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Thursday, August 16, 2018

Walters: Hallquist Exits Primary in the Red, Scott Kickstarts Fundraising

Posted By on Thu, Aug 16, 2018 at 2:40 PM

Christine Hallquist greets supporters on primary night. - FILE: JAMES BUCK
  • File: James Buck
  • Christine Hallquist greets supporters on primary night.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Christine Hallquist emerged from Vermont's primary Tuesday with her party's nomination — but with no money in her campaign fund. Republican Gov. Phil Scott, who'd been fundraising and spending at a rather leisurely rate through mid-July, began shaking the money tree in earnest during the run-up to primary day.

Wednesday night marked a deadline for filing campaign finance reports. Hallquist, the former CEO of the Vermont Electric Coop, reported raising $40,000 in the past month, and a total of $157,000 for the entire cycle — including $18,000 in loans to her own campaign. At the same period in the 2016 election cycle, Democratic nominee Sue Minter had raised more than $1 million.

Hallquist has spent $159,000, which leaves her about $2,000 underwater. She is hoping to get a big boost in donations following a flood of national news coverage of her primary win, which made her the first openly transgender major-party candidate for governor in U.S. history. She will need it.

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Pay Raises for UVM Medical Center Administrators Anger Nurses

Posted By on Thu, Aug 16, 2018 at 1:47 PM

The hospital's chief operating officer Eileen Whalen (center) and Dr. Isabelle Desjardins - SARA TABIN
  • Sara Tabin
  • The hospital's chief operating officer Eileen Whalen (center) and Dr. Isabelle Desjardins
The University of Vermont Medical Center has given its administrators hefty raises and bonuses, according to its most recent tax filing. That's a "bitter pill to swallow" for the nurses fighting for higher wages and additional staffing, said union vice president Deb Snell.

The medical center on Wednesday released its fiscal year 2017 Internal Revenue Service Form 990 just hours after administrators and nurses left the bargaining table the night before without coming to an agreement.

The documents show that Eileen Whalen, president and chief operating officer, made more than $1,050,000 in salary and benefits during fiscal year 2017, about 20 percent higher than the $866,000 she earned the previous year.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Walters: Hallquist Enjoying Flood of Media Attention After Primary Win

Posted By on Wed, Aug 15, 2018 at 3:42 PM

Christine Hallquist - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Christine Hallquist
Thanks to the historic dimension of her candidacy, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Christine Hallquist suddenly finds herself thrust into the national spotlight.

"We're drowning," said campaign manager Cameron Russell. "We're just trying to field as many [interview requests] as we can."

It's a nice problem to have.

Hallquist, former CEO of the Vermont Electric Coop, won Tuesday's four-way Vermont primary with more than 40 percent of the vote, according to unofficial totals from the Secretary of State. Her nearest competitor, water quality advocate James Ehlers, was a distant second at 19 percent. The result means that Hallquist is the first openly transgender person to win a major-party nomination for governor.

The media interest began building in the days before the primary, but hit full force as Hallquist's victory became official. "She was on CNN last night and [Wednesday] morning," said Russell. "She's been interviewed by NPR, the BBC, the New York Times, the Guardian, the Huffington Post, MSNBC, TMZ and Fox."

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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Ballot Justice: Primary Results for Prosecutors, Judges and Sheriffs

Posted By on Tue, Aug 14, 2018 at 11:57 PM

Paul Finnerty and Todd Shove
  • Paul Finnerty and Todd Shove
Updated at 11:26 a.m. on August 15, 2018.

Some of Vermont's most competitive primaries Tuesday were at the county level. The campaign season was unusually intense for judgeships in Chittenden County. Elsewhere, three county prosecutors fought — one unsuccessfully — to keep their jobs.

Here is what happened in some of the races we've been following:

Lamoille County State's Attorney Paul Finnerty lost the Democratic primary to challenger Todd Shove. With all but one district reporting Tuesday night, Shove won with 50.3 percent to Finnerty's 34.2 percent. Finnerty, who is serving his first four-year term, promoted restorative justice during his time in office.

Shove, a career prosecutor who recently left his job to campaign, criticized Finnerty for taking the concept too far. He also campaigned on the promise of improving the relationship between prosecutors and law enforcement.

In Essex County, longtime state's attorney and former state senator Vincent Illuzzi eked out a 288 to 248 victory against political newcomer Amy Davis in the Republican primary.

Davis, 31, handles divorce, custody and family cases as a partner at the firm Bucknam Black Davis. During the campaign, she criticized Illuzzi for not giving enough attention to his part-time job as county prosecutor, which he has held since 1998. Illuzzi also works as a lobbyist for the Vermont State Employees' Association in Montpelier.

Bennington County Democrats also stuck with their prosecutor: State’s Attorney Erica Marthage beat challenger Arnie Gottlieb by just 136 votes — less than 3 percent of votes cast.
Marthage is known for her aggressive prosecutorial approach. Seven Days reported in 2016 that Bennington County, under Marthage's leadership, imprisoned more people per capita than any other county in Vermont. Gottlieb, a veteran defense attorney, called Marthage’s style overzealous.

In Chittenden County, Sheriff Kevin McLaughlin held a strong lead — 54 percent to 25 percent — in the Democratic primary against his longtime deputy Michael Major. McLaughlin has been in the office since 1987, making him the longest-serving sheriff in county history.

Major, a 34-year veteran of the department, said during the campaign that he wanted to expand the department’s budget and staff by securing new contracts to provide law enforcement staffing. He expressed support for stationing an armed deputy at all of the county’s schools.
There were four other primaries for sheriff positions in Vermont:

  • In Addison County, Peter Newton beat Ron Holmes in the Democratic primary to replace outgoing Sheriff Donald Keeler Jr.

  • Bennington County Democrats chose incumbent Chad Schmidt over challenger James Gulley Jr.

  • Caledonia county's Republican sheriff, Dean Shatney, beat out challenger Lester Cleary III.

  • Orleans County Sheriff Kirk Martin beat Jennifer Harlow Jacobs in the Republican primary.
In Chittenden county, Probate Judge Gregory Glennon defeated former Winooski mayor Bill Norful, who was challenging him for the job.
Glennon, the brother-in-law of Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan, has been on the job since he was appointed by then-governor Peter Shumlin in 2016.

In a four-way race for two assistant judgeships in Chittenden county, newcomer Suzanne Brown and incumbent Connie Cain Ramsey beat out Assistant Judge Charles Delaney and challenger Zachary York.

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Splash: Winooski Voters Approve New Pool

Posted By and on Tue, Aug 14, 2018 at 8:36 PM

The bone-dry pool - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • The bone-dry pool
Winooski residents voted 763 to 554 on Tuesday to approve $3.9 million in bonding for a new municipal pool complex.

City officials closed the old, ailing Myers Memorial Pool in 2015 after concluding it would cost more than $25,000 just to patch its leaks and keep the pumps going.

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Christine Hallquist, First Transgender Nominee for Governor, to Face Phil Scott

Posted By , and on Tue, Aug 14, 2018 at 8:36 PM

Christine Hallquist - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Christine Hallquist
Updated at 11:34 a.m. on August 15, 2018.

Christine Hallquist became the first openly transgender major-party nominee for governor in the country when she won Vermont's Democratic primary election on Tuesday. With nearly every district in the state reporting results, she had earned about 40 percent of the vote.

In November's general election, the former CEO of the Vermont Electric Coop will face Republican Gov. Phil Scott, who on Tuesday bested challenger Keith Stern. Scott's win, with about 65 percent of the vote to Stern's 32 percent, put to rest speculation that he’d suffer a significant backlash at the polls for signing gun control reforms into law last April.

Hallquist handily defeated three other Democrats on the ballot: James Ehlers, executive director of Lake Champlain International, who won about 19 percent of the vote; Brenda Siegel, executive director of the Southern Vermont Dance Festival, who earned about 18 percent of the vote; and 14-year-old Ethan Sonneborn, who finished with about 7 percent of the vote.

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Police: Essex Man Used Racial Slurs, Waved Pistol at Store Clerk

Posted By on Tue, Aug 14, 2018 at 3:05 PM

Sheldon Rheaume, 23, of Essex - COLIN FLANDERS/ESSEX REPORTER
  • Colin Flanders/Essex Reporter
  • Sheldon Rheaume, 23, of Essex
An Essex man allegedly used racial slurs against a convenience store clerk, pointed a loaded handgun at her and threatened to shoot anyone who came after him before driving off early Tuesday, according to court filings.

Essex police later arrested Sheldon Rheaume in a Hannaford parking lot. Officers found the 23-year-old wearing a tactical vest and with a loaded 9-millimeter pistol in his car.

During a court appearance later Tuesday morning, a shackled Rheaume, wearing a white T-shirt and jean shorts, listened quietly and occasionally looked up at Judge David Fenster. Rheaume faces charges of aggravated assault and reckless endangerment, offenses that carry heftier potential prison sentences for him because prosecutors consider the crimes motivated by hate.

In court documents, deputy Chittenden County state's attorney Zoe Newman argued Rheaume poses a continuing threat to the public.

"[Rheaume] went into a store, seemingly at random, and, unprovoked ... held a loaded gun to the victim's head because of her race and/or ethnicity," Newman wrote.

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Seven Days Countersues Burlington School District in Records Case

Posted By on Tue, Aug 14, 2018 at 1:36 PM

The Burlington Technical Center is located at Burlington High School. - FILE: OLIVER PARINI
  • File: Oliver Parini
  • The Burlington Technical Center is located at Burlington High School.
Seven Days has filed a countersuit against the Burlington School District seeking attorney fees and other costs accrued during a public records dispute.

The newspaper originally filed a public records request in June for the district’s resignation agreement with Adam Provost, the former Burlington Technical Center interim director. Provost resigned in January, citing medical reasons, after he spent months on administrative leave, WCAX-TV reported at the time.

When members of the media or citizens request public documents, government entities typically either release the documents or explain why, under the law, they will not.

In this instance, the school district notified Provost of Seven Days’ records request. Through an attorney, the former school administrator consented only to the release of a redacted version of the agreement, the district said in documents filed in Vermont Superior Court in Burlington. The district, which took the position that the full record should be released, then took Provost to court — and also named Seven Days as a defendant. The district wants a judge to review the records and determine whether the agreement should be released in full.

Filing a lawsuit against a news outlet seeking records is highly unusual, as is asking a judge to decide, at that stage, which information is public.

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It's Vermont Primary Day! Do You Know Who You're Voting For?

Posted By on Tue, Aug 14, 2018 at 3:01 AM

It may be a quiet election season, but all of Vermont's top statewide offices are up for grabs. On the local level, several longtime leaders in the House and Senate are leaving their posts, opening up legislative seats around the state. Vermonters head to the polls for the primary today: Tuesday, August 14. Are you registered to vote? Do you know where to go on Election Day? The Vermont Secretary of State's Office offers a handy tool allowing you to double-check all the details.

Not registered yet? No problem. In Vermont, you can register online until the Friday before the election to make sure your name appears on the voter rolls, or fill out a paper application (PDF) at your polling place.

Once you've confirmed your polling place, make sure you know who'll be on your ballot. Dive into all our election coverage, or dig into our coverage from a specific race:


U.S. Congress

Statehouse Races

Other County and Local Races

This story was originally published on August 10, 2018.

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Friday, August 10, 2018

Walters: Ehlers Dances Around Gun Restrictions

Posted By on Fri, Aug 10, 2018 at 2:01 PM

James Ehlers - JOHN WALTERS
  • John Walters
  • James Ehlers
On Thursday night, Democratic gubernatorial candidate James Ehlers expressed serious reservations about S.55, one of the three gun bills that became law in Vermont this year.

"There are elements of S.55 that aren't going to make things safer," he said, and added that the legislation puts "Vermonters in the position of feeling that they are breaking the law."

His words were very similar to those of Sen. John Rodgers (D-Essex/Orleans), a Democratic write-in candidate for governor and strong supporter of gun rights. "All we did was turn law-abiding citizens into criminals," Rodgers said in an August 2 debate sponsored by and Burlington's Channel 17.

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