FAIRFIELD – Penny Dubie is challenging incumbent Democratic Representative Daniel Connor for Franklin-6’s lone House seat, which represents Fairfield, Bakersfield and Fletcher.
She said she entered the race with the idea that she’s not running against anybody.
“I’m just going to go out and tell people that I’m listening,” she said.
Dubie does so five days a week, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. – knocking on the doors of her potential constituents and listening to their concerns. If a person isn’t home, Dubie leaves a note with her phone number and asks the person to please call her with their concerns.
“I like the politics of just visiting with people,” she said, “letting them know that I’m approachable, that I’ll listen to them and bring their concerns to Montpelier.”
Industrial wind is one of Dubie’s chief concerns. She said it’s the issue that got her involved. She made repeated trips to the State House in the last legislative session, tracking the progress of S.230, an energy siting bill vetoed by Governor Peter Shumlin at the last moment.
Many residents of Fairfield, Dubie’s home, have protested the construction of the Swanton Wind Project, several turbines up to nearly 500-feet tall that would be placed on a mile-long ridge near the Fairfield border.
Dubie accompanied groups of those concerned residents to Montpelier as they followed the development of that energy siting bill.
“We saw legislative leaders that were more interested in pleasing lobbyists than serving Vermonters,” she remembered. “We saw disrespect for local government, local selectboards, local planning commissions… I really believe we need to bring balance, and eliminate the cozy relationships that have developed between some of the legislative leaders and the lobbyists.”
Dubie has not held lifelong dreams of a legislative career. She said it was her experience observing the last legislative session in Montpelier that inspired her to run for office – two days before petitions for candidacy were due.
Her husband, Brian, was Vermont’s Lieutenant Governor for four terms, but Dubie herself has no prior experience as a legislator.
“I think that’s good,” she said. “Sometimes the longer you’re in Montpelier, you start developing relationships with other legislators, with lobbyists. It does become more about pleasing those people.”
Dubie insists the only people she wants to please are her constituents, which could be easy – they seem to share the same concerns, such as affordability.
“I tell people ‘I’m going to be the choice for an affordable Vermont,’” Dubie said. “I just met with a woman today who said, ‘My husband and I are retired, but we both have to go back to work, because we just can’t afford to live on our Social Security.”
Then there’s “local control,” another issue about which Dubie said she is passionate. She has heard from people concerned about the “watering-down” effect of Act 46, the school district consolidation law.
She’s also heard from farmers, concerned that the state government is playing a game of “Gotcha” with them. Dubie said farmers want somebody “to go to Montpelier and be a champion for their issues.” She has attended meetings on the gradually developing Required Agricultural Practices in preparation for that role.
“The majority of farmers are following the rules and trying to do this right,” Dubie said.
Dubie’s background is in physical fitness. She studied physical education and health at the University of Vermont, then taught fitness classes “when fitness was just becoming popular,” renting space in five different towns.
She grew up in Underhill, but lived in Essex with Brian while their children – one pursing a PhD in ethics, another a former Dropbox employee beginning his own startup, a third a Black Hawk helicopter pilot in the Army Guard and their youngest a Minneapolis-based musician who “wants to be the next Taylor Swift” —grew.
The Dubies moved to Fairfield when their youngest, the next Taylor Swift, graduated. They’d had a camp there for 20 years, so they weren’t strangers to the area. Now, as Dubie looks forward to the Nov. 8 election, she remembers a common speech from Don Turner, the state’s minority leader. Dubie said she went to “some of the caucus meetings.”
“I was very impressed that he would say, ‘Here’s the issue, here’s what we think and here’s the way we love to see people vote, but don’t forget to serve your constituents. Don’t forget who put you in that seat.’ “I would like to be part of a party that remembers that.”
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