Woodstock Rep. Seeks Vermont Senate Seat

  • State Rep. Alison Clarkson, D-Woodstock, talks with State Rep. Kevin Christie, D-Hartford after Clarkson announced her candidacy for one of Windsor County's three Vermont Senate seats in front of Northern Stage in White River Junction, Vt., on April 25, 2016. Though Christie wasn't feeling well, he drove to Clarkson's announcement so he could sign the petition to place her name on the ballot. (Valley News- Sarah Priestap)

  • Ashley Andreas, who is planning to run for a Vermont House seat in Hartford, speaks to State Rep. Alison Clarkson, D-Woodstock, on Monday, after Clarkson announced her candidacy for one of Windsor County's three Vermont Senate seats in front of Northern Stage in White River Junction, Vt., on April 25, 2016. (Valley News- Sarah Priestap)

  • State Rep. Alison Clarkson, D-Woodstock, cheers after announcing her candidacy for one of Windsor County's three Vermont Senate seats in front of Northern Stage in White River Junction, Vt., on April 25, 2016. (Valley News- Sarah Priestap)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/26/2016 12:31:47 AM
Modified: 4/26/2016 12:31:50 AM

White River Junction — When Rep. Alison Clarkson, D-Woodstock, stood with about 75 supporters Monday on the sun-soaked concrete steps of the Northern Stage Theater to announce a bid to represent Windsor County in the state Senate, she referred often to themes of economic growth, health care costs, public safety, social services and environmental protection.

“The key challenge is growing our economy while continuing to preserve and protect our environmental resources,” she said.

One attendee, Norwich resident Nancy Crumbine, said she hadn’t yet decided who to vote for, but had come out to hear what Clarkson had to say about the issue most important to her.

“I’m totally into the environment,” Crumbine said.

After the event, Crumbine said, she was walking away impressed.

“I like her energy,” she said.

The energy was evident immediately after the event, as Clarkson bounced from person to person, exchanging handshakes, hugs and kisses, and even breaking from the group to run into the street at one point so that she could exchange a farewell with someone on their way out.

Clarkson, who will celebrate her 61st birthday today, spent four years on the House Judiciary Committee, and eight on the Ways and Means Committee, where she is the clerk.

During her speech, she also spoke of the need for gender equality when referencing the sentiment that “the best form of public safety is a paying job. I couldn’t agree more fully, especially equally paid jobs for equal work,” she said, to cheers and applause.

The location was a nod to Clarkson’s theater roots, which include past stints on the boards of the Vermont Arts Council and the Pentangle Council of the Arts. Clarkson singled out Northern Stage and The Center for Cartoon Studies as cultural anchors that had helped White River Junction to flourish.

“We are standing in the center of White River Junction, a 19th-century train hub — now a revitalized, re-energized 21st-century downtown,” Clarkson said.

Clarkson, whose campaign is being managed by her son, Ward Goodenough, is hoping to fill the void left by Senate President Pro Tempore John Campbell, who has been appointed as executive director of the Vermont Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs.

The two other Democratic incumbents, Sens. Dick McCormack, of Bethel, and Alice Nitka, of Ludlow, are expected to seek re-election in the three-seat district.

On the Democratic side, one person in the mix as a possible candidate is Campbell’s deputy chief of staff, Conor Kennedy, of Hartland, who said on Monday that he had received encouragement from many quarters for a possible candidacy, but that he wouldn’t make a final decision until the week after the end of the current legislative session.

Windsor County GOP Chairman John MacGovern said that, in addition to former Hartford Selectman Mark Donka, he expects two other Republicans will emerge to create a contested primary.

“We all know Alison Clarkson,” MacGovern said. “She has a public record. She has strengths and weaknesses.”

Several municipal officials from the county were on hand to offer their support to Clarkson.

Hartford Selectwoman Rebecca White, who had at one point explored but decided against a bid of her own, introduced Clarkson and praised her for being “full of energy and passion and get-it-done attitude.”

Former state Rep. Ernie Shand, D-Weathersfield, told the crowd that Clarkson “was a light in the darkness sometimes,” and immediately after the event, Rep. Gabrielle Lucke, D-Hartford, credited Clarkson with spearheading a loosely organized caucus of Windsor County representatives.

“She can see the big picture while thinking about all of the little details,” Lucke said. “Most people don’t do it that way. They’re one or the other.”

Clarkson said that it’s too early to identify any particular piece of legislation she’s likely to get passed by the state Senate.

“Life changes so fast,” she said. “If I’m lucky enough to be elected, there will always be important work to be done to respond to the needs of the public.”

She said that the legislative work she’s most proud of to date was the creation of county special investigative units, which conduct criminal investigations and provide victim services, with a focus on sexual abuse, child abuse and domestic violence.

Clarkson said she is uncertain who will run for her House seat, which represents Woodstock, Reading and Plymouth.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be reached at mhonghet@vnews.com or 603-727-3211.

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