By Erika Nichols-Frazer
The Valley Reporter has reached out to all Vermont candidates for U.S. Congress and Senate and will continue to interview those who respond in the coming weeks.
Sianay Chase Clifford (D) is running for the congressional seat being vacated by Peter Welch as he runs for the U.S. Senate.
“I’m running for Congress because I know what it’s like to grow up in this state and struggle,” Chase Clifford said. “I also understand from being a congressional staffer exactly what’s missing on the hill. If we had more folks down there [in Washington] that understood the real lived experience of our families and our communities that are struggling the most, we would see much faster and better movement on the policy issues that we know are so important to our communities -- housing, livable wages, health care, climate action.
“I understand the legislative process in a different way than I think other candidates might because I’ve crafted federal legislation. As a social worker I think I really understand the type of care and compassion that our communities need. Also, being a younger person and a born-and-raised Vermonter, I think we need new perspectives.”
Her top priorities if elected would be housing, health care and climate change.
“If we want to tackle any of the challenges we’re experiencing as a stat -- our workforce, our changing demographics, affordability issue s-- housing has to be at the core,” she said. “There’s a lot we need to do in tandem, working from a federal level with state municipalities, particularly on zoning and continuing to move the needle on Act 250 and get to a place where we’re building more downtowns and Main Streets. Making sure we’re fully funding our housing choice voucher programs, making sure that every family that needs rental assistance can get it so they can eventually buy a house and we don’t lose that dream of home ownership for our communities. I’m living it with my husband right now. It feels like something that’s far away and it shouldn’t be.
“If we don’t have a planet to live on, we can’t do those other things, so making sure we are making investments in the resiliency of our communities. Green New Deal, absolutely, and also making sure we make those investments in housing so people can afford to weatherize their homes and invest in wages so people have the money in their pockets to consume differently.”
She supports Medicare for All. Regarding reproductive rights, she said, “This is where I think we really need more disruptive politics. We need that disruptive energy that says, ‘We’re not going to vote on this until we pass the Women’s Health Protection Act.’ We’ve seen politics as usual continue to fail us, and we pass the buck to the Supreme Court, but we need Congress to legislate. What I would do is really try to fight to lobby the Speaker and build coalitions within the House and the Senate to say, ‘We need this vote immediately, what is the most strategic way we can get that done?’ Also getting rid of riders like the Hyde amendment, like the Helms amendment, like the Weldon amendment, which also reinforce the denial of reproductive rights throughout our legislative process.”
Asked about her stance on Universal pre-K, she said, “We need it. The science and the evidence is there that students thrive when they have this access; it’s helpful for families, it’s helpful for our entire communities. We desperately need a better child care infrastructure in which everyone has access to it and it’s affordable.” She recalled her parents regularly having to drive her from their home in Essex to Vergennes so her grandmother could care for her while they worked. “I know so many Vermont families and families across the country make those drives, make those same decisions.”
Regarding paid family leave, she said, “When people have to choose between caring for their loved ones and leaving the workforce altogether, it’s bad for our economy. During COVID, disproportionately women, disproportionately Black woman, have left the workforce because they had to leave to care for folks. It’s frustrating that even this hasn’t gotten done because this is something that basically everyone can get behind, and everyone has a connection to it. It’s really important that we think about paid family and medical leave in a systemic way.
“People in rural communities, I hope they see in me someone that’s committed to making a political system that works for everybody. I think about how we can support our farmers better in the farm bill. How do we have better infrastructure? How do we best bolster our water quality and work with farmers and folks in rural areas to make sure they have a seat at the table? Making sure we actually have Vermont farmers at the table to really inform what type of policy we need.”