Vermont third party celebrates victories

MONTPELIER, Vt. — The Vermont Progressive Party convention here Dec. 4 celebrated the party’s electoral achievements and mapped plans for the upcoming legislative session.

Inside the hall at Vermont College, over 75 delegates cheered the party’s state representatives. The party doubled its representation in the state House of Representatives on Nov. 2, bringing the total to six.

In a panel discussion, the three new members of the Progressive House delegation — Dexter Randall, Sandy Haas and Winston Dowland — emphasized the importance of one-on-one contact with voters. Randall and Dowland, both representing the state’s rural Northeast Kingdom area, cited concerns about farm issues among both consumers and farmers. The party is working for legislation to set up a state dairy processing plant.

Many participants spoke of the changing response to the party across the Green Mountain State. The party’s platform emphasizes social and economic justice and democratic decision-making. Once seen as a party only based in the more metropolitan areas, last month’s victories show the Progressive Party gaining a growing statewide acceptance equal to the Democrats and Republicans, delegates said.

The party’s executive director, Chris Pearson, told the Burlington Free Press the victories in traditionally Republican districts show that voters are choosing representatives not on the basis of party labels, but on the issues affecting them as working people.

“This is what Progressive politics is all about,” Randall told the paper. “It is about working-class people and family farms.”

Steve Hingtgen, the Progressive candidate for lieutenant governor, stressed the importance of defending and expanding public financing of election. Vermont’s public financing law currently applies only to qualifying candidates for governor and lieutenant governor. Hingtgen received 7 percent of the vote on Nov. 2.

Delegates approved two additions to the party’s platform. One criticizes the concept of corporate personhood, stating that corporations must be stripped of the rights that were intended only for people. The other focuses on the need for non-corporate media and the rights of media workers.

Delegates and guests also signed a petition brought by Dave Zuckerman, a state representative from Burlington, calling for the return of the state’s National Guard members from Iraq.

The author can be reached at jbarnett@pww.org.