Who’s going to Montpelier? Toof, Dees-Erickson campaign for Franklin-8 seat

October 15, 2022

I started the Vermont future caucus, for legislators 45 and under. The tri-partisan coalition of legislators will be working on issues that affect young Vermonters – health care, cost of living, child care – and we’re going to be a voice there and find issues we can all agree on in a nonpartisan way.

Who’s going to Montpelier? Toof, Dees-Erickson campaign for Franklin-8 seat

written by Josh Ellerbrock

ST. ALBANS CITY — Since 2012, the City of St. Albans has been represented by both a Democrat and a Republican in the statehouse. Changes to state district representation, however, are shaking things up.

Before the district map change, the two incumbents, Reps. Casey Toof (R-St. Albans) and Michael McCarthy (D-St. Albans) had shared the multi-member Franklin 3-1 district, but now there are two single-member districts that split the city along ward lines.


The newly-created Franklin-8 district includes Wards 5 and 6 in the City of St. Albans, and the southern portion of the Town of St. Albans. The remaining section of the Town of St. Albans is represented by Republican Rep. Lynn Dickinson, who is running uncontested.

Rep. Casey Toof

Wayne Fawbush

Rep. Casey Toof (R- St. Albans) is a lifelong resident of the area, and if elected to the Franklin-8 seat, he’ll be starting his third term. He currently serves on the House Committee on Education.

Locally, Toof serves on the St. Albans Town planning commission as vice chair, and he was involved in coaching youth sports at BFA-St. Albans from 2011 and 2016. 

As for his political record, Toof aligns himself strongly with Gov. Phil Scott’s administration, and he emphasized his ability to work and collaborate with others across the aisle. He rarely, however, votes out of lockstep with other Republicans in the House, with only three votes cast in the last session where he hasn’t joined party voting patterns.

“For too long Vermonters have been struggling just to get by. I will support policies in Montpelier that will reduce our cost of living and lead to more prosperity for our St. Albans community. I want to limit taxation and lower the cost of living to make Vermont more affordable for working families.”

They include approving a bill that decriminalizes the possession of small amounts buprenorphine, saying “yes” to a bill that takes a closer look at potential police malfeasance and voting against S. 287, which adjusts school funding formulas.

Professionally, Toof works for Handy Toyota and runs his own marketing consulting firm, Toof Consulting, LLC.

Q:  Why did you decide to run for office?

A:  For the same reason I decided to run in 2018, because I have two kids and I really care about the future. I grew up in St. Albans. I was born here, grew up here and came back here. This is the place I decided to set up my roots and raise my family. 

We did some successful things in the legislature. It was good working with Gov. Phil Scott. I’m in house leadership as head of Republic communications for the Republican caucus, and I started the Vermont future caucus, for legislators 45 and under. The tri-partisan coalition of legislators will be working on issues that affect young Vermonters – health care, cost of living, child care – and we’re going to be a voice there and find issues we can all agree on in a nonpartisan way. 

We will work on something we can agree on, that’s why I want to run again. There is some unfinished work and an opportunity in leadership roles to make St. Albans better. 

Q:  What makes you uniquely qualified over your opponent?

A:  I serve on a lot of boards and give back to the community. I’m on the [St. Albans Town] planning commission, in the leadership role in the Republican party in the caucus. I have a lot of strong relationships in Montpelier and I work very well with Gov. Scott. We have open communication with his administration and can work on bills that are troublesome to the administration and find things that we can work together on.

I can work across the aisle, Republicans are outnumbered, so I am forced everyday to work with people from the other political party. 

Q:  Why do you think that you would do well in the office?

A:  I am very accessible to people within our community. When COVID-19 hit, I started to do legislative minutes, and had long discussions about what’s happening in the state. I do keep people informed. I send updates to the Messenger, about what are the important bills we’re working on. 

I’m good at building relationships with people. I work well with others and don’t always do the popular thing but I work with other people even if it’s not popular, whatever is what‘s right to the people. I’m open to constituents.

Q:  How would you balance the various needs of your constituents?

A:  I think it’s a learning curve. This legislature, it’s a huge learning curve. I serve on the House education committee, and I’ve been there for four years, so I know a lot about education. I don’t know a lot about healthcare, but I’m open to other viewpoints. 

We saw the city lose population and town gain population, but we’ll probably see it growing in the city and town in the next decade. We’re in a good spot, between Montreal and between Burlington, but we do have different ideas, and we represent Republicans, Democrats, independents and Libertarians. We have to think of the whole mass of people instead of just one specific group. It’s not always easy. You’ll make someone mad, but I think in Montpelier we are not polarized like the rest of the country. For the most part, we agree on a lot. 

Q:  How do you view the role of government? What would be your governing style?

A:  The government is there to serve the people. It’s not serving the political party. It’s there to help the people. I’m not a big government kind of guy, but a local control kind of guy. 

We spend a lot of time on a lot of bills that help people. I was very fortunate to be serving during the most unique legislative biennium we’ve never seen, the session where we dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

[At that time], we put down our party hats and put on our helping people hats. It was a billion dollars that we spent, and we helped people with employment. The state wasn’t getting back to them, so the speaker along with leadership, we got involved with the department of labor and did a lot of constituent work. It was a terrible time, a hard time for the legislature but that’s what the government is for, to help people. 

Q:  What would you say is the largest issue facing your district?

A:  Affordability. It doesn’t just mean that it costs a lot of money to live here, it costs money to pay rent, build a house, buy gasoline, everything seems like it’s really expensive. Some people are hit harder with inflation, and we saw a couple of bills that we stopped to keep costs down. The Clean Heat Standard, for example, a three person board would set those rates, taking away the power of taxation to let the board do that. When gas prices were up $5 a gallon, and home heating fuels were high, it would have affected costs. 

Act 250 needs reform to be able to build more structures where you already have infrastructure in place. We had really good management when Walmart came in. Now, people don’t have to go to Chittenden, and people around Franklin County are coming out to Walmart, and with local option tax, we’re able to keep that money here to help with affordability.

It’s really hard to solve this problem, as it’s a combination of things, such as not taxing social security, or military pensions. But that helps with the affordability crisis. I don’t like new taxes, and I’m glad to see the new governor sign new laws without needing to raise taxes or fees.

Lauren Dees-Erickson

Lauren Dees-Erickson is running against the incumbent, Casey Toof, to bring a more left-leaning voice to the legislature, and she highlighted the need for the legislature to do more when it comes to school funding, supporting teachers and providing better support for parents and caregivers.

Her platform also emphasizes the need to improve affordability and access for green energy, to create a diverse community that welcomes both new and returning residents, to allow more housing through updated zoning laws and to support reproductive rights.

“I see a need for more responsive representation, for leaders with vision who are doing more and who are willing to fight for the future of St. Albans. I’m running for State House in Franklin-8 because the needs of my community are not being met.”

Her record of public service includes serving as vice-chair of the St. Albans City Planning Commission and as board member with the United Way of Northwest Vermont.

Professionally, Dees-Erickson works as a technical advisor with FHI360, a human development nonprofit. 

Q:  Why did you decide to run for office?

A:  Up until the redistricting, I was okay with my representation. So in 3-1 [before redistricting], we had Rep. Mike McCarthy and Rep. Casey Toof. I felt my positions were aligned with a representative [McCarthy] and his voting record reflected my views. When we were redistricted, I was informed we would have one representative [Toof]. 

I asked about seven other people if they were going to run first, because I wanted my core beliefs and things that my community members were talking about reflected in the person that represents us. 

There are three things that set me apart from my opponent. One is my work experience, I currently work for an international nonprofit as a tech advisor in the civil society and peacebuilding sector. For most of my career, I have looked at how to elevate the voices of citizens so their needs are being met and on the other side worked with local and national [governments] and systems to best meet the needs of citizens.

Two is my perspective on what type of leader I’ll be. I believe that when you’re looking at problems, you should look at it from an empathetic community-focused perspective. Instead of seeing someone unhoused as an issue, I’ll look at the underlying problems of people that are unhoused. 

Instead of getting rid of resources, you identify what the needs are, making sure people can access resources, whether that is emergency housing or drug and alcohol intervention. What can I do to help them become employed again? It’s that empathic view of trying to solve issues.

And finally what separates me from my opponent is my firm belief that a community is always stronger working together rather than identifying the one group with the loudest voice. A representative needs to have conversations with people of different views and perspectives so you can represent everyone. 

Q:  Why do you think that you would do well in the office?

A:  I’ve been going to every door and talking at every door to really understand the concerns that Franklin 8-ers are facing. That’s the type of legislator that I want to be, thinking deeply about potential solutions and strengthening systems that constituents have brought up or thinking of new ideas to address those issues.

I would be a community-focused listener that addresses problems that the community is bringing up. 

Q:  How would you balance the various needs of your constituents?

A:  I think that going door to door, if you meet someone who has the opposite view a lot of the times you can find overlap if you continue the conversation. I live on Rugg Street. Someone a couple streets over on Upper Weldon, I came to his door, and he immediately saw me and asked: ‘Are you a Democrat or Republican?’ My goal is to represent all constituents in Franklin 8. We had a 30 minute conversation about gun control. 

On the surface, we didn’t have a lot to talk about, but as we continued to talk, we found things we could agree on. It makes sense not to limit all guns. There are plenty of people that are safe gun owners, and the more that I talked, we found underlying concerns, that kids are kept safe, that those with a history of domestic violence don’t have access to guns.

When you have conversations with people whose views differ, that is exactly how I would lead as a representative of Franklin-8. No matter the issue I would make myself available with conversations. 

Q:  How do you view the role of government? What would be your governing style?

A:  Ultimately, I think the government needs to work for the people. We have seen a lot of people in positions of power making promises about how they’re going to create affordable housing, or how they are going to push to bring more organizations and companies here. What we don’t see is people who dig a little deeper. 

It’s not just bringing businesses to St. Albans, but do Franklin 8-ers have the skillset to be hired by those companies? That depth is really important. People are talking about creating affordable housing for 2 to 3 or 4 years, but if it hasn’t changed in your day-to-day life, then it’s up to voters to not to accept what they’re saying and then find someone with a little bit of vision. I’m the type of person who is actively involved because we see the government isn’t working for us. 

Q:  What would you say is the largest issue facing your district?

A:  One is housing. I think that we have both an affordability crisis and a housing stock issue so I think that housing is the main issue that needs to be addressed. The ways that can be addressed, looking at Act 250, looking at are these bills able to develop much needed housing. How can we balance housing with protecting the environment? 

Looking at things like S.221, a registry rental, my current representative Casey Toof voted no on that, but if I say you have limited rental properties, how wonderful would it be to protect both the renter and the landlord to make sure that people are being kept safe. A part of that bill was written to increase homeownership rate and allow people to access more affordable housing, to find more affordable rentals and to build new home and rental properties.

Read the article on Saint Albans Messenger —>

Rep. Sara Jacobs


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