ARLINGTON — A former high-tech executive who has worked as a missionary in the South Pacific is challenging state Reps. Kathleen James and Seth Bongartz in the general election for the Bennington-4 district.
Joe Gervais of Arlington is running as a Republican for one of the district's two seats, presently held by the two Democrats. He obtained the party nomination on a write-in campaign in the Republican primary, as there were no GOP candidates on the ballot.
“The past few years have amplified the crisis our republic is facing, with citizens losing trust in government, schools, health care and media. I took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, and I bring a servant’s heart along with honesty, transparency and the leadership skills necessary to make Vermont and America great again,” Gervais’ campaign website says.
“When we've got our own president standing up in an interview and saying these patriots are fascists and domestic terrorists, there’s something wrong with our country,” he added in an interview recently.
An Arlington resident presently self-employed as a mobile sawmill operator, Gervais previously has served in the U.S. Army, worked in high tech as an engineer and marketing executive, and for nonprofit groups promoting Bible translation and ministerial education in the Pacific. He’s also written a book, “Pacific Saints: Their Battles for Eternity,” largely during a single 34-hour flight back and forth over the Pacific.
Gervais worked in California and traveled extensively for missionary work before he and his wife, Susan, an Arlington native, moved here several years ago to care for his wife’s late mother. He ran unsuccessfully for the Arlington Select Board at 2022 Town Meeting.
A recent Department for Children and Families custody case involving his nephew renewed Gervais’ determination to take another run at politics, he said. He believes DCF's actions — apparently under an emergency care order — are an example of government overreach.
“There was no child abuse. There was an accusation that these parents are a danger. The children were seized from the home,” he said. “A few weeks in, they’re not fighting evidence ... but yet they were cracking down on restrictions on the family rather than saying, ‘Maybe we were wrong here.’”
He also cited the difficulty he and his brother-in-law have had in getting an Act 250 permit for their concrete business.
“We’re getting crushed by regulation. And you can’t hire any workers … it’s finding people who want to work,” he said. “We’re doing such a great job of putting people on public assistance that you make more money on public assistance than you do working.”
Instead, Gervais said he’ll push for “sensible legislation,” and getting back to basics on the economy, education and climate. He’s critical of recent climate legislation, specifically the “clean heat standard” bill that was vetoed by Gov. Phil Scott.
Gervais said his broad background has prepared him for the challenge. “I spent 30 years in big business. I’ve got a graduate degree in business administration. So I know how to look at numbers on balance sheets, look at budgets and make sure we've got a sensible budget. I know how to take things from concept to delivery and make sure they’re gonna get over the finish line.”
One of Gervais’ platform points is instituting election reform that would allow Boards of Civil Authority to remove voters from the rolls who have moved away or died. On his website, he says he will eliminate "legislation that facilitates fraudulent elections and returns integrity to voting."
“Arlington has more registered voters than have people of all ages. And it’s because the regulation don't allow us to clear the voter rolls," he said.
Arlington Town Clerk Robin Wilcox said Tuesday that as of July, the town of 2,457 had 2,131 voters on the checklist. That’s not uncommon in Arlington or across Vermont, Wilcox said, because the law requires boards of civil authority to wait two general election cycles — four years — before clearing “challenged” voters from the rolls.
Could that requirement be changed? According to Eric Covey, a spokesman for Secretary of State Jim Condos, the answer is no. "The requirement to wait for two general elections to pass after a challenge notice has been sent is a requirement in federal law (the National Voter Registration Act), which the state does not have the authority to change,” Covey said.
Asked whether he believes the 2020 presidential election was free and fair, Gervais said by email: “The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that certain actions taken without legislative support were unconstitutional, and therefore the Wisconsin election was not lawfully certified. Ample evidence exists of foreign interference with the election and evidence of censorship by the government in collusion with big tech that impacted the election. The evidence suggests this was not a free and fair election, and numerous state legislatures have made changes to improve the election process to ensure future elections are free and fair.”
On his platform, Gervais says he supports First and Second Amendment rights. He is pro-life and says he is a supporter of a “cost-effective private health care system.” He also says on his website that he wants to “bring education back to basics and away from radical programming of our children.”
That section of his platform includes a link to an America First Legal Foundation web page on “pupil rights,” which discusses a federal law that allows parents and guardians to review school curriculum materials and how parents can use that law.
The web page says in part: “Schools are indoctrinating our children with toxic ideologies — like critical race theory and transgender indoctrination — that undermine our nation’s most cherished founding principles and traditions.”