Longtime Vermont political activist and perennial candidate Peter Diamondstone died Wednesday at his home in Dummerston surrounded by his family. Diamondstone was 82 years old.
The Brattleboro-area politician founded Vermont's Liberty Union Party in 1970 with like-minded activists who wanted to pull the Democratic Party to the left and stop the Vietnam War.
Diamondstone's wife, Doris Lake, said the Liberty Union platform was a good example of what her husband hoped for, a "world where people did more sharing and less killing."
Sen. Bernie Sanders, who began his political career as a member of the Liberty Union Party, said he first met Diamondstone more than 45 years ago, but hasn't had any "real contact" with Diamondstone for many years. Sanders spoke of the influence Diamondstone had on Vermont's political scene.
"Peter was a very independent thinker, unafraid to express his (often controversial) point of view on any subject," Sanders said in a statement Thursday. "As a result, he forced people to examine and defend their own positions. No small thing. In his own way, Peter played an important role in Vermont politics for many decades."
Sanders captured 6.1 percent of the vote for governor in 1976 as a Liberty Union candidate, but left the party the following year.
Diamondstone carried on, representing the Liberty Union Party by running against or debating almost every major Vermont politician who made a statewide bid over the past 40 years. Last November marked the first time in nearly four decades that he did not seek elected office.
Gov. Phil Scott issued a statement Thursday, offering his condolences to the Diamondstone family.
"He was very committed," Scott said. "I remember watching him on past debates through the years, before I was even interested in politics. I'm always impressed by those who continued to have a message that they really believe in."
Scott said he didn't know Diamondstone well, but believes he was committed to a "better Vermont," and said Diamondstone's persistence was "exemplary."
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