Dregs of the Ballot: The Essex Brigade

Three seats on the Essex-Westford School Board are up for grabs on April 12, and wouldn’t you know it, there’s a trio of stealth conservative candidates hiding their true agendas behind a thicket of bland rhetoric. It’s the usual stuff: Parental involvement, transparency, focus on basic education, financial responsibility, defusing “tension” and “divisive issues” in the schools.

This stuff is right out of the national conservative playbook: Right-wing candidates running for school board behind the same list of inoffensive ideas.

And concealing their true beliefs and agenda.

As I have before, I will state again: Conservatives have every right to run for any office. But they ought to be transparent about who they are and what they believe. When they hide their true selves, they are subverting the electoral process — and tacitly admitting that they can’t win if they are open about their agenda.

The three hopefuls from Essex and Essex Town all have military backgrounds. Two of them are people of color. Great, a little diversity — but only in heritage, not in platform.

The election is nonpartisan, but the Essex Republican committee has endorsed them and referred to them as “our candidates.” This is the committee that thinks the civic embarrassment Liz Cady is a peachy keen school trustee.

The gent on the left is Earl Barber, the least stealthy of the three. On his campaign website he says that “Parents should be able to view everything possible that is presented to their child.” This includes curricula, lesson plans, handouts, topics of discussion and surveys. In fact, he calls for any student survey to be sent to parents at least one month in advance to “give parents the opportunity to have their child opt out.” He accuses the district of asking “invasive and sexually explicit questions” of children.

Barber code-talks his way around hot-button topics like critical race theory and the Black Lives Matter flag, but his intent is clear. “If adults outside the school district cannot agree on a topic, then it should not be present within our school walls,” he writes. That would make for an awfully insipid and incomplete education.

And then he throws a low blow at socially-engaged kids: “Students seem able to protest or rally about any issue at any time without any consequence. What student wouldn’t want to get out of a class and hang out with friends when there is no consequence?”

Yeah, they don’t give a damn about climate change or racial equity. They just want to play hooky and “hang out with friends.”

Barber has a Facebook page, but it contains absolutely nothing besides a picture of his family. Did he scrub it before he became a candidate? Don’t know, but i have my suspicions.

The middle man is Juan Coleman, a.k.a. Juanny Juan (per his Instagram feed). Coleman is a recruiter for the Vermont Air National Guard and an earnest young man who occasionally lets the curtain slip. Like during a candidate forum hosted by Rights & Democracy, where he closed a content-free answer with a quote from “the great Jordan Peterson.”

Uh, Juanny? Peterson is the deeply conservative and controversial psychologist who has said that white privilege doesn’t exist, that being transgender is the result of a “contagion” and is similar to “satanic ritual abuse,” that gender identity shouldn’t be protected under antidiscrimination laws, and that the #MeToo movement has demonized all men when only a handful are guilty.

“The great Jordan Peterson.”

Otherwise, Coleman sticks to the script. He emphasizes basic education; in the forum, he called for a back-to-the-basics approach — which he defined as “reading, writing, arithmetic, math, and science.”

Arithmetic and math!

Here’s the kicker. Coleman announced his candidacy at a December Town Hall organized by, you guessed it, Liz Cady. His speech was pretty bland, but Cady regaled the very conservative crowd by attacking critical race theory and the Black Lives Matter flag, and St. Johnsbury school trustee Renold Northrup talked about condoms in schools and “obscene sex surveys” in middle schools.

The man on the right is Roger Drury, who has a minimalist campaign website and almost no other traces in the digital sphere. Drury’s public language is deliberately muddled and includes all the stealth-candidate buzzwords: Transparency, communication with parents, fiscal responsibility, “equity should not be divisive.”

But… Drury and his wife signed an anti-CRT petition that circulated in the community, and someone who knows Drury tells me that he and his wife are staunch anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers.

And he’s on a ticket endorsed by the Essex Republicans. You’re known by the company you keep, as they say.

I appreciate these men’s service to our country, and credit their willingness to run for public office. But I want them to have the courage and honesty to present their real views to the voters instead of hiding behind a cloud of doublespeak. The people of Essex and Essex Town deserve nothing less.


16 thoughts on “Dregs of the Ballot: The Essex Brigade

  1. gunslingeress

    We need diversity not only in ethnicity, but in THOUGHT and political perspective. Conservative Vermonters are tired of conservative candidates being tarred and feathered by the liberal media because they are not “woke” enough for you. Why is it okay for liberals to disguise themselves as centrists or even moderates by using conservative rhetoric which disguises their true agenda until they are elected, but not okay for conservatives to use the same playbook? Hmmm? My personal feeling is that candidates ought to tell the voters truthfully where they stand on issues, and let the voters decide. Most of the Democrats and Progressives running for office in Vermont do not tell voters how radical their real agenda is. We have seen it over and over. You use SUCH a double standard when talking about Republican candidates vs. Democratic candidates. Liberal candidates are masters of doublespeak. Your criticism needs to be equally aimed at both sides, not just the side you disagree with.

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      Oh, you got me! I am cut to the quick! Seriously, though: Show me an example of a liberal candidate who camouflages themselves as much as all these stealth conservatives. Who, by the way, are reading from a big-money national playbook on how to get elected to local offices without revealing your true self. You may THINK the liberals are camouflaging their, I don’t know, allegiance to George Soros or baby-harvesting operations or whatever you imagine to be going on, but actually they’re pretty straightforward. They want things like help for the needy, giving the working poor a safety net and advancement opportunities, health care and housing for all, climate action, parental and family leave, a higher minimum wage, stuff they talk about CONSTANTLY. If you think that’s a radical agenda, well, all I can say is you’re the radical.

      1. Ryan Greene

        Apparently you have never spoke to any of these candidates to confirm their agendas, as a journalist you are supposed to be an unbiased individual and write facts, not your made up opinions of candidates goals…
        Don’t be such so blind and stop being a complete liar and trouble maker. You obviously only wrote this poorly written article out of pure speculation and your own opinion.. this is true liberal media

      2. John S. Walters Post author

        No, I have never “spoke” to them because I’M WRITING COMMENTARY HERE, NOT JOURNALISM. I’ve done both in my life and I know the difference.

      3. John S. Walters Post author

        No, I have “never spoke” to them because I’M WRITING COMMENTARY HERE, NOT JOURNALISM. I’ve done both in my lifetime and I know the difference.

      4. gunslingeress

        John, here’s a perfect example of liberal leftists of the Democratic and Progressive persuasions in Vermont hiding their real intentions from the people . . . and not telling people where they really stand on issues. Look back at the candidates for the 2019-2020 legislative session. Please show me one media release or speech by a Democrat or Progressive telling their voters, “If you elect me, I plan to support and vote for legislation that will allow abortion up to the moment of birth in Vermont, and I will do it by changing the Vermont Constitution to say such, even though no other state has such language in their State Constitution.” No. They simply say, “I’m pro-choice.” or “I support a woman’s right to choose.” Sounds innocuous enough. Just bland politico-speak. Nowhere can you find approx. 100 Democratic and Progressive candidates having the cojones to tell people how radical they really are BEFORE the election. And as for the few Republicans who voted for this horrible legislation after it was introduced by the Dems and Progs, when did you EVER tell the Republicans who supported you how radical you were? You are even worse than the Dems and Progs. You totally betrayed your own Party’s state and national platforms. No wonder voters are disgruntled. Also, I am still waiting for a Vermont legislative candidate to come out and tell voters blatantly: “I am a Democratic Socialist and if you vote for me I will vote for the Socialist agenda every chance I get.” Nope. Bernie basically does that, but I can’t think of any other Vermont politician who is that honest with his/her voters. At least with Bernie you know where he stands and you can vote for that agenda if you wish. The others hide behind euphemistic rhetoric.

      5. John S. Walters Post author

        Well, see, you think all Dems and Progs are socialists. They’re NOT. If you think so, you know nothing about socialism. As for the reproductive rights amendment, the Dems and Progs are constantly talking about it. They don’t frame it in your chosen language because they don’t agree with your interpretation of the bill. But they’re not hiding anything.

  2. Caitlin Gregory

    First, your comment: “Two of them are people of color. Great, a little diversity — but only in heritage, not in platform.“

    That is so racist. So they aren’t diverse enough for you because they don’t agree with you politically? Awful. You remind me of when Biden said, “ If you don’t vote for me you ain’t black.” Direct quote. You are ignorant.

    Second, parents should absolutely be able to see what their kids are learning. It’s actually a law, that every parent has the legal right to see what their kids are learning. If a parent wants every single piece of paper shown to them, by law they have too. It’s our parental right. Do you even know our rights legally? I do. Go talk to a lawyer. In fact, you go your constitution. Our beautiful constitution that these men fought for!

    Third, so because someone doesn’t have a Facebook page they must be hiding something? I know several people who have created a page and never use it. Facebook has become so awful and aggressive. Many adults don’t even has one at all. So that’s hiding something? Dumb.

    Fourth, CRT is the corner stone for the Equity program at EWSD. Said truly by Erin McGuire the Equtiy director. CRT is and was created by and for LAW SCHOOL students by a Communist. It says everything is about race. Not financial status. Culture. Background. Just race. It’s a racist agenda. Know your information. It’s a divisive agenda that should stay out of school systems. Period. Not taught to preschoolers. Not to to any child. Kids aren’t polite ponds. Period.

    Fifth, this whole anti vax, anti mask is bs. Masks do not work. CDC admitted it on their website they don’t stop anything. Go look it up. Go to the store and pick up any packaging of masks, and it states “non medical” and “will not stop the spread of Covid -19.” It’s common sense. It should be someone’s choice , not the governments to put something on someone’s OWN BODY. I am a women. I stand for my body my choice. In every aspect. Do you?!

    As for the anti vax. That is the dumbest name calling I’ve ever heard. Many people who are “ anti-vax” as you like to name call, are vaxxed since childhood, including myself. I did not receive this vaxxine because it is not 100% safe. So all of a sudden a person is anti vax because they don’t feel comfortable taking it? What a ignorant comment. Awful.

    You should be ashamed with this “article.” I bet you haven’t even talked to anyone of these Candidates and know their background or personal life. You scream “ equality” and “ unity” but you are not doing that. You are hypercritical. Please look up the definition.

    Also, weren’t you fired from Seven Days and The VTdigger? What a joke. Get a life. In fact get information that’s actually true and accurate and stop speaking this hate and division! I am 1000% voting for those three! And so are many others are as well. We are fed up with this division and political agenda! These 3 men could care less what someone political background is. They care about kids! They are about education first! And that’s what a school board should focus on! Eduction! Not politics!

  3. Owen

    Love the unamed source. Just a low brown opinion piece trying to disguise itself in journalistic sheep’s clothing! Unfortunately you young writers have very few good examples of what real journalism looks like. You should pick weather you want to be an opinion writer or a journalist. People will not respect your writing if try to straddle both. Good luck!

  4. P.

    John, if I may use your first name, you missed a wonderful compliment of being called a young writer. /snark.
    The simplest of searches reaffirmed you have some years at this writing thing. I, for one, think you’re the current best at pointing out Vermont’s political shenanigans. Thank you.
    To the wall of text replies, nobody going to read that swiss cheese logic. Maybe cut down on the caffeine. Maybe take some time out of your comfort zone and in the real world. Maybe research before you wild out over a commentary blog.
    Sad sad all storm and fury, signifying nothing.

  5. gunslingeress

    John, my criticism stands. The Dems and Progs NEVER told the voters in 2019 when they ran for office what they really intended to do if elected. They never said they would pass legislation to try to insert truly radical leftist language into the Vermont Constitution. You deflected my comments by criticizing something that was NOT the main point of the comments I wrote. I said that liberals hide their true intentions from voters by using innocuous language and euphemisms. If they truly told voters what their real intentions were, they could never be elected. So they run on moderate-sounding language and euphemisms and then when they are elected they enact full-on Socialist legislation. Socialism is not just about economics. It is an entire agenda. And social/moral radicalism is part of it. Why are you surprised? Vermont is the least religious state in the nation. Something has to step in to fill the void when we kick God out. As in many Communist and Socialist countries, what takes the place of God is the STATE. That is exactly what is happening in Vermont. Our legislators (the large majority of them) are not running with the best interests and concerns of VERMONTERS in mind. They are imposing a radical, globalist, Socialist agenda on our small state. They are enacting the agendas of the UN and NGOs and radical environmental groups. We ordinary Vermonters are not being asked for our input. In fact, transparency in the last thing on this Legislature’s mind, except for a minority. You criticized political candidates on the right for hiding their true intentions, while giving the political candidates on the left a pass. We Vermonters see the double standard at work. As I said before, people ought to tell voters exactly where they stand, and not use political doublespeak or euphemisms. Tell the truth and let the voters decide with honest information. And finally, you say not all Dems and Progs in the legislature are Socialists. Please name one conservative piece of legislation they have passed since 2019. And I do mean conservative. There is no balance whatsoever in the Vermont Legislature. It is mostly a collection of leftists who are running wild with our state and its people. They are representing a Socialist globalist agenda and not Vermonters. They have a totally elitist attitude that they know best what we ordinary people need. And we’d better like it or else.

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      Nope. Ask any leftist if the Legislature represents a “Socialist globalist agenda” (whatever the hell that is) and you’ll get a belly laugh. People on the left think the Leg is a creature of the middle.


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