Jo Sabel Courtney and Heidi E. Scheuermann are running for the one Vermont House seat representing the Lamoille-1 district (Stowe).
Two candidates for the Lamoille-1 House seat faced off via Zoom, tackling topics including reproductive rights, housing equality, land use reform and COVID-19 response.
The Stowe Reporter hosted the Oct. 8 debate that was live-streamed on Facebook.
Moderated by managing editor Jessie Forand and news editor Tommy Gardner, it featured Republican incumbent Heidi Scheuermann and her Democratic challenger, Jo Sabel Courtney.
Courtney, a political first timer and 30-year Stowe resident, found a home in Stowe with her husband and sons in 1990. She promoted Stowe locally and internationally for ten years as the public relations and international marketing manager for the Stowe Area association, she said. She is a co-founder of the Stowe Theatre Guild and continues to serve the community through various arts and tourism organizations.
Heidi Scheuermann has held the seat for 13 years. She is a graduate of the Stowe public school system and owner of Allegro Properties, and founder of the Stowe COVID-19 Community Response Team. For the last seven months Scheuermann has been focused on the response and recovery of Stowe, and Vermont from the pandemic.
Here are their responses to key debate questions:
Given that the coronavirus pandemic is likely to be with us for at least the beginning of the next legislative session, what are your priorities for next year's budget?
“It’s probably the most serious challenge we have ever faced,” Courtney said. She is committed to improving healthcare, paid family leave, broadband access and childcare.
“We have to get our hands around some kind of healthcare that will actually help everyone,” Courtney said. “We have to take care of our people first.”
Scheuermann is looking to continue to support families and businesses in Stowe, she said.
“We absolutely need to get money into the hands of our businesses,” Scheuermann said. The local economy depends on these businesses continuing to pay their employees, she said. She is focused on not increasing taxes, fees or regulations in the short term as they would just be damaging.
Jo Sabel Courtney to Rep. Scheuermann: Do you support your fellow Republicans’ effort to push through this appointment of Amy Coney Barrett?
Scheuermann said, “A precedent was set by the U.S. Senate in 2016,” referring to Senate Republican’s successful effort to block then-President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland prior to the 2016 general election.
“The Senate should be consistent with that now. There should not be a vote on this Supreme Court nominee,” Scheuermann said.
Scheuermann to Courtney: There are many perspectives about what equity means and what it should look like. Specifically, what do you mean by ‘make Stowe equal for all’?
Courtney described housing inequality in the area. She says that there are many young people leaving Stowe because they cannot afford to live in town. This high cost of living is pushing young people from the area.
Knowing how divisive the forced merger between the Stowe and Elmore school districts was over the past few years, what role should the Legislature play in revisiting Act 46 (the law that consolidates school districts throughout the state)?
Scheuermann believes that communities that would like to reverse their merger should be allowed to do so. She has fought against the elimination of school districts and will continue to do so.
Courtney plans to listen and learn about the issue more but knows that COVID will be an issue moving forward.
There have been expectations for substantial changes to Act 250, Vermont’s land use law. Were the proposed changes sufficient? If not, what other changes would you like to make?
Courtney said Vermont’s forests are important, and we should mitigate forest fragmentation. She said she believes it's time to modernize Act 250.
Scheuermann also said it needs to be reformed, and the recent changes that were not approved were not sufficient nor supported by the governor.
“We need to go back to the drawing board and make changes to make it more predictable, less costly and more fair,” Scheuermann said.
The pandemic has brought the need for strong broadband to the forefront of the Vermont conversation. How will you work to ensure Vermonters including those in rural areas have access to affordable high-speed internet?
Scheuermann noted that federal law excludes states from having authority over internet access. Providers often don’t see the financial payback for bringing high speed internet to some remote areas. Scheuermann said she wants to give tools to those communities to address those challenges.
Courtney said she would leverage loans, grants and incentives to bring internet to remote areas. She is looking at opportunities over limitations and is determined to solve the issue.
Courtney to Scheuermann: If elected, do you plan to bring a new tourism funding bill, how would you persuade a Democratic majority house?
Scheuermann would work with the legislative tourism caucus to develop a proposal to move forward. She believes in a nonpartisan approach and sees the importance in marketing Vermont.