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Three Hartland Residents Running in Two-Seat Windsor-Area District

  • John Bartholomew

  • Zachariah Ralph (Courtesy photograh)

  • Wesley Raney



Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, October 26, 2018

Hartland — Three Hartland residents are vying for two seats in the Vermont House district that represents Windsor, West Windsor and Hartland.

Four-term Democratic state Rep. John Bartholomew, a retired veterinarian, is running for re-election alongside newcomers Zachariah Ralph, a Democrat who champions nonprofits and community organizing efforts, and Wesley Raney, a Republican small business owner with libertarian views.

Bartholomew, 63, and Ralph, 31, who works for Sustainable Woodstock, have similar views when it comes to backing gun measures Gov. Phil Scott signed last session and instituting a carbon tax in some way, shape or form. Raney, 32, has polar opposite views on those two topics.

Bartholomew voted in favor of the gun regulations that expanded background checks, prohibited sales to people under the age of 21 unless they take a safety course, banned bump stocks and took firearms away from people in domestic violence and suicidal situations. He called it “common-sense legislation.”

Had he been in the House at that time, Ralph said, he too would have backed those measures, though he acknowledged that he isn’t sure how effective some of the changes will be. Nevertheless, he would like to see stronger gun regulations and to include gun owners on the conversation.

Raney, a Hartland native who works at the River Valley Club and owns Green Mountain Armory, strongly opposes the recent gun regulations, asserting “they only penalize law-abiding citizens.” He also opposes a carbon tax — or any additional tax, for that matter.

“I don’t want people to be interfered with by the government more than necessary,” said Raney, a lifelong Windsor County resident who described himself as a “strong supporter” of the U.S. Constitution.

Both Bartholomew and Ralph, who grew up in Woodstock, are strong advocates for renewable energy and combating climate change. As far as a carbon tax goes, Bartholomew said there are a lot of factors that still would need to be fleshed out but that it “makes sense.” He wouldn’t see it as a “tax” though, as it would need to be “revenue neutral,” he said.

There has to be incentives for people who cut their carbon footprint, and people who can’t afford to make changes shouldn’t be penalized, Ralph said.

Raney said he supports the use of nuclear energy, saying that “it outputs less (carbon dioxide) than solar energy.”

The three candidates have somewhat similar views on Act 46, the state’s school consolidation law. The Windsor and West Windsor school districts merged under the act, while Hartland stands alone and still offers school choice.

For the most part, all three candidates oppose Act 46, with Ralph and Raney saying they favor “local control.” Educators lacked guidance from the state about the consolidation process, making it confusing, Ralph said.

The state should stick with it for now and continue to figure out how to best fund education, Ralph added.

“I do support at least exploring the idea of moving education funding from property taxes to income taxes,” Ralph said.

Raney said he would rather have seen towns merge on their own accord.

The topic of education is tricky, especially with a declining student population, Bartholomew said. Cutting costs while providing students with a top-notch education must be balanced, he said.

“I didn’t think it did what it needed to do and it hasn’t proved to be any great benefit for our supervisory union,” Bartholomew said of Act 46, which he missed the vote for.

The three candidates also support recreational marijuana and taxing and regulating it, saying that prohibition hasn’t worked. Ralph and Bartholomew both agreed that a regulated system must be approached with caution.

Raney said he takes a libertarian view on the topic.

“It is just a plant,” Raney said. “I can’t come up with any kind of rational reason for why it shouldn’t be legal.”

Ralph said he doesn’t want the state to become dependent on revenue from a marijuana market and would work to keep the industry local.

He also would protect children from “predatory marketing practices and products.”

Bartholomew said a taxed and regulated system must be fully vetted.

“I am not eager to see commercial operations that are focused on increasing sales. That has me concerned,” Bartholomew said. “I think there are good reasons to explore it. ... (but it) needs to be custom-made for Vermont.”

Bartholomew and Ralph support increasing the minimum wage. Raney doesn’t.

If elected, Raney vowed to vote “against anything that erodes your freedom or livelihood.”

Ralph, who supports campaign finance reform, said his primary focus would be on climate change and the environment.

“If we are not addressing the issue of climate change, there is very little else that matters,” he said.

Climate change and energy also are on Bartholomew’s mind, as well as matching students’ education with available job opportunities. He said his experience in the Legislature and background in public service make him a good candidate for re-election.

“I also am good at listening to people,” he said. “I am not going to learn anything with my mouth open.”

The other seat in the district had been held by state Rep. Paul Belaski, D-Windsor, but Ralph defeated him in the Democratic primary.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.