3 Democrats, no Republicans vie for 2 Vt. House seats representing Hartford

  • Nicholas Bramlage (Courtesy photograph)

  • Kevin “Coach” Christie (Courtesy photograph) —2013 Wayne Fawbush ©

  • Esme Cole (Courtesy photograph)

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 7/26/2022 11:00:56 PM
Modified: 7/26/2022 11:00:54 PM

HARTFORD — Vermont’s Windsor 6 House District, newly created after redistricting, is about to hold its first election. On Aug. 9, voters of the district representing Hartford will take to the polls and will choose two out of the three Democratic candidates likely to serve in the Vermont House of Representatives. No Republicans have filed for the race, raising the stakes of the Democratic primary.

Candidate Nicholas Bramlage, 41, of White River Junction, has run before for Vermont House Representative as a member of the Progressive Party; he’s decided to run this time as a Democrat. Bramlage said that with his new affiliation he hopes to reach Democratic voters who support his platform but don’t necessarily consider themselves Progressives.

He said he is drawn to the seat because of the wide array of issues it would allow him to tackle. Bramlage owns a business, Ex Facio, which sells socks made from recycled materials. He also serves on the board of the New Hampshire Academy of Science and created his own nonprofit, Infinity Masks, to distribute PPE at the onset of the pandemic. He said he is “committed to ending climate change, fixing capitalism and creating a more equitable government system.”

Bramlage hopes to repair capitalism by imposing a “non-innovative big business tax,” where big businesses that are not making meaningful contributions to the community, such as chain restaurants or retailers, will be taxed and those funds then would be rerouted to improve social services such as health care, education and housing.

The main issues Bramlage is hearing from his constituents concern the Haven, a social service organization in White River Junction, and its need to expand. Bramlage said he is a big supporter of its mission and hopes to see it expand in harmony with the community, perhaps with support through the business tax he is proposing.

Incumbent state Rep. Kevin “Coach” Christie, 72, of White River Junction, first ran to represent Hartford in 2006 and continued running until 2010, when he was able to secure the seat. Christie is a former automotive business owner, technical school teacher and director, automotive service director and therapeutic case manager for children in foster care. He has served on numerous boards and commissions and has been a member of the Hartford School Board since 2007.

Christie said he is most concerned with continuing his work on social and racial justice problems within the state as well as tackling issues surrounding fair and affordable health care and housing, business development and access to a quality education. As a representative, some of the most recent committees he has served on include the House Committee on Education and the Higher Education Subcommittee.

Christie highlighted a need for post-high school educational opportunities to be as flexible as the needs of employment are, meaning encouraging both traditional and technical college. He said he believes the best way to do this is collaboration among educational institutions and businesses. Christie noted that his constituents are most concerned with criminal justice and policing reforms.

Additionally, Christie mentioned a heightened concern for access to health care following the Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. He said creativity and flexibility are key to running a campaign and continuing meaningful work during unprecedented times. He also said it has been important to embrace new technologies aimed at aiding life in a pandemic and help others learn them as well, such as Zoom and curbside shopping.

Candidate Esme Cole, 25, of White River Junction, is new to the ballot this year. She decided to run because of her fascination with the real-life effects of policymaking as well as her strong ties to the Hartford community, where she graduated from high school and later returned to work in local nonprofits. She is currently a server at Trail Break taps + tacos in White River Junction and the Hartford lead youth lacrosse coach. The issues Cole is most concerned with include fair access to economic and educational opportunities, affordable and effective health care, and sustainability and childcare.

When asked what problems community members feel they are facing, Cole highlighted the departure of many young Vermonters from their towns as well as a lack of affordable housing in the area. Further concerns from constituents include access to quality education and health care as well as developing a sustainable and eco-friendly economy. Cole also cited issues unique to her district’s proximity to the New Hampshire border, specifically business competition from across the river, where consumers do not have to pay sales tax.

Reflecting on how it feels to participate in the political world at such a tumultuous time, Cole expressed a deep sense of gratitude while also recognizing the sentiments that people tend to hold when it comes to participation in government.

“As citizens of the United States, we can protest, donate time and resources to causes of our choice and vote, all critical to preserving our democracy,” she said, “but (we) may still question to what extent our efforts have an impact. It is a privilege to be directly involved in the decision-making process. My goal is to share the fruits of this honor with constituents by supporting policy that reflects their values.”

Polls will be open on Aug. 9 from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. at Hartford High School, 37 Highland Ave., White River Junction. Early voting has already begun. Voters can request an early or absentee ballot online at https://sos.vermont.gov/elections/voters/early-absentee-voting.

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