Incumbent Christopher Bray makes a fourth run for Addison County Senate seat
This fall marks Senator Christopher Bray’s (D-Addison) fourth re-election campaign for the Vermont Senate. Despite almost 12 years of service under his belt, including two terms in the Vermont House, Bray has found that the Covid-19 crisis has created a completely new landscape for political activity.
“If you want to represent people, you have to know what is on their minds. Those informal conversations with people walking the dog or shopping at the grocery store have been disrupted,” Bray told The Campus. To supplement the loss of those casual interactions, Bray has increasingly engaged with his constituents over the phone and through email since the outbreak began.
Bray’s interactions with his fellow representatives had also largely been confined to the virtual arena, with the state government covening via Zoom throughout the spring. According to Bray, the Vermont legislature is one of only nine in the country that kept running full-time throughout the pandemic. “It was another example of Vermonters getting things done,” Bray said.
Unsurprisingly, Covid-19 will continue to influence Bray’s immediate priorities next term if his bid for re-election is successful. In an op-ed penned for VTDigger, Bray appealed to the nation’s founding values to advocate for wearing a mask, even when doing so feels like an imposition on individual liberty. Bray reminded readers that securing collective safety often means sacrificing a little bit of personal freedoms.
Bray has been following up on this editorial regularly by posting reminders for people to socially distance and wear masks. He recognizes the inevitable fatigue that results from following these onerous requirements every day, but he emphasizes the need to remain vigilant because “the pandemic isn’t getting tired.”
Fortunately, he said, most people responded positively, making Vermont’s infection rate the lowest in the country, even without instituting fines or other consequences for not wearing masks or failing to social distance. “Vermonters are pretty independent-minded, but, on the other hand, they are also civic-minded,” Bray said.
Bray believes that the virus has highlighted and exacerbated pre-existing weaknesses in Vermont’s infrastructure, and he is prepared to tackle some of these deeper issues through his next term. Some of his priorities include childcare, food insecurity and the accessibility of healthcare.
Bray is Chair of the Senate’s Natural Energy and Resources Committee, and he remains committed to tackling the towering challenges of climate change despite the obstacles of the pandemic. The state has already taken significant steps toward cleaning up its energy use, including passing the Global Warming Solutions Act, establishing Efficiency Vermont (the statewide energy efficiency utility) and achieving the title of cleanest electric grid in the country.
A believer in the power of incremental progress, Bray is pleased that the state is moving in the right direction, but he refuses to be complacent or accept “too little progress too slowly.” Now, he is looking to accelerate the clean grid project and turn to reducing heating and transportation loads, which together account for 80% of emissions in the state. He argues that there is not only a moral imperative to take action on this front, but there is also a huge economic opportunity to buy less power from out-of-state by generating more energy in-state and reducing consumption through efficiency.
In a time of highly contentious national politics in which many people are left feeling hopeless, environmentalists are no exception. Both presidential candidates have rebuked the Green New Deal and lauded fracking during recent debates. Senator Bray is finding a way to stay optimistic and maintain his faith in the political process.
He spoke positively about his experience in the Vermont Legislature, in which citizen politicians don’t just vote stringently along party lines and representatives are actually committed to listening to one another.
“When people come together in a respectful, constructive environment, we get things done. I have seen that over and over in Vermont – not just in the legislature but also more broadly in the work of activists, select boards and other organizations,” said Bray.
Ultimately, Bray is guided by this idea of normalizing goodness. Whether it is a small, practical change like banning single-use plastic bags, or broader-scale progress like changing the very standards of politics back to those of respect and collaboration, Bray’s overarching goal is to embrace change and “make doing the right thing the default.”