Annette Smith: The ‘organic’ candidate for governor
By PETER HIRSCHFELD
Vermont Press Bureau | October 21,2012
Environmental activist and community organizer Annette Smith hasn’t raised a dime for her write-in candidacy for governor. But the Danby resident says that’s all by design.
In a campaign focused on “the safety of Vermont citizens instead of the desires of the corporate military-industrial complex,” Smith says the money influencing politics in Vermont has no place in her campaign.
While the lack of funds might hamper a get-out-the-vote effort which Smith will rely on even to be a footnote in this year’s gubernatorial contest, she says her supporters are up to the task.
“We’re trying to restore democracy, to take democracy back to its purest form, which is for the people, by the people, not by buying hundreds of thousands of dollars of television ads,” Smith says.
That doesn’t mean Smith’s candidacy isn’t without conventional campaign ephemera.
A volunteer graphic designer has created an open-source palm card that supporters can download and print themselves. A professional photographer snapped some glamour shots. Her website, annettesmithforvermontgov.blogspot.com, has suggested print ads for which people can buy space in their local papers.
“This campaign is organically grown from the people, and is designed to let people have a voice, not corporations,” Smith says.
Smith, executive director of the nonprofit Vermonters for a Clean Environment, nearly pulled off an electoral coup in late August when she ran as a write-in candidate in the Progressive gubernatorial primary. In a race that drew fewer than 1,000 voters, she lost in a close recount.
A win would have secured her major-party status, ensuring invaluable face time with voters in televised debates with Democratic incumbent Peter Shumlin and Republican challenger Randy Brock.
Smith wishes the outcome had been different.
“I’m watching the (gubernatorial) debates with dome interest in that it is kind of an odd way to be choosing our candidates, especially when they’re so angry and nasty to each other,” Smith says. “If I’d won the Progressive primary, I would have tried to be a softening, mellow voice compared to the tone we’re seeing now.”
Her lack of name-brand party affiliation, however, hasn’t dampened Smith’s enthusiasm for the race.
Her seven-point platform deviates in both style and substance from the major-party candidates. Whereas Brock and Shumlin spend most of their time talking about tax policy and economic development, Smith tends to focus on community empowerment and the decentralization of government power.
Smith has dedicated much of her career to organizing against controversial energy and industrial proposals, and is perhaps known best for her fierce opposition to a number of proposals for ridgeline wind development.
She has also been active on issues including chloramine in public water supplies, basing the F-35 fighter in South Burlington, and, most recently, requiring children to get vaccines in order to attend public school.
“This is a serious candidacy,” she says. “The choices we have right now are pretty much business as usual — people who are going to keep us in this box we’re in with the corporate-controlled government making decisions on behalf of Vermonters. My candidacy is about giving people another choice — to choose to take that power back for themselves.”
Jennifer Stella, a Waitsfield resident, became involved in Smith’s candidacy through her work for the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice. During her fight against controversial vaccine legislation last year, Stella says she was alarmed by the role of paid lobbyists even in a Statehouse known for its easy access to elected officials.
“We need to get to a point where we’re not chasing after bills that have been introduced by corporate lobbyists to negotiate our rights back,” Stella says.
Stella says that in Smith, she and others have found a candidate for governor who will let the people form the agenda, instead of imposing one from on high.