Vermont Coffee Company owner Paul Ralston and dairy farmer Marie Audet both announced Monday that they’re running for state Senate in Addison County as independents. Their entry creates the potential for a hotly contested race in the two-seat district.
Running as a ticket, Audet and Ralston will challenge two Democrats — incumbent Chris Bray and Ruth Hardy, the former executive director of Emerge Vermont, which trains women to run for office — and Republican Peter Briggs, vice-chair of the Addison Selectboard.
Sen. Claire Ayer (D-Addison) announced in May that she wouldn’t run for reelection.
Ralston is no stranger to politics. He served four years as a Democrat in the Vermont House before stepping down in 2014 to focus on his business. The New Haven resident considered returning to politics in 2016 and even hosted a radio show called "The Reluctant Politician" to explore the possibility.
Ralston, who describes himself as a fiscal conservative and supporter of Gov. Phil Scott, said he decided to run as an independent because, "I wanted to be focusing on policies and principles, and not on party."
Audet, by contrast, is making her first bid for public office. She and her family own Blue Spruce Farm, a large dairy farm in Bridport. An early adopter of methane digesters, the farm provides power to several hundred homes, including Ralston's.
“This has been a lifetime coming,” said Audet, who identified a strong economy and affordability as priorities.
"We are all running against a party establishment and that party has a lot of resources," Ralston said of the decision to run as a ticket. "Together, we can be more time- and cost-effective."