DERBY – Come November, voters in some Orleans County communities may need scorecards as they watch their favorite politicians play a game of political shuffle.
Long time Republican Senator Vince Illuzzi is giving up his seat for a run at state auditor. Rep. Bob Lewis (Orleans-1), who replaced Loren Shaw who stepped down in 2008, is seeking Illuzzi’s senatorial seat. Meanwhile, Shaw has decided to throw his hat back into the political ring for another go at serving constituents.
Lewis formally announced his run for the senate at the Derby Municipal Offices Monday morning. During the announcement, Lewis said he and his wife Dee feel it’s a good time for him to take the step from the House to the Senate. He called his time at the Vermont State House an extraordinary experience.
Lewis said he worked hard for the people in his district and would like to continue to serve the residents in Orleans and Essex Counties.
“It means a great deal to be able to represent our citizens,” said Lewis, a former Vermont State Police police officer and game warden. “As a retired public servant, I have the time to work and be available for the people.”
During his time at the State House, Lewis made many friends and contacts who can help the district. Lewis calls himself “a no frills guy,” someone who is a firm believer in Vermont's traditions and way of life.
Lewis said he has a sincere interest of taking care of the elderly. He also wants a moratorium on wind towers. He is concerned that taxes in the state continue to increase. The state worked hard to get jobs in Vermont and even harder work is necessary to keep them here, he said. Lewis believes the tax department is auditing local businesses for questionable reasons and he has questions about the new healthcare proposal. Lewis encourages constituents to continue to make him aware of issues.
Illuzzi, who attended Monday’s announcement, said he first met Lewis when Lewis was a game warden. Illuzzi said he heard many good things about Lewis. The two men became friends and worked on some wildlife issues together. Once Lewis retired, Illuzzi and others encouraged Lewis to seek political office. Illuzzi described Lewis’s legislative record as one with practical solutions and common sense.
Illuzzi said he didn’t take his decision to seek a different office lightly, but could do so because Lewis was willing to fill his senate position.
Illuzzi's departure from the senate will leave a vacuum that someone needs to fill, Sen. Joe Benning (Caledonia-Orange) said. Benning, who attended Monday’s conference, said he always listens to Lewis.
Shaw said Lewis did a great job as a member of the House. “He will listen,” Shaw said of Lewis. “It’s not what we like; it’s what you folks need and like.”
Lewis has always listened to the sportsmen, Rep. Mike Marcotte of Coventry said. As a game warden, Lewis approached things with common sense and a willingness to work with everyone and that method of operation continued through his years at the House, Marcotte added.
“You need to be able to put your party differences aside and work with the Democrats, the Progressives and Independents in order to make things happen,” said Marcotte said. “Bob does that.”
Rep. Mark Higley said Lewis displayed common sense in committees and in the House. Higley is also pleased Shaw has stepped up and will hopefully replace Lewis.
Chet Greenwood, chair of the Orleans County Republicans, said the committee supports Lewis and it's imperative the party support Lewis, so that the good work Illuzzi has done will continue. Lewis said the Northeast Kingdom needs someone who is experienced and can get things done in a bipartisan effort.
The Republican Committee was not eyeing any other candidate.
Lewis feels the Republican Party has done a lot of work to support the Northeast Kingdom economy. He said he supports a department store in the Derby area. Lewis thinks, with open discussion, such a store can happen, but hopes it doesn’t take years, as it did in other parts of the state.
Lewis is optimistic about the region. “The area has grown and for the good,” said Lewis. “We have one of the best educational systems in the state up here.”
Lewis is also pleased with the business climate, law enforcement and the working relationship with Canada.