|Articles on Tony
This article by Bethany M. Dunbar of the Newport Chronicle, appeared on October 24, 2007.
O'Connor announces his campaign for governor
Tony O'Connor is running for governor. His father-in-law came up with a slogan for him: "I haven't got a leg to stand on, but I'm running anyway."
It's literally true. More than that, it reflects his sense of humor and attitude about life.
Mr. O'Connor is a triple amputee. He lost two legs and an arm in an electrical accident in his youth. But he has never let this stop him from doing anything — especially if people told him he couldn't.
Mr. O'Connor retired in January after 25 years in law enforcement. He was a U.S. Immigration officer, and retired from the North Troy port of entry. He is married, has children, built his own house, served as a VISTA volunteer, plays golf and raquetball, is a dedicated Civil War historian, and runs a book business from his home.
Even though it's early — the election is in November 2008 — he's already thought a lot about some of the issues and has some fresh ideas for Vermonters to consider. Hydro power should be a much bigger part of the energy future of Vermont, he said. "We put a man on the moon, we can't satisfy the fish over the dam?"
Our relations with Quebec should be enhanced, he said. There are eight million people in Quebec. If each of them came to Vermont and spent only $100, that would be a huge boost to the economy.
Doctors who agree to stay in general pratice should have their first $250,000 of income tax free, and their first $250,000 of property taxes. In return, they should charge just $20 per short, basic visit and be free of paperwork from insurance companies. The general practitioner should be protected from lawsuits for this basic care.
Mr. O'Connor also believes that the state should completely change its priorities for law enforcement. Marijuana should be decriminalized (not completely legalized). Drug addictions should be treated as a sickness more than a crime, which might free up police to solve real crime such as rapes, murders, and kidnapping.
Law enforcement officers should remember their old protect and serve motto, Mr. O'Gonnor believes. Customs and Border Protection goes by the acronym CBP. Mr. O'Connor says lately that seems to stand for Can't Be Polite. He said that 90 to 95 percent of the CBP officers are people who treat the public with respect. But that other 5 to 10 percent think that border guards is spelled G-O-D-S. He said he knows of border guards who get up in the morning and say to themselves, "I'm going to make at least three people's lives hell today."
"That attitude is increasing," he said, adding that he had a run-in with TSA in an airport that helped inspire him to run for office. Mr. O'Connor described the incident in a three-page letter to Senator Patrick Leahy, Senator Bernie Sanders, Congressman Peter Welch, Delta Airlines, TSA, President George Bush and a number of media outlets.
On September 7 he was strip searched by TSA — and almost had to undergo that humiliation twice in less than an hour. "I do not disagree with checking me because the rivets that hold my legs on set it off," he said about the metal detector. He showed the officers his artificial leg by pulling up his pant leg a bit, and they decided to check him further. He said that seemed logical, but he thought that some consideration would be made for the fact that he had just retired after being trusted for 25 years of watching the Canadian border for the U.S. government.
"They said, and I quote: 'We are not allowed to use judgment.'" Not only was he stripped, he had to take off his leg so the officers could swab inside it, then he was given a complete pat down search as well. After all that, his flight was canceled because something went wrong with the plane door. If a higher level inspector had not heard Mr. O'Connor's protests about going through the entire process again, he would have been put through the same humiliating strip search twice in an hour. He says judgment needs to 'return to law enforcement. He added that while guarding the border for 25 years, he rarely had to draw his weapon. Once he had a weapon drawn on him from a man in a car, but it turned out to be a video camera made to look like a gun. Mr. O'Connor drew his weapon and dropped to his knees. The fellow was a tourist who immediately threw the camera-gun out the window and begged not to be shot. Mr. O'Connor obliged.
Mr. O'Connor is running as an independent.
“I’ve been a conservative Republican all my life," he said. But one day he woke up and realized the party had moved too far away from his values. "I'm not a Democrat. I'm not a Republican. I'm me. I'm a Vermonter."