Pollina will run for Vermont Senate

June 9, 2010, Times Argus, Louis Porter

MONTPELIER – Anthony Pollina, a veteran of statewide campaigns, will run for the State Senate in Washington County and he will run in the Democratic primary, a surprise for an organizer and activist who has traded jabs with Democrats in the past as a Progressive.

"The party labels do become less important in the local races where personal contact is more important," Pollina said Tuesday, adding that he hopes to attract voters of all parties to his campaign. "Democrats have been more welcoming in their willingness to work together at the local level. There is an opportunity at the county level and local level to create that kind of unity."

Pollina ran as an Independent candidate for governor two years ago, coming in second just ahead of Democrat Gaye Symington. Perhaps more significant, given what office he will run for this year, Pollina received nearly 30 percent of the votes in Washington County, well ahead of Symington's 18 percent in the county.

Gov. James Douglas won the contest statewide with 53 percent and the county with just under 50 percent.

"I came in first or second in every town but one," Pollina said. "I have to believe that people who voted for me in Washington County for governor will be just as supportive, if not more, in a run for the Senate."

Pollina said he tried, unsuccessfully, to talk to Democrats about combining forces in the 2008 gubernatorial contest. But his conversations with Democrats about running for the state Senate as a member of their party have been more successful, he said.

"I would rather run with Anthony than against him," said State Sen. Ann Cummings, the Democratic incumbent from Washington County who is running for re-election. "I think it is a good decision. The one thing we don't want to do is to split the ticket. Anthony's politics and mine are the same probably 99 percent of the time."

"I think he will be a good, strong candidate," she added.

Pollina's decision will spark early interest in a county senate race that already is showing signs of a lively contest.

The decision by State Sen. Phil Scott, a Republican, to run for lieutenant governor has left one of the county's three Senate seats vacant. State Sen. Bill Doyle, the other incumbent Republican, is expected to run for re-election, and he will be joined by Ed Larson of Montpelier.

Larson, 54, who ran for the Senate one time before in 1996, said he would like to emulate Scott and Jeb Spaulding as "the kind of Senator who was very thoughtful, was very honest and was willing to reach across the aisle and solve problems."

GOP officials said they will have a third candidate in addition to Doyle and Larson by the time candidates must file their signature petitions later this month.

The field is more crowded on the Democratic side, which will spur a primary contest, the first in Washington County in well over a decade. In addition to Pollina and Cummings, former representative Donny Osman of Plainfield will run, as will former Vermont Attorney General Kimberly Cheney of Middlesex. Laura Moore of Barre Town is also expected to run for the Senate.

In Washington County each of the major parties can pick three candidates to run for the three Senate seats in the general election.

Cheney, who has run for the Legislature unsuccessfully in the past, said he decided to run for the Senate in another race in part because there will be an open seat.

"It seemed to me a year in which something I really wanted to do is possible," said Cheney, a lawyer with offices in Montpelier.

"We are in hard times. It is going to take some hard thinking to deal with them in a pragmatic way," Cheney said. He added that finding a fair balance between business owners and workers and finding sustainable approaches to everything from the state's finances to energy policy is what motivates him to run.

"I have a pretty good grasp of the issues we face. Hard work rather than sloganeering is what we need to keep this balance," said Cheney, 74. "Whatever happens in this election the 2011 Senate is going to have lost most of its leaders. There is some advantage to having dealt with thorny issues over a career."

"I think experience counts," he concluded.

For his part, Osman, 62, said in part he will run because he is the only one of the candidates – except for the two incumbents – who has experience in the Legislature.

Osman said he wants to, and knows how to, speak in the Legislature for those from smaller Washington County towns, for those with disabilities and for children.

He would like to be "a voice for people who don't often have a voice in the Statehouse," Osman said.

The tough economic times don't mean that the state should not invest in those things it will need in the long term, like high speed internet, education and alternative power, Osman said.

"Unless we invest now in the things that will result in a prosperous future we are not going to have a prosperous future in Vermont," he said. "One of the things we have to start doing is taking a longer term view than we generally do. Sometimes we are penny wise and pound foolish."

"I really want to affect this community. I really want to be a positive force for this community," Osman added. "All of that is really exciting to me."

"My time in the Legislature shows a record of getting things done and working with people of all different political stripes," Osman said. One of the things he would work to advance is the health care reform plan being devised under a bill passed by the General Assembly this year, Osman said.

"I think that health care is of an overwhelming interest in Vermont," he said. "I am also interested in making sure that Vermont stays the beautiful place that we live in and making sure that we keep our rural landscape and agriculture."

Cummings, the current head of the Senate Finance Committee, said she will continue working on taxation questions which will be prominent with the state's difficult budget situation.

"We are going to be looking at another massive budget shortfall next year," said Cummings, 63.

She also wants to see to its conclusion the closure of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear plant when its license expired in 2012.

"Anybody can introduce any bill at any time. The House has not voted," she pointed out.

With several of the Senate's other leaders campaigning for higher office rather than re-election Cummings did not rule out a run for the position of Senate president pro tem, although that discussion will have to wait until after the election Cummings said.

"You start all over every two years," she said.

"My biggest concern is that the primary stay issue-oriented, that it remain civil. I think that is vitally important," Cummings said. "My pledge is that it is going to be, as it has been in the past in Washington County, a very civil process and not become divisive."

Pollina, 58, said he will work on the state budget, on preventing the shift of costs from the state to the local city and town budgets and on agricultural issues if elected to the state Senate.

He was disappointed with lawmakers for agreeing to roll back some estate and capital gains taxes while simultaneously reducing unemployment insurance benefits, Pollina said.

"My sense is it feels unfair to a lot of people in the county," Pollina said. "I think that the Douglas administration has left us in a constant state of budget crisis. That will continue to be used as a reason to cut programs and lay off workers."

Pollina acknowledged there had been some ill feelings between him and Democrats in past campaigns, but said that much of that is not felt at the local level.

"I think it is dissipated by choosing to enter the primary and doing it with the encouragement of a lot of Democrats," he said. "I have gotten a very positive response from people. When you get to the committee level the partisan politics melt away."

As for the effect his decision to run in the Democratic primary will have on the Progressives, Pollina said he did not think it would weaken the state's third major party, pointing to other legislative candidates who have run fusion campaigns.

"All of those folks have run with the support of Democrats in the past. That has not weakened the party," he said. "I don't consider myself a particularly partisan person. I stand up for the Progressive Party because I believe in its issues."