Independents could upend Bennington County races

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BENNINGTON — Independent candidates could play key roles in the Bennington County races for state's attorney and sheriff, and in at least two local House contests.

Christina Rainville, an independent running for state's attorney on the Nov. 6 ballot, has already served notice she intends to disrupt what had been a head-to-head race between two Democrats — incumbent Erica Marthage and Arnold Gottlieb, whom Marthage defeated in the primary for the party's nomination.

Gottlieb will also be on the ballot to once again challenge Marthage, having filed voter signatures prior to the Aug. 14 primary for a ballot spot as an independent.

Comes out swinging

Rainville, a private practice attorney who served as a deputy prosecutor in Marthage's office before leaving in 2016 for undisclosed reasons after being placed on leave, has issued a blistering challenge to both her opponents.

"I challenge both Ms. Marthage and Mr. Gottlieb to compare their records with mine," Rainville wrote. "I have a proven record of success as a front-line prosecutor in Bennington County. I briefed, argued and won a case for Bennington County in the U.S. Supreme Court. I tried 25 jury cases in Bennington County and won convictions of violent criminals; I handled 25 appeals for Bennington County in the Vermont Supreme Court, and I worked with the Legislature and was praised by the governor for legislation protecting children."

Rainville asserted that she had "handled the most complex juvenile cases, including delinquency cases and neglect and abuse cases, and I worked directly with the U.S. Department of State to arrange for the international transfer of a child under a foreign state's custody to Vermont."

In contrast, she said, "Ms. Marthage did no work at all on the case in the U.S. Supreme Court, rarely if ever tries a jury case and does not have a single reported opinion in the Vermont Supreme Court where she argued the case. Most importantly, she has completely failed to combat the opioid epidemic that is devastating families all over Bennington County."

Rainville also went after Gottlieb, an attorney who resides in Dorset.

"As for Mr. Gottlieb, he is completely unprepared to be Bennington County state's attorney," Rainville contended.

"He has only lived in Vermont for a short time and has only been licensed as a lawyer here since 2015. Even worse, he appears to have absolutely no experience as a prosecutor. While I was on the front lines for 8 1/2 years as the chief deputy state's attorney, he was living in Ohio. Bennington County cannot afford a state's attorney who needs on-the job training as a prosecutor and who has little or no experience in the Vermont criminal court system, the juvenile court system, the drug treatment system, and the legislative landscape — in short, he lacks experience in everything significant about the Bennington County criminal and juvenile legal systems that are the state's attorney's responsibility."

Marthage, who was out of the office for part of the week could not be reached Monday for comment on Rainville's opening salvos.

Gottlieb said in an email, "After an exhausting primary season and with kids going back to school, I am taking some time off which includes attempting to finish the Long Trail. I will re-address campaign issues upon my return."

Three for sheriff

Because of the independent second-chance option in Vermont, Sheriff Chad Schmidt will also once again face police officer and career center law enforcement instructor James Gulley Jr., whom he defeated in the primary for the Democratic nomination.

And they will be joined by Beau Alexander Sr., of West Mountain Road, Shaftsbury.

While keeping a low profile thus far, Alexander said he will be launching a campaign website.

House race scramble

In a closely watched House race, for two seats in the Bennington 2-1 district, independent Michael Stern, of Bell Street, has joined the contest and will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Stern is challenging incumbent Rep. Timothy Corcoran II, D-Bennington, another Democrat, Chris Bates, and Republican candidate Kevin Hoyt in the race in the two-seat district.

In Bennington-1, which includes Pownal and Woodford, Pownal Select Board Chairman Nelson Brownell won the Democratic nomination without opposition in the primary voting.

But he now faces two opponents from Pownal on the November ballot: Republican Jim O'Connor, who won that nomination on write-in votes, and Frederick Miller, who submitted voter signatures to place his name on the ballot as an independent.

O'Connor, of Old Military Road, Pownal, has run for the House seat twice before, losing each race to longtime Democratic incumbent Rep. Bill Botzow, who did not seek another term.

Miller, in an opening campaign statement he posted on Facebook after he submitted his nomination signatures, said in part, "I am a constitutional conservative who believes in personal liberty for all. I am pro-jobs, pro-manufacturing and pro-business."

Miller, of Swallow Hill, Pownal, said he is "concerned with the current political climate in Vermont, and the effect it has on small rural communities. There is an apparent disregard for what came before, and our unique Vermont history when it comes to local and state planning."

He said he believes "bureaucrats in Montpelier are steadily creating new rules to box rural Vermont towns in, taking away their self determination and autonomy."

An intensive special needs instructor with crisis management experience in residential treatment centers, Miller said, "I believe in small and locally controlled schools. I do not support the Act 46 consolidation plan. As a strong advocate of the Second Amendment, I do not support S.55 [gun control legislation passed this year] and would absolutely vote to repeal. I do not support individual mandates for health insurance. I believe it is past time to develop an effective approach to ending the drug abuse crisis that is crippling Vermont. I believe the Legislature needs to focus on mental healthcare when looking for real solutions to problems and dangers that are facing our society."

Another independent, Libertarian Jeff Kaufer, of Church Street, Shaftsbury, is challenging Sens. Dick Sears and Brian Campion, the two Democratic incumbents representing the county.

Kaufer, a project manager with Concord Pools and Spas, of Latham, N.Y., said he is running because, "I am just a citizen who doesn't like the way things are being done," and wants to help turn that around.

The issues, he said, include "less taxes and less restrictions on our rights, like the gun bill [S.55]. I would write a bill to repeal it or support one."

Kaufer added, "It seems a lot of people are upset with this and upset about taxes."

For more information, go to https://jeffkaufer.com.

Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont and VTDigger.org. Email: jtherrien@benningtonbanner.com. @BB_therrien on Twitter.






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