- The Washington Times - Monday, October 20, 2008

ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. | There’s only one thing missing from Thomas Salmon’s re-election campaign - Thomas Salmon.

Serving in Iraq with the U.S. Naval Reserve, the Vermont state auditor isn’t allowed to participate in his campaign because of a Pentagon ban on politicking by active-duty members of the military.

And his absence from the three-way race has made for a curious campaign, prompting one rival to pass up the race, two others to wage halfhearted campaigns, and Mr. Salmon’s wife, campaign manager and father to act as his surrogate.

“It is a very bizarre situation,” said his wife, Leslie Salmon.

Thomas Salmon, a 45-year-old Democrat whose father once served as governor, was elected state auditor in 2006. In military life, he’s a builder with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion No. 27, a Navy Seabees unit based in Brunswick, Maine.

He was notified about his yearlong deployment last May and shipped out a month later, leaving behind his wife and four children, his job as Vermont’s chief fiscal watchdog and his campaign for re-election.

The son of former Gov. Thomas Salmon, he won election to the $95,140-a-year job after surviving a four-way race that climaxed with a recount that declared him the winner over Republican Randy Brock.

But word of his deployment changed the complexion of the 2008 race even before it started.

Mr. Brock, who’d been mulling another run, backed off. “With Tom Salmon being deployed to a combat zone, I just did not feel it was at all appropriate to enter into a contest against someone in that situation,” said Mr. Brock, who is a Vietnam veteran.

With no Republican candidate in the race, Mr. Salmon got enough write-in votes in the Sept. 9 primary to earn that party’s designation on the Nov. 4 ballot, in addition to the Democratic label.

The two people who did decide to run, meanwhile, aren’t exactly running.

Martha Abbott, 58, of Underhill, a professional tax preparer who chairs the state’s Progressive Party, said she’ll put up some lawn signs but won’t raise money, print fliers or send campaign literature to homes - out of deference to Mr. Salmon, since he can’t campaign.

That’s not to say she doesn’t want votes or that Mr. Salmon’s absence isn’t fair game. She thinks he should have stepped down and run again once he was back.

“While I admire Tom Salmon for not trying to get out of his commitment to the military, which he very well might’ve been able to do, I admire that he’s decided not to do that and to just serve, like any ordinary person.

“But I do think it’s a lot to ask for the people of Vermont to not have an auditor for a whole year. Either we need one, to the tune of $95,000 a year, or we don’t,” she said.

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