With six Senate seats and at least 10 candidates running for office this election season, the Chittenden County races will be on everyone’s radar during the primaries and general election.
Second Amendment advocates are especially anxious to see changes in the district, as many view all six incumbents as political adversaries.
Conservatives are making a strong play this year, rallying behind Dana Maxfield, an Air Force veteran from Milton, and Alex Farrell, a 25-year-old senior business intelligence analyst from Burlington.
Challengers from the Democratic side are mental health professional Steve May, of Richmond, and immigration and environmental activist Val Carzello, of Burlington.
All the candidates were reviewed in the recently released 2018 Gun Owners of Vermont Candidates Report, which grades candidates based on their level of support for the Second Amendment.
The gun rights group issues the report each election season, but after S.55 passed this year, which expands background checks and imposes magazine limits ad other restrictions, the report has taken on a greater significance.
Since Farrell is young, he received an “unknown” ranking by Gun Owners of Vermont. However, he told True North he would be contacting the group to get his views on the record.
Meanwhile, Farrell considers himself a Second Amendment supporter.
“I certainly consider myself a supporter of gun rights, especially growing up in the gun industry with my father’s business [a gun shop],” he told True North.
He said he is against the magazine capacity limits in S.55, but he does support the other measures in the bill, including the background checks, which he acknowledged will be tricky to enforce.
The Gun Owners of Vermont report indicates a level of distrust of Farrell because of his close relationship with Gov. Phil Scott, who signed S.55 and other gun legislation. “He embodies the anti-gun ‘common-sense Republican ideas’ of his mentor, anti-gun Republican Phil Scott, and anti-gun Republican Senator Kurt Wright,” the report states.
On other issues, Farrell said he wants to expand pre-kindergarten education services, reform Act 250 to help business development, and keep property taxes down.
Maxfield, the other conservative in the race, received a “strong pro 2A” score on the report, the highest of all Chittenden County candidates.
“The right of the people to keep and bear arms is a fundamental human right which is clearly guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment and Article 16 and it shall not ever be infringed,” Maxfield’s campaign page states. It adds that “the right to protect yourself, your family, your property, is something that cannot be taken away.”
Like Farrell, he also says he will work to create a more business-friendly environment and to hold down property taxes. True North was unable to reach Maxfield for this story.
On the Democratic side of the aisle, May received an “anti-gun” failing grade from Gun Owners of Vermont.
“They are always going to have access to me,” May told True North. “They may not like my answer, but they are always going to be able to have a conversation, and I will enter the conversation seeking my own truth.”
On S.55 and its controversial magazine limits, May said right now he would like to learn more from professionals.
“I really need to sit with folks in law enforcement and find out how they plan to address it before I feel comfortable saying ‘yes it makes sense or no it doesn’t,'” he said. “I certainly see the concerns and I don’t think they are completely without merit.”
May is an advocate for universal primary health care and has been an outspoken critic of the role of big drug companies in the opioid crisis.
“Having been a clinical social worker and specializing in addiction work, I’ve been talking a fair bit about the opiate epidemic,” he said.
The other Democratic challenger, Carzello, has no score on the Gun Owners of Vermont report card, but she said she probably would receive a failing grade.
“I support hunting rights, shotguns, and I don’t even care if people have pistols, but the gun laws that just passed I support, and I do not support automatic weapons in the hands of civilians,” she said.
Carzello reiterated that she supports the magazine limits and universal background checks.
“I think having a gun for hunting or self-protection [is acceptable] if you pass a background check,” she said.
She takes a liberal view on immigration, the environment and other social issues. Specific policies she wishes to implement include a state-funded paid leave program for workers and an expansion of universal pre-K.
With two Republicans, two Democrats and at least one anticipated independent challenger, there’s a good chance voters might reshape the politics of Chittenden County.
“So we could have two new Dems, two Republicans, and two independents,” Bob DePino, vice president of Gun Owners of Vermont, told True North. “We could knock out all of the Chittenden County six [who all voted for S.55].”
Of the six Democrat incumbents for Chittenden, all but one received a “rabidly” anti-gun or “extremely” anti-gun label in the candidate report. Sen. Michael Sirotkin was ranked as “anti-gun.”
The other five incumbents in Chittenden are Democrats Debbie Ingram and Virginia Lyons, and Democrat/Progressives Chris Pearson, Phil Baruth and Tim Ashe.