Blog - Rights and Democracy

What Comes Once a Year & is Really RAD?

What could be better than a room full of people who care about making change in their communities?

Join Rights & Democracy (RAD) and the Monadnock (NH) Progressive Alliance (MPA) for the bistate RAD Member Assembly and MPA People Power Summit on Saturday, September 22!

We’ll be gathering at the Keene Middle School, in Keene, NH, and everyone who believes in our work is welcome, whether or not you are a current member.

Together, we will:

  • Reflect on the work we've done in the past year in New Hampshire and Vermont;
  • Celebrate legislative, community, and electoral victories; and,
  • Give awards to members who have been integral in building our movement.

RAD members will get to vote for our board leadership, however everyone who attends can:

  • Caucus by state to guide our upcoming work in preparation for the 2020 elections; and,
  • Attend two workshop blocks related to skill building and action strategies.

Keep watch in your inbox and on RAD’s social media for details about these amazing workshops and other special details about this important annual assembly.

RSVP Today!

Not a member yet?!  Consider becoming one:

  • You’ll help fund community based progressive organizing that stays rooted in our communities, our needs, and vision;
  • You’ll help us research and advance progressive policy at the state house, have a team of community organizers around Vermont and New Hampshire, organize and offer trainings in your community, help elect leaders that will champion our vision, outreach to you and others about time sensitive actions;
  • You’ll vote for our Board of Directors at our 2018 Member Assembly, Saturday, September 22nd in Keene, NH; and,
  • As a member, you can run for the Board of Directors. Contact Alison Nihart at to learn more about this opportunity.

How to Become a Member:

  • Donate online, or send in a check to Rights & Democracy, 70 S. Winooski Ave, #205, Burlington, VT 05401.
  • Suggested membership is $120 annually/$10 a month.  All donation sizes welcome. Give at the level you can.
  • And/or, join an issue or statewide leadership team.
  • And/or, take action with Rights & Democracy four times a year.

Thank you for your support of building the progressive movement in New Hampshire and Vermont! See you on September 22 in Keene!

There will be an after party at Margaritas in Keene as well. Join us for the entire day or for the parts of the program you attend!

Who Won? Vermont Won!

Did you see the exciting primary results?

Thank you to everyone who made calls, sent texts, knocked on doors and whatever else it took to support our Rights & Democracy (RAD) endorsed candidates in their inspired victories Tuesday night!

Of the 12 contested primaries in which RAD endorsed a candidate—10* of them won!


So, what's next? We NEED YOU TO VOLUNTEER to ensure that these candidates win again in November. We have a list of ways in which you can help - from a little to a lot - so sign up today!

Here is our full list of winning primary candidates last night:


State Senate

We also endorsed Ashley Hill for Washington County Senate, who ended up fourth out of six candidates (only three can move forward to the November ballot). Thank you for running Ashley!

In Chittenden County, Debbie Ingram, Michael Sirotkin, and Chris Pearson easily won their primaries and will be join the other three incumbents from the district and will be on the ballot in November.

State House

Will you look at that ... ALL of our RAD-endorsed House candidates won their primaries! How about them apples?!


  • In the Bennington County State's Attorney race, our endorsed candidate for in the Democratic primary—Arnie Gottlieb—unofficially finished within 136 votes of incumbent Democrat; and it's possible there will be a recount. Arnie ran a strong first-time campaign and forced a critical analysis and debate about who we prosecute and who we steer to receive treatment. Well done Arnie! He simultaneously filed to run as an Independent for November, so his campaign will march on!

If you want to know who to work for as we head toward November, you can check out our full list of endorsed candidates here.

A Rights & Democracy (RAD) endorsement is a signal that a candidate is already a community leader on the issues that reflect RAD’s values and will champion those causes in the Legislature.

In the statewide elections of 2016, RAD endorsed 37 candidates and 20 won their elections, including Attorney General T.J. Donovan, Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, State Senators Debbie Ingram and Chris Pearson, and State Representatives Selene Colburn, Brian Cina, Kiah Morris, and Cindy Weed. RAD recommended an additional 12 candidates for election, and of those 7 won.

These leaders, in turn, were the strongest champions of bills to raise the minimum wage, tackle climate change and our polluted water, enact paid family leave, and combat racial injustice.

To help support our work electing the kinds of candidates who will champion our issues, consider becoming a monthly sustaining member.

* The Bennington County State's Attorney race is still too close to call, and our endorsed candidate Arnie Gottlieb will run as an independent on the November ballot.

How We Get Clean Water for All

In 2016 North Bennington residents found the toxic chemical PFOA in their drinking water wells. Over the past two years we have spoken with thousands of neighbors across the state only to hear that far too many of them have experienced drinking water contamination issues.  Vermont has a total of 1,377 active public water systems, 97% of these are small community systems. Recently Rights & Democracy program director, Johanna de Graffenreid, toured the largest drinking water treatment facility in the state. Whether it’s job training, increased climate resilience, or improved testing and safeguards from toxic contamination; Vermonters deserve clean drinking water.


Chemicals & Cyanobacteria

The South Burlington Water Treatment Facility (SBWT) serves approximately 75,000 Vermonters and 12 municipal systems. The staff tests for cyanobacteria, PFAs, pharmaceuticals and personal care products, and other known contaminants.  SBWT is renowned for their advanced testing for future or potential hazards in drinking water before it’s officially required. However, they are open about the fact that very few other systems also test for cyanobacteria and that for most of our systems only 74 chemicals out of over 86,000 used in the U.S. are required for any sort of testing.  

Rights &  Democracy’s Clean Water for All campaign is demanding that industry disclose chemicals they use to the public in a clear way, and that state regulators set strong standards on known toxics in our drinking water.


Lead & Infrastructure

In 1991 the EPA came out with new regulations about lead and copper pipes. Water systems across the country have been using zinc orthophosphate since the 1960’s and in recent decades it’s been used to negate the impacts of lead or copper from pipes leaching into drinking water. In Flint, MI when the drinking water system switched to a new intake they completely wiped out their ability to negate the lead & copper in the pipes of their residents. This is because the additive takes approximately two months to work effectively.

To ensure that the public is safe, the SBWT staff have a mini-home system called “Bill & Bob”.  The Bill & Bob system replicates a home drinking water system and tests to make sure that water coming out of our taps is safe from lead & copper. RAD asked the staff on site if other systems around the state, especially those that serve small communities in Vermont, were using similar technology.  A simple “no” from SBWT staff was the response.

Our drinking water infrastructure needs serious work, and our small scale systems must start testing to protect us from lead poisoning.


Climate Resiliency

During Hurricane Irene, communities across the state faced power outages and impacts from contaminated flood waters to their drinking water sources. With over 10 percent of Vermont’s population served by the SBWT facility, RAD was curious about the level of climate resiliency in our drinking water systems. While SBWT is better than most systems across the state, with 19 storage tanks and 6 remote pump systems, SBWT staff told RAD that there is currently  only 1 day of emergency water in the system. That means if a power loss or contaminant release causes the intake to shut down, 12 municipalities would have only 1 day of drinking water on hand until repairs can be made.

(Johanna de Graffenreid, JJC Program Director, in front of an on-site storage facility)

If water sits in tanks for days or weeks on end, the water can go stale, leaving our system vulnerable to contamination. It’s up to each local municipality to add local storage tanks in order to meet the particular emergency needs of their community.  

We need public financing and a tax system where all neighbors pay their fair share to finance and build additional infrastructure so our drinking water systems are prepared for the impacts of extreme weather.


Job Training

Staff at SBWT have a Bachelors of Science in Environmental Science and go on to earn their Public Water System Operator certification. The only state requirements for certification are a high school diploma or GED, followed by an exam and several years of experience in water treatment. Most systems have volunteer operators or pay for a consultant to make sure that the systems are working like they’re supposed to. With knowledge of new and emerging contaminants, like unknown chemicals (including unregulated pesticides) - and the impacts of climate change on our drinking water systems - RAD supports additional funding of technical & community college programs that will better prepare our operators for emergencies and promote local, good-paying jobs.



Rights & Democracy will launch the next phase of our Clean Water for All campaign in October of 2018 with the goal of taking  willing volunteers, training them in organizing skills, and hosting community-led education events for their neighbors to build broad public support for improving drinking water infrastructure and quality in Vermont.

Become a member by donating here, or sign up to become a RAD community leader here.  Email Johanna at for more information.

PS: You can learn more about drinking water systems across the state on the Department of Environmental Conservation’s website.


RAD Members Endorse 2018 Candidates

Rights & Democracy is announcing its member-endorsed candidates for 2018!

These candidates were endorsed by an electronic ballot sent to nearly 500 active members of Rights & Democracy Vermont.

A Rights & Democracy endorsement is a signal that a candidate is already a community leader on the issues that reflect RAD’s values and will champion those causes in the Legislature. A RAD endorsement comes with the expectation that elected candidates will work with RAD members on legislation of shared interest to their community. In that way, it’s more than just an election year activity—it’s the start (or continuation) of a working relationship.

RAD contacted all declared candidates to alert them to our endorsement process and how they could apply for an endorsement. First, they had to fill out a questionnaire and their responses were reviewed by RAD’s Movement Politics Committee. The Committee then forwarded the names of candidates to voting members.

In the coming weeks, RAD will send out more information on how to get involved in the campaigns of these candidates—either to donate money, canvass in their districts, organize events, register voters, and all that is needed to help them win their primary (if they have one) or in November.

Read more

RAD Brings a Real American Hero to Vermont & New Hampshire Aug 10-11

Be A Hero Tour with Ady Barkan


AUG 10

Organizing for Health Care Justice and a Stronger Democracy 
with Ady Barkan and Special Guest Senator Bernie Sanders 
12pm - 2pm, Latchis Theater, 50 Main Street, Brattleboro 
Organizing for Health Care Justice and a Stronger Democracy 
with Ady Barkan and Special Guest Senator Bernie Sanders 
4pm - 5:30pm,   StPeter's Episcopal Church. 200 Pleasant St, Bennington
Organizing for Health Care Justice and a Stronger Democracy 
with Ady Barkan, Special Guests Senator Bernie Sanders, Mari Cordes 
7pm - 9pm, Bristol American Legion,  56 Airport Dr, Bristol

AUG 11

Be A Hero Claremont! Rally and Canvass Kickoff with Ady Barkan
10am - 1pm (w/canvass), Broad Street Park, Broad St. Claremont
Manchester Stands Up For Health Care! Rally with Ady Barkan
12:30pm - 1:30pm  City Hall Plaza, Manchester
Be A Hero Rochester! Rally and Canvass Kickoff with Ady Barkan
2:30pm - 6:00pm (w/canvass), Rochester Commons, 4 Gonic Rd.

Ady Barkan has been a hero in my mind for a long time.

Before he began his battle with ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and started touring across the country with a mission to fight for health care justice and restore democracy to our country.

Before he started asking all of us to be heroes, to get out and rally, and get out on doors to turn the tide in this year’s midterm elections.

Before he famously confronted Senator Jeff Flake last year about his vote on the Republican tax bill, and joined Rights & Democracy (RAD) members and our counterparts all over the country to go to Washington, DC and fight the corruption in Congress and stand up for our rights to health care and economic security.

That's why I'm excited for Rights & Democracy (RAD) to host him in Vermont and New Hampshire for Bistate Be a Hero tour.

I started working with Ady back in 2013, when in his role at the Center For Popular Democracy (CPD) he was supporting early efforts to win paid sick days in Vermont—which we won in 2016! I found him to be a brilliant strategist who had a strong handle on the big picture of what was important.

He helped start two programs that he directed, Local Progress and the Fed Up Campaign. Local Progress is a powerful network of hundreds of progressive local elected officials from across the country who are committed to advancing economic prosperity, equal justice under law, livable and sustainable communities, and good government that serves the public interest.  Fed Up is a national campaign that focuses on two critical issues, pushing for full employment and a reformed Federal Reserve.  

I believe Ady is a national treasure. He is using his brilliance and an unbelievable amount of determination to fight for a better country until his last breath. I'm so proud we can help him finish his powerful nationwide Be a Hero tour that started in the West Coast and ends in Northern New England.

In Vermont, come join Ady, special guest Senator Bernie Sanders and hundreds of RAD members across the state to be part of the movements for health care justice and creating a stronger democracy.

In New Hampshire he will be help inspire us to get out and knock on tens of thousands of doors to build our democracy to reverse the attacks on health care programs and the massive tax cuts for billionaires.

Please watch these two videos of a father, an organizer and a leader who inspires us all to be heroes. #BeAHero.

VIDEO: Ady Barkan is asking YOU to #BeAHero

VIDEO: Ady Barkan is Still Rallying the Nation Despite Dying from ALS



RAD's First Crop of Endorsed Candidates for 2018

We are excited to announce the first crop of endorsed candidates—from US Senator to Vermont House of Representatives—for the 2018 elections!

These 17 candidates were endorsed by a vote of the Rights & Democracy (RAD) Board of Directors to show support for candidates who have championed key legislative issues such as raising the minimum wage, workers’ rights, universal health care, and racial equity, among other top concerns facing Vermont communities and families.

Several of these candidates were backed by RAD in 2016 and not only won their election, but pushed hard for legislation that improves the lives of Vermonters.

“A Rights & Democracy endorsement is a signal that a candidate is a leader on the issues that reflect RAD’s values,” said Alison Nihart, Co-Chair of the Rights & Democracy Board. “A RAD endorsement comes with the expectation that elected candidates will work with RAD on legislation of mutual interest. In that way, it’s more than just an election year activity—it’s the start (or continuation) of a working relationship.”

If you live in the district of one of these candidates—they need your help to win! That means volunteering time to door knock, hold house parties, and raise money. Contact the campaigns directly below, or email Elise Greaves, RAD's political engagement coordinator to see if RAD is doing any work in these districts.

Read more

Take Action: Stop Indefinite Internment of Families

I’m deeply terrified by the anti-immigrant fervor gripping America right now. Especially a recent remark made by President Trump. He said that our country is “infested” with immigrants. This is not a flippant choice of words. Like most of his rhetoric, it’s is deeply white supremacist, and is aimed at dehumanizing specific groups of people. That’s frightening enough. But what I find particularly terrifying about this most recent comment is the glimmer of intent behind it. How does one resolve an “infestation”? When we allow ourselves to see others as something less than human, that’s when all manner of horrors suddenly become justifiable possibilities.

The leap from internment to extermination is very much shorter than I think we’d all care to believe. And for those who call me an alarmist for saying so— who think that such a thing could never happen in America— I would remind you that it's already happened.

Children in America have been ripped from their parents and put in cages. The President has passed an executive order to supposedly stop the separations, but which actually allows for the indefinite detention of these families. There is no plan in place for reuniting the more than 2,000 children who’ve already been taken from their parents. The Trump Administration’s cruel and unnecessary “zero tolerance” policy remains in place.

Here, in Vermont, we've passed policies that speak to a sentiment of making our state a "sanctuary", which keep us from feeding into the hateful frenzy, and which provide aid and comfort to those seeking freedom and opportunity. 

There are lots of things you can do to help. Here are just a few:

Stop the Separation of Children Now!

My name is Kelly Mangan. I’m a member of Rights and Democracy, the chair of the Burlington Progressive Party, a mother of 2, and the wife of an immigrant.

I’m not an expert on immigration law or activism— there are a great many people far more knowledgeable than me who’ve spent years working on this important issue. But, as a parent I cannot live with the knowledge that our government is quite literally ripping babies from their mothers’ breasts, and children from their fathers’ arms.

Amazingly, people I know (most of them parents, all of them white) have said to me: “But they came here illegally,” as though that were a defense for what is being done to children and parents on our borders right now in our name. We know that many of these families did not, in fact, cross the border illegally, but presented themselves at the border asking for asylum. Still, they were arrested and their children taken away.

It doesn’t matter to me if they followed the “proper" procedures to seek asylum to enter the country. We should not criminalize people for seeking safety, freedom from oppression, and opportunity.  

Read more

Nina Turner to Keynote Whose Vermont? Our Vermont! Forums

It's time to build the people power necessary to see paid family leave, raising the minimum wage, clean water and energy, and racial equity and justice legislation enacted in the State House and signed into law.

Join Rights & Democracy (RAD) at three events next Friday and Saturday with Nina Turner of Our Revolution to hear what we can do to make a better future possible here in Vermont. (See RSVP and ticket information below!)

Because ... Whose Vermont? Our Vermont!

RAD is hosting two gubernatorial candidate events—one in Rutland and another in Bennington—on June 29th where members and local residents will ask direct questions of candidates running for the state’s highest office. These forums will provide folks the chance to ask questions that matter most to them and their community, and hear directly from candidates what they’ll do to tackle the most pressing issues facing them and their community.

Read more

What Issues are Most Important to You & Your Community?

Rights & Democracy has launched an exciting listening campaign to hear from people around Vermont—of diverse backgrounds and political viewpoints.

We are interested to learn more about you and your community's priorities for the future, like:

  • Do you worry about young people leaving small towns and rural communities?
  • Do you worry about the impact of the overdose crisis?
  • Do you worry about how people are  treated fairly?

We also ask you what we should be doing to address them so we can work with you on those issues in your community and across the state.

Take Our Community Survey!

Help us get there by taking the survey, passing it along to a friend or neighbor, and let us know if you'd like to host a forum in your community about this survey. It's a great way to have a quality conversation about the issues that matter most to your community, and how we can solve them—together.

Once we've collected your responses to the survey, we will share the results as part of an updated Vermont People’s Platform.

During the November midterm election, we (and you!) will encourage local candidates who champion this People’s Platform to run for office, and win, so they can best represent the issues that matter most to you.

Once again: That link to our survey.


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