Home News and Features Two Repubs, One Dem Vie to Represent Barre Town

Two Repubs, One Dem Vie to Represent Barre Town

From left, Melissa Battah and Topper McFaun. Courtesy photos.
Representing Barre Town and part of Williamstown, the Washington-Orange district has been dominated by Republicans since 1984. This year, Democrat Melissa Battah is hoping to change that, running against incumbent Rep. Francis “Topper” McFaun (who, if elected, will be serving in his 10th term) and Republican Gina Galfetti. 

The Bridge reached out to all three candidates for an interview, but only two responded, Battah and McFaun. Galfetti did not respond to three emails that included the interview questions. In a phone call she said she would respond, but as of press time, The Bridge has not received her answers. The Bridge was unable to find a website or Facebook page related to her candidacy. Candidate answers are below, in alphabetical order.

Tell us about yourself and your priorities:

Melissa Battah (MB): I’m a mom, wife, community organizer, and nonprofit manager. I am chair of the board of the Good Samaritan Haven and volunteer with my son’s BYSA soccer team. I am committed to listen to the needs of our community and build on its foundations. We must establish safe and stable housing. We must ensure Vermont works for all and address racial disparities. Vermont must build a strong economy rooted in economic justice — a livable minimum wage including tipped workers; adjusting the education tax so that it is more equitable; and promoting climate justice jobs.

Francis Topper McFaun (FTM): I have spent my working life in Vermont with my wife and three children, who grew up, went to school, and now live in Vermont. My career in public service started with building the first Neighborhood Youth Corps employment program in the country, then as director of the Office of Economic Opportunity, assistant director of the Office of Manpower Services, then I directed the Barre and White River offices of the Department of Labor. I retired and was elected to the state legislature where I serve on the Human Services Committee. I have served as a volunteer on many Barre Town and community boards.

What are your thoughts about Proposition 5 (a proposal to amend the Vermont Constitution to ensure every Vermonter is afforded personal reproductive liberty, which will be on the ballot for all voters in November)?

MB: All Vermonters have the right to make choices regarding their own medical decisions. We must continue to protect and fight for the rights of all Vermonters regarding this. I believe support for Prop 5 ensures that every person who lives in our state will be able to make such decisions.

FTM: Proposition 5 embeds a woman’s ability to control her reproductive health care in the Vermont Constitution. Proposition 5 has gone through the legislative process with strong favorable support and now is in the hands of Vermont’s voters. It will be voted on November 6, 2022. An affirmative vote will make it part of the Vermont State Constitution. This past year contraception became free for all women in Vermont. I was the lead sponsor of the bill which was passed by the legislature in 2021 to remove that cost from Vermont women as they make reproductive health decisions.

Are there ways you’d like to see Vermont’s gun laws changed? 

MB: Children should not be afraid to go to school, and parents should not be afraid to put their children on the bus. We must be safe in our homes, our neighborhoods, and at work, without the constant threat of gun violence hanging over our heads. I believe support for the Second Amendment goes hand-in-hand with keeping the guns out of the hands of dangerous people.

FTM: I would like to see a special legislative committee look at federal and state gun laws and their enforcement, then make informed recommendations to the general assembly if necessary for any changes in existing laws.

Real estate prices in Vermont have increased significantly in the past couple of years, and the housing inventory is low; do you see a solution in the legislature to make homeownership affordable to Vermonters? 

MB: Decades of underfunding the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition and few new housing opportunities along with a global pandemic have brought our housing crisis to the surface. It will take time to build a robust housing market, one that is affordable for a spectrum of residents including our workforce. We must continue to provide access to immediate housing needs and support improvements for existing housing stock to make them more energy-efficient, safer for families, children, and those with disabilities.

FTM: Act 181 and Act 182 show the legislature has taken very important steps to expand access to safe and affordable purchased and rental housing including: 

  • Authorization and funding for VHFA to provide grants to first-generation homebuyers.
  • Funding for manufactured home repair and replacement.
  • Funding for a missing middle-income homeownership development pilot program.
  • Improve access to homeownership for Vermonters from historically marginalized or disadvantaged communities.
  • Streamlining the Act 250 exemption for priority housing projects.
  • Monitoring and evaluating the implementation of Act 182 [Home ownership] and Act 181 [rental housing safety issues] needs to be done before developing new legislation on affordable homeownership.

What’s the most important thing you can do as a state representative related to climate change?

MB: I want to leave the Earth in better condition for my children and future generations. Ensuring our energy dollars are kept in-state by weaning our economy off fossil fuels and generating more of Vermont’s energy locally would be a start. This will not only help address climate change but also strengthen our state’s economic future. 

TFM: Help develop climate solutions that are reasonable, realistic, affordable, and produce measurable results in Vermont’s unique environment.