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Irasburg Ridgeline Alliance leaders enter Orleans-2 house race

NEWPORT CITY – Dr. Ron Holland and Judith Jackson of Irasburg launched their campaign as Democrats running in the two-seat district of Orleans-2.

Holland, 71, and Jackson, 69, will face two incumbent Republicans, long-time Rep. Michael Marcotte of Coventry and two-term Rep. Gary Viens of Newport City.

The district serves Coventry, Irasburg, Newport City, Newport Town and part of Troy.

They say they are not running against Marcotte and Viens but rather to change the way corporate lobbyists have sway over citizen legislators.

They also want to work with Northeast Kingdom Democratic leaders like Sens. Bobby Starr and John Rodgers, representing Essex-Orleans, to seek change within the Democratic Party.

“We are here to enhance the public dialog and give the public some options,” Holland said.

Holland has been a champion in the anti-industrial wind movement, and was a member of the Lowell Six protesters who were arrested and went to trial to fight the Lowell wind turbines.

He is the town of Irasburg’s representative in negotiations with wind turbine developer David Blittersdorf over Blittersdorf’s unpermitted wind test tower on Kidder Hill. A dialysis clinic at North Country Hospital is named after him because of his leadership to get it open.

Jackson is the clerk of the Irasburg Planning Commission, which is in the midst of creating a new town plan that might help Irasburg prevent Blittersdorf from erecting two turbines.

Jackson is also a founding member with Holland of the Irasburg Ridgeline Alliance, dedicated to preserving the ridgelines and opposed to industrial wind projects.

Holland ran in the Orleans-2 district as a write-in candidate and lost in 2000.

When asked why he is running again now, Holland said “I am 71 and you only get so many chances to do this. And I think I know a little bit about health care and its problems and the inability of the political system to address them.”

“My driving issue is this excessive corporate influence on policy making in general,” Holland said.

“Professional corporate lobbyists can overwhelm citizen legislators,” Holland said, whether it’s in health care, energy or any other issue.

You have to work “one-fifth of your lifetime to pay for your health care. This is not sustainable,” Holland said.

“I would like to reframe the debate on health care from a problem with health insurance to a problem with how the health insurance system actually functions and the totally inadequate infrastructure to make things cost effective, less expensive and more effective,” Holland said.

For Jackson, her work this session to get the renewable energy siting bill strengthened to give towns a say over siting was an eye-opener and prompted her to run.

“I’ve seen the huge impact of policies and decisions made in Montpelier on almost every aspect of life in Vermont towns,” Jackson said. “With our Northeast Kingdom towns facing so many critical issues, from energy siting to education to our economy, it seemed like a good time to speak up.”

What happens in Montpelier has a huge impact everywhere in the NEK, from ridgeline wind turbines to the razed block in downtown Newport City, left behind by the EB-5 scandal, Jackson said.

Holland said the EB-5 scandal points to the need for state oversight and to avoid job creation that doesn’t fit the region.

Jackson said she was leery of the offers of help that she heard in Montpelier.

“I get a little nervous when people talk about helping the NEK. Between the Ponzi scheme, the prison, the landfill and big wind, I think we might have just about all the help we can stand,” Jackson said.

“I want to protect the ridgelines of Irasburg and the unique landscape and develop renewable energy in a way that doesn’t disfigure our landscape and doesn’t infuriate our citizens,” Jackson said.

She said there needs to be a balance between municipalities and the state. “My feeling is that Montpelier has had its thumb on the balance too long.”

Jackson grew up on a dairy farm in Vermont and moved back to Vermont, settling on the common in Irasburg in 2010.

For most of her career, she was communications director for Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy facility near Chicago that studies the fundamental science of the universe.

Holland opened a local medical clinic in Barton in 1979 and has been a doctor at NCH for years.