Photo Gallery | U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy visits
BENNINGTON — U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., visited Bennington on Monday as part of a nine-day campaign tour that will take him to each county in Vermont.
While in town, Leahy, the last remaining member of the U.S. Senate to have served prior to the 1976 election of President Jimmy Carter, visited several businesses, including Crazy Russian Girls Bakery and South Street Cafe, spoke to people involved with the Putnam Square Redevelopment Project, visited the volunteers working at the Bennington campaign headquarters of the Democratic Party, stopped by the town offices, and met with members of the Bennington Police Department.
Monday was the first day of Leahy's tour, during which he visited Brattleboro, Wilmington, Bennington, and Manchester.
"This campaign, like all of my campaigns, is a positive, issue-oriented campaign that is based on listening to and speaking with my fellow Vermonters," said Leahy, "It is an honor to represent Vermont in the United States Senate, and I want to continue fighting for businesses that create jobs in Vermont, addressing climate change, tackling the epidemic of opiate abuse, ensuring that every child can afford a college education and continuing to fight for Vermonters in the United State Senate. Marcelle and I are looking forward to stopping in every county over the next nine days and helping Democrats up and down the ticket in November, so we can continue this fight."
Leahy stopped frequently to take pictures with and hear the concerns of his constituents. "More than what I saw even three to four months ago," he said when asked what issues seem to be weighing most on voters' minds as election season approaches, "people are focusing on what this all means. No matter how they feel on topics like immigration, they don't like the tone (of Republican nominee Donald Trump's campaign)." He said he has rarely heard the makeup of Supreme Court being brought up as an important issue in the presidential election as often as it is this year. "I can't go 10 minutes without someone bringing that up," he said.
He said many of the Vermonters he has talked to have expressed a desire to see both parties more effectively working together for the country's best interest. "I wouldn't be running if I didn't think I could (increase bi-partisanship)," he said, adding that he was meeting with senators from both parties to find common ground.
Aaron Sawyer, field organizer for the Vermont Democratic Party's Bennington office, accompanied Leahy during his time in town. He said Bennington is taking charge, and is living up to its claim that "Vermont Begins Here." Sawyer asked anyone who was interested in donating their time to please stop by the Main Street office. "If you just have half an hour a week to help us clean up the place, that's something you can do," he said, "There are so many ways people can get involved."
While speaking with the group involved with the Putnam project – which included Bennington College President Mariko Silver, Southern Vermont College President David Evans, and Bill Colvin of the Bennington County Regional Commission – Leahy said he understands the importance of a vibrant downtown for the local economy, something he had experienced firsthand growing up in Montpelier.
On the way to the town offices, Leahy reminisced about his relationship with Tim Corcoran, who served as a state representative from Bennington for 15 years beginning in 1981, and as Bennington's town clerk for 20 years, until he passed away in 2014. Leahy said he never missed an opportunity to stop in and visit Corcoran. "He would come up to me, all riled up about whatever issue," said Leahy, smiling, "but then 10 minutes later, we'd be laughing."
The senator's final stop in Bennington was with Police Chief Paul Doucette and other members of the BPD. Doucette praised Leahy's 2015 bill that funded the purchase of bulletproof vests for 200,000 police officers across the country, including 4,400 in Vermont. "We wanted to thank you for the bulletproof vest partnership," said Doucette, "Thanks to your efforts, we just got 14 new bulletproof vests to keep us safe."
"We appreciate everything you do," he said, "and we know you support law enforcement."
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.