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Tuesday October 10, 2006 Edition
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Getting To Know The Candidates

Tuesday October 10, 2006

By Tammy White

    This year Vermonters are viewing one of the most aggressive Senate and House races in our state’s history. Arguably, more money is being plowed into the various campaigns than has been spent, cumulatively, in the past two hundred plus years. This is in stark contrast to the days of yore when Senator Aiken once apologized for spending the astonishing sum of $25.00 on his reelection campaign, most of which was used in purchasing stamps.

Bernie Sanders needs no introduction but his opponent for the Senate is a newcomer to the political arena.  Rich Tarrant’s website boasts that he is best known as the co-founder of one of Vermont’s largest businesses, IDX Systems, a Burlington based information technology company that specializes in healthcare applications. Growing up, Tarrant worked as a construction laborer making $60.00 a week, delivered soda cases, served as a day camp counselor and set pins at a bowling alley. Tarrant came to Vermont to attend St. Michael’s College on a basketball scholarship. After a successful career at St. Mike’s, leading the basketball team to the College Final Four in 1965, he was drafted by the Boston Celtics where he had the opportunity to play for the legendary coach, Red Auerbach.  

Since starting IDX, Tarrant has been immersed in the healthcare field, working to find ways to reduce paperwork, streamline administration and reduce healthcare costs in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom.

Today, IDX customers include 80% of America’s academic medical institutions, 150,000 doctors and over 300 hospitals. Tarrant has used his expertise in healthcare while serving as chairman of the Board of Trustees for the University Healthcare Center and as a director for Fletcher Allen Healthcare. He is also actively involved in his community having served as a member of a number of boards including the University of Vermont and Saint Michael’s College.

Martha Rainville, running for the House of Representative against Peter Welch, is also a new face on the hustings. Rainville posts an impressive resume serving as Adjutant General of the Vermont National Guard, becoming the first woman in the 370-year history of the country’s National Guard to serve as a state Adjutant General. In that position she commanded the 3,800 members of the Vermont Army and Air National Guard, as well as serving as the Commissioner of the Military Department, State of Vermont. She oversaw a combined federal and state budget in excess of $120 million with a full-time work force of some 900 state and federal employees.

Rainville is a 1979 graduate of the University of Mississippi with a Bachelor of Arts in Education. Following graduation she entered the United States Air Force and was named a Distinguished Graduate of the Air Force Officer Basic Military Training Program. Prior to her election as Adjutant General, she commanded the Aircraft Maintenance Squadron for five years. Additionally, Major General Rainville was appointed to serve on the Reserve Forces Policy Board, the principal advisory board to the Secretary of Defense and Congress on matters relating to the Reserve Components. She was elected Vice-Chair of the Board for Air National Guard of the National Guard Association of the United States and also served on the executive committee of the Adjutant Generals Association of the United States.

Her Democratic opponent, Peter Welch, has an equally impressive record. Welch  has had a distinguished career as a legislative leader, lawyer and advocate for the unrepresented. His record of accomplishment is large. His website for Congress shows that he was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1947, into a family of six children. Welch attended Holy Cross College. He graduated magna cum laude in 1969, after taking time off in his junior year to work with a Jesuit-led community organization in Chicago fighting racial discrimination in housing. He was then selected by the RFK Foundation and the Kennedy Family to be in the first class of Robert F. Kennedy Fellows. That award enabled Peter to continue working in Chicago to help families overcome discriminatory housing policies and to buy their own homes. He is a staunch civil rights advocate. After his year as a Kennedy Fellow in Chicago, Peter enrolled in law school at the University of California, Berkeley, where he worked in public interest law. After graduation he embarked on a six-month journey through Latin America, during which he gained an understanding of the effects of U.S.foreign policy on underdeveloped countries. He backpacked the length of the  Pan American Highway to Santiago, Chile, arriving just as President Salvador Allende was being overthrown. He then traveled to Salvador, Brazil, where he took a job on a freighter bound for Lisbon, Portugal. Upon his return to the U.S. Peter rejected an offer from a Wall Street law firm and settled in Vermont to practice law with the firm of Black and  Plante in White River Junction.

In 1980 Peter turned to electoral politics, becoming only the second Democrat ever elected to represent Windsor County in the Vermont State Senate. When he was reelected in 1982, Democrats chose Peter to be their Minority Leader, and in 1985, under a Democratically dominated legislature, Peter was unanimously elected by his colleagues to serve as President Pro Tem of the Vermont Senate, becoming the first Democrat to ever hold this leadership position. He was reelected President Pro Tem in 1987.


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