The two-party system in America can be suspect for those looking to see new issues at the political forefront.
Yet Democrats and Republicans generally stick to their road map, and those who stray risk losing crucial party support. Nonetheless, several politically passionate Vermonters chose to run as independent or alternative party candidates.
“There is a movement beginning to sweep Vermont and the Nation. This movement has people realizing that the two-party system is broken and there are other alternatives; that Independents only answer to the voter and common sense,” Charles Laramie, an independent candidate for governor, wrote last month in a press release.
Laramie is a retired teacher from Fair Haven who feels the education system is severely letting down students. Some of his other positions include raising the minimum wage and developing a universal health care system.
According to a Gallup poll, the number of Americans identifying as independent rose from 39 to 42 percent between 2016 to 2017. As of 2014, according to the Pew Research Center, 14 percent of Vermonters claimed to have no political leanings towards Republicans or Democrats.
Neil Johnson, a resident of Waitsfield, and a candidate of the Green Mountain Party, has thrown his hat in the ring as well. The Green Mountain Party is essentially an independent party that attempts to focus on solutions not currently adopted by the major parties.
“On some issues certainly [we lean right], and on other issues we have people calling us a progressive party,” Johnson said.
For instance, Johnson has new ideas for affordable housing. He’s convinced that if zoning requirements are relaxed, truly affordable home-ownership is within reach.
“For a $600-per-month house you could move in today on minimum wage and own it,” he said. “And they talk a big game about wanting to help the poor, but I don’t see it actually coming to happen.”
He’s suspicious of current affordable housing programs, which, according to one real estate developer, can costs taxpayers upward of $500 per square foot.
“There’s some stuff that doesn’t look right — zero-interest loans and loans being relieved debt-free, and all this kind of stuff. There are some shenanigans going on,” Johnson said.
He’d also like to see Vermont’s education system shrink a few sizes.
“It’s totally union-controlled. The plans and all the ideas for the school funding are all union and lobbyist ideas. … That’s why nothing gets done.”
Johnson estimates that Vermont overspends on school administration by about two-fold.
Mason Wade, of Rochester, is another independent who is running for Senate, in Windsor County. He says the major parties are ruining Vermont.
“Watching the  election, I just knew that it was time for independents to be looked at, because the two-party system just hasn’t been working in my opinion,” Wade said. “I’m 63, and from my total experience as someone who has been paying attention since the Vietnam War, we just don’t need this two-party system in Vermont.”
He expressed frustration that Laramie was not included in the gubernatorial debates.
“As of today they are not letting the independent candidates into the theater,” he said. ” … Vermonters only get three debates for governor and they don’t get the information.”
When it comes to the big campaign issue, he’s all about making Vermont more affordable.
“I work with my hands, that’s how I make a living,” he said. “There are plenty of folks out there doing it, and they are trying to pay their taxes, and it’s tough.”
Wade said it’s time to downsize school governance.
“We’ve got a lot of problems, and most of it has to do with the supervisory unions,” he said. “There’s way too many, way too much money, and taxpayers’ heads are spinning.”
Another initiative Wade advocates for is to have credit unions get involved in promoting electric car ownership.
Down in the Windham District, another independent candidate, Beverly Stone, of Brattleboro, is seeking a seat in the state Senate.
“Running as an independent candidate gives me the freedom to evaluate each issue on its own merit,” she told True North in an email. “The concerns we face today are too complex to be solved by a very divided two-party system. We need representatives who are free of party lines and financial ties/constraints, who are willing to listen to all sides.”
She added that the downside, however, is the lack of physical and financial support. Also, minor party candidates don’t get much attention from the media.
Regarding campaign issues, on health care Stone is in favor of an “open-market system” free of state borders.
“It will increase competition, thereby reducing rates,” she said. “Constraints on who can buy catastrophic or health savings policies need to be lifted, especially now that the state has voted for mandated health care.”
On education, she wants to see more physical activity and nature instruction, and less standardization.
“A standardized system is destructive to the freedom teachers need to nurture a love of learning in our children,” Stone said. “Our children benefit from integrated learning, daily physical movement, and non-academic opportunities to gain confidence. And, I agree with Chuck Laramie on the need to ban cell phones in school.”