee, Croydon, Unity, Springfield and New London.

New London Democrat John Garvey, a professor at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, is being mentioned as a likely candidate. Garvey filed a political committee before Little was even nominated for the seat, so he might run even if Little’s nomination is rebuffed by the Executive Council. He was active in the Claremont Coalition education-funding lawsuit and is the son-in-law of the late U.S. Rep. James Cleveland, a New London Republican.

At least one plugged-in Sullivan County Republican said he believes Deering Republican JP Marzullo, who lost to Little in a primary in 2014, may be interested in running again.

State Sen. Jeanie Forrester, R-Meredith, is expected to soon announce a bid for governor, which would open up her District 2 seat, which includes much of Grafton County, including Dorchester, Grafton, Haverhill, Orange, Orford and Piermont.

Grafton County GOP Chairman Bruce Perlo said he hasn’t heard of any Republican candidates as yet, but indicated Forrester may have lined up a potential successor. Perlo said he believes the political heart of the district lies in the Plymouth-Meredith region, though it stretches down to Wilmot.

Among Democrats, names being bandied about include former state Sens. Deb Reynolds, Wayne King and Kathy Sgambati; Grafton County Commissioner Martha Richards; former candidate Bob Lamb, a retired banker; restaurateur Jason Lyon; and real estate agent David Cleveland, a son of the former congressman.

Meanwhile, former state Rep. Linda Tanner, the Sunapee Democrat who lost to Little in the 2014 general election for the District 8 Senate seat, said she plans to seek her old floterial seat in the New Hampshire House. It’s currently held by state Rep. Virginia Irwin, a Newport Democrat, but Tanner said Irwin plans to run for the Sullivan 6 House seat representing Newport and Unity that is currently held by Republican Ernie Bridge.

In Grafton County, Hanover Democrat Michael Cryans plans to challenge Executive Councilor Joe Kenney, and state Rep. Wendy Piper, D-Enfield, recently said she plans to run for Cryans’ county seat, and won’t seek re-election to the House in November.

Event to Watch

Former state Sen. Peter Galbraith has entered the Democratic race for Vermont governor, and voters can see him in action on Monday night at a Windsor County Democratic Committee gubernatorial forum with rivals Matt Dunne and Sue Minter. The event starts at 7 p.m. at Damon Hall in Hartland.

John P. Gregg can be reached at

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