Campaign 2020: 2 Democrats, 1 Republican vying for Bethel-area House seat

  • Wayne Townsend

  • Kirk White (Courtesy photograph)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/29/2020 9:36:54 PM
Modified: 7/30/2020 9:16:33 AM

BETHEL — Two Democrats and a Republican are seeking to replace outgoing state Rep. Sandy Haas, P-Rochester, to represent the four White River Valley towns that comprise the Windsor-Rutland House district.

Facing off in the Aug. 11 Democratic primary to represent Bethel, Pittsfield, Rochester and Stockbridge in the Vermont House are Kirk White, of Bethel, and Robert Krattli, of Rochester. Running unopposed in the Republican primary for the seat is Wayne Townsend, a 47-year-old logger from Bethel who ran for the Vermont Senate in 2018.

White is a 58-year-old licensed acupuncturist, who also operates Laurelin Retreat, a holistic health and retreat center located on nearly 60 acres on Christian Hill Road. He is a 1980 graduate of Whitcomb High School (now White River Valley High School). He holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Vermont and a master’s in counseling from Johnson State College (now Northern Vermont University).

Though this is the first time White has run for office, aside from justice of the peace, he has been involved in local politics for some time. He has served as chairman of the Bethel Democratic Committee. White was the president and founder of the Bethel Revitalization Initiative and is a past president of the Bethel Rotary Club and Bethel Business Association.

“I have quite a lot of experience working in economic, cultural (and) social redevelopment in our town,” White said in a phone interview.

He said he was moved to run for the office when Haas called him last fall to tell him she wouldn’t be running again. She has also endorsed his candidacy.

To address the challenges created by the pandemic, White said legislators will need to be creative, which he said he can be. One area where creativity may bee need is education, he said. While he didn’t support Act 46, he said it’s here to stay.

“I don’t believe we can put that back into the bottle,” he said.

He said the state needs to examine “different ways to organize our schools” and “different ways our education is being delivered.”

“The pandemic has shown us that there are other possibilities out there,” he said.

White’s property is slated to be the site of an annual Gaelic harvest festival called Lughnasadh this weekend, and he helped found Cherry Hill Seminary, which is based in South Carolina and offers education in pagan and other nature spiritualties. He is no longer involved with Cherry Hill, he said.

“I have lots of skeletons and I have no closets. Everything I’ve ever done is online,” he said.

He also said his spiritual path is “more nuanced” and based in the 1960s feminist movement, the back-to-the-land movement, a commitment to rural communities and folklore.

Krattli, 31, is self-employed in the auto repair business. He outlined his motivation for running in a March post on his Facebook page.

“My views are basically live and let live, make sure everyone has a roof over their heads, food on the table, and is able to cope with unforeseen costs such as vehicle repairs or a broken ankle, and all the effects those things might have,” he said in the March post.

In a June post, he announced his candidacy saying that by working together Vermonters can “find solutions that benefit everyone.”

“I don’t have any of the answers today,” he said in the June post. “However, I am confident that with your kind advice and help we can figure out a way to solve some of these problems.”

Krattli responded early Thursday, after this story went to press, to a list of questions sent to him via email earlier this week, including one asking about his prior arrests related to driving under the influence.

According to court documents, Krattli has been convicted of driving under the influence twice, once in Rutland County in 2015 and again in Windsor County in December 2019, a year after he was stopped twice within 10 days.

Krattli, who said he was an electrical engineer by training,  said he is “running because many of my peers suggested it, top concern is representing the interests of our locals in contrast to larger partisan interests, the state needs to capitalize on locally run, funded and sourced businesses and products.”

“I think we need to dissolve the supervisory unions so schools can be run by the teachers and principals who are in direct contact with our students,” he wrote.

“As far as DUI charges, we all make mistakes, and many of our citizens have had or know someone who have had experience with the criminal justice system. I’m a big fan of restorative justice, but since then I’ve learned the best way to deal with that issue is not drinking alcohol, or if you do, best not drive a car afterwards,” Krattli’s email said.

On the Republican side, Townsend said that should he be elected he would work to reduce the cost of living in Vermont so that young people who grow up in the state can stay and to encourage others to move to Vermont.

“I’m running to try to bring affordability to Vermont,” said Townsend, who also graduated from Whitcomb High. Getting through the pandemic is going to require that the state be more “business-friendly” and “fiscally responsible in our spending,” he said.

Agriculture is one sector of the economy that Townsend would particularly like to assist. Townsend, who grew up on a family dairy farm and still helps out there, said he’d like to do what he can to support the state’s farms of all types and sizes.

Townsend also said he hopes to “protect some of our constitutional rights that are always being challenged,” noting that he is a “pro-Second Amendment” candidate.

Gun reform is one area in which Townsend has disagreed with Republican Gov. Phil Scott in the past.

“I’m sometimes hot and cold with Phil Scott,” Townsend said. “Once in a while he’ll do something that I disagree with.”

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at or 603-727-3213.

Update: This story has been updated with responses from Robert Krattli received after the print edition’s deadline. 

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