In politics, the silly season is usually the months of June and July of election years. National primary elections are generally over, the state primary doesn’t happen until late in August, debates have not started, and the general election is still many months away. Issues raised during this period are likely to be forgotten by the November election, so candidates may rely on frivolous political posturing and hyperbole to get media attention and raise money.
Journalists also do their share to contribute to the silly season. Summer breaks often lead to reporters seeking more soft news, as the Statehouse and local town halls tend to have as many empty chairs and offices as businesses and schools. Stories about people and their pets tend to take the place of stories about legislation and their proponents or opponents.
But things are bubbling up a little on the political front, even as most readers would rather think about a weekend away from home instead of what the statewide education tax rate will be. Candidates recently had to file their nominating petitions with the secretary of state’s office, and for the Deerfield Valley there were some interesting developments.
A couple of weeks ago we reported on the decisions by two local state senators, Bob Hartwell and Peter Galbraith, not to seek reelection. While the announcements came as a bit of a surprise, in reality it isn’t anything new. Most state senate and house seats turn over every six years or so, on average.
What is disappointing is that the Deerfield Valley is losing two veteran politicians who have worked hard for issues important to many in southern Vermont, including economic development and education reform issues. While no doubt many didn’t agree with everything Hartwell or Galbraith championed, when push came to shove, they often supported bills beneficial to the valley and opposed those that weren’t. Another thing that made the pair sympathetic to local issues is residency, as Hartwell has lived in Wilmington the past couple of years, and Galbraith in Townshend. Both had a better understanding of what challenges small and rural Vermont communities face, compared to those politicians who might hail from larger towns.
In that same issue, we also reported on another candidate for the Windham/Bennington house seat. Philip Gilpin Jr. filed his petition at the last minute, joining incumbent John Moran and previously announced challenger Laura Sibilia. Gilpin and Sibilia are running as independents, which means there will be no primary challenge and a three-way race come November.
In fact, voters in many Deerfield Valley towns will have a wealth of candidates to choose from for house and senate seats. There are four new candidates who have filed petitions for the two Windham senate seats: Democrats Becca Balint, Joan Bowman, and Roger Albee, and independent Mary Hasson. Also on the ballot will be incumbent Democrat Jeanette White and perennial Liberty Union candidates Aaron Diamondstone and Jerry Levy. Three candidates will view for the two Bennington senate seats: incumbent Democrat Dick Sears, Democrat Brian Campion, and Republican Warren H. Roaf.
Maybe we’re just lucky that voters have so much choice. Statewide, it doesn’t appear that many races for major offices will be contested. But there is no doubt that many of the local legislative races will offer voters clear-cut choices between candidates.
Hopefully, whoever ends up filling those seats in the legislature that represent the valley will be knowledgeable about local issues. Of course, it will be up to voters to find out a little about the candidates and to make sure those candidates know what issues are important to valley communities.
So, at least for a few local races, politicians and political aspirants are taking their prospects seriously.
Maybe we won’t have to settle for reruns this summer, but can spend some time getting to know some new candidates. By doing so, it can help make the season a little less silly.