Ryan-Chase forum sheds more light on State House candidates

Heather Chase, left, and Eva Ryan shake hands prior to the Grafton forum on Oct. 10. All photos by Shawn Cunningham.

By Cynthia Prairie
©2022 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Like most candidate forums, the meetup in Grafton between Republican Eva Ryan and Democrat Heather Chase, candidates for the newly configured Windsor-Windham District of Athens, Chester, Grafton and Windham in the state House of Representatives, was a polite affair.

No challenges, objections or name calling.

The questions were delivered by Grafton Town Moderator David Ross, and each candidate was given a few minutes to respond. The audience counted around 40 on this Thursday, Oct. 20 evening, when the Zoomers were added in. This was the 2nd and final forum between the two candidates prior to Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8. (Mail-in ballots and early voting are already taking place.) You can read about the first forum here.

The wide-ranging discussion hit on a number of topics important to this region.

On school choice and charter schools

Calling herself a “strong supporter of the public school system,” Chase said, “At this point I don’t think that school choice or money following the children is the right way to go. We need to make public schools stronger.”

Ryan, on the other hand, believes that “the money should follow the parents. It helps enable accountability and responsibility. … charter school could be more beneficial especially for special needs children.” She also said is too much “money and bureaucracy when it comes to teachers unions.”

Candy-colored rainbow fentanyl and open borders

Republican Eva Ryan addresses the audience about her concerns for Vermont.

Speaking of illegal drugs and the national borders, Ryan said “whether north or south, Canada or Mexico, they are coming in.” She suggested one tool would be to have police “stop points” along high-traveled routes. “When you enter, police would stop people and ask do you know this person in town? I would not be beyond asking them where are they going and why.”

Chase on the other hand said she looked at area’s and the nation’s drug problems “as a health care issue, from a medical model and mental health. I don’t look at it as border issue. Drugs are getting in all over our country. Police certainly need to be a part of it. I’m not against strong borders. The money needs to be focused on mental health and on support, health care for individuals using and rehabilitation and identifying drug users. The war on drugs has not worked. And we need creative solutions.”

Short-term rentals and the housing shortage

Chase, a member of the Chester Select Board, noted that the Chester Planning Commission has presented the Chester Select Board with an ordinance to “review to register them and determine how many there are are and if they are taking up housing stock.”

But she added, “It would be short-sighted to just look at short-term rentals” as the cause of the housing shortage. She said adding to the problem is that housing stock hasn’t been built in any meaningful way and that Covid refugees “made it worse with more demand on housing.”  She suggested, “Private-public partnerships to get developers in to start building moderate income housing.”

Concerning regulating STRs, Ryan said that that should only be applied to those using “public facilities especially septic, sewer and what not. However if somebody has their own septic and they have their own regulations when it comes to fire detectors, that should be their choice. And if anything happens, then it is their responsibility and that’s how people learn and not be told they have to do this and they have to do that.”

As for housing, she suggested that the many builders in the community could help solve that problem. “Instead of going to the state, I would like to see them (local builders) have the answers and also do apprenticeships and try to incorporate other individuals especially the young ones to follow in their steps. I would rather have the state money come down to us.”

Climate change, moving away from fossil fuels

Heather Chase explains her views on a variety of topics important to Vermonters.

I definitely support the heating assistance when it comes to insulation and weatherization to help with heating costs and I do support fuel being available to people have a choice. I do not want people to have to choose between fuel, food and medicine,” said Ryan.

“I don’t think (businesses)  .. should have that heavy weight on them to not be able to prosper …  our First Amendment (Article 1 of the Vermont Constitution) says that they guarantee us prosperity, liberty … and protecting property and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety. I do not want to punish businesses and I do not want to punish constituents,” Ryan said.

Chase said that in the last legislative session in Montpelier, “a bill was drafted to incentivize a way to get away from fossil fuels and slow climate change, which I am 100 percent behind. It was well-intentioned though it had flaws.” Gov. Phil Scott, she said, “still vetoed the bill” even though new language was added that he had wanted. “Now, we have the opportunity to revisit this bill.”

And reducing carbon emissions

Chase said, “Carbon and climate change — there isn’t a border … we’re a world. Climate change is all upon us. The weather dynamic is changing. We are going to have an impact in Vermont, with climate refugees. … As a state legislator, I can participate on a state level to get legislation that moves  us closer to the goals that we want to meet. I believe climate change is a threat and we should do everything we can to abate it. Vermont is doing a good job but we can do better. We can look at how we run our cars, our utilization of  fossil fuels, how we heat our houses.”

Ryan said she was against the long-dormant proposed federal Green New Deal, saying that Vermont’s impact on the environment is so small.

“Vermont is unique in all of its forestry and its vegetation … there is a symbiotic relationship,” Ryan said. “We breathe out the carbon dioxide and the trees take it in and they reward us and thank us with oxygen. … What is it (Vermont) going to be if we take  down all that vegetation and all the trees to put up windmills and do solar farms? What is going to take up our CO2? The trees aren’t going to be there to do that. And it’s going to be all cement.  … I really do not want to put more restrictions on businesses … that hurt the community.  My criteria is choices. I’m not for increasing taxes or increasing regulation.”

A followup with a candidate

In recent candidate forums throughout the country, conservative candidates who are election deniers have been using similar language and tactics when asked specific questions about the 2020 presidential election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

Instead of saying, yes, Joe Biden is the duly elected president of the United States and the election was free and fair, they sidestep affirming Biden’s win, then go into complaints about election security, an issue that state boards of election have stated has no merit.

One such example is of U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, Republican of Maryland, whose response was “Look, Joe Biden got more counted votes.”

During the Grafton forum, two such questions were asked by the audience. The answers from candidate Ryan prompted The Telegraph to contact her for clarification. Following is the email exchange:

The Telegraph:

I’m pulling together a story about last week’s Grafton forum and I have a couple of questions about two of your answers:

One question asked was: Do you affirm Biden as the legitimate winner of the 2020 election?”
(I didn’t pick up an answer to that and wonder if you could answer it for me. Instead I heard you address some election integrity issues.)
The other question asked was: “Would you support the candidacy of a nominee for president who insulted the service of POWs, harassed a Gold Star family, encouraged violence and sought to overturn elections?”
You responded no. My question is does this mean you did not support Donald Trump for president in either or both races he ran?
Ryan’s response, with ellipses indicating omission of a portion of the questions from above:
Your first question was: Do you affirm Biden as the legitimate winner of the 2020 election?
… Yes, you are correct. My focus was on touching upon a subject that brings our community together instead of contributing to the political polarization within our state at this present moment. Obviously Biden is President of our United States. This is the reason why my focus was on what our state and districts are proactively doing in present time for future elections. Elections have been contested since the year 1800. One of the great reasons why America is a great country is because of the fact that it is up to its citizens to participate on the ground level to ensure fair and accurate elections. Everyone from our district should feel safe in knowing their vote counts, and how important everyone’s vote is.
The other question asked was: “Would you support the candidacy of a nominee for president who insulted the service of POWs, harassed a Gold Star family, encouraged violence and sought to overturn elections?” …
Cynthia, I firmly stand with my answer of “No” to your question above. I have to be honest in that I do not remember any question regarding Donald Trump during that forum. However, with that said, I would have to search and review politicians insulting and/or harassing citizens and/or encouraging violence to overturn elections. Law and order is of the utmost importance because facts matter and bring people together. My wish is to aid in our communities’ healing from division that has been perpetuated these last few years. I believe it is time for Vermonters to uniquely learn from the past and focus on the issues at hand, which happen to be many important issues at that: The economy, law and order, education, parental rights, and inflation.
The Telegraph then asked for more clarification:
Thanks for responding.
The 2nd question was specifically about Donald Trump: He disparaged the family of a Muslim American soldier who was killed in Iraq and continued to feud with them into his presidency. He also disparaged John McCain for being a prisoner of war in Vietnam, calling him a loser for being captured. That feud continued after McCain’s death. And of course we know that as president, Donald Trump refused to accept the results of the election even after losing 50 or so court cases and being told by almost his entire staff that he actually lost. And then we know what happened on Jan. 6, 2020 (Error by writer: Should have said 2021). So the entirety of that question was about President Trump. (It was not my question, by the way.)
So in light of your answer to that question, it could be assumed that you did not vote for Donald Trump either time. (His remarks about the Muslim American soldier and family were made before he was elected.) So could you clarify your “no” answer for me, since it makes it sound like you did not vote for him.
Also, do you affirm that Joe Biden is the legitimately elected president of the United States? (This is a yes or no answer.)
Ryan responded:
My answers stand and, as already stated, Biden is the Present of the United States.
Secondly, I have not reviewed the 50 or so court cases you mentioned regarding Trump, and I am not well informed about the Muslim family you speak of. My time is being spent on today’s issues. My intention is to hear the voices of everyone affected by the increasing burden of today’s economy, education, housing, small businesses, and of course drugs and parental rights. My intention is to focus on the “Now,” and not participate in encouraging polarities and disputes.
(Chase answered both questions directly, stating, 1. Biden is the legitimately elected president of the United States and 2. No, she would not support such a person.) 
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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 40 years. Cynthia has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland, and has won numerous state awards for her reporting. As an editor, she has overseen her staffs to win many awards for indepth coverage. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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