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November 13, 2018

House shifts to the left

By Jim Harrison

Amid high turnout, likely fueled by the discourse in Washington and anti-Trump sentiment in Vermont, along with successful efforts of the Democrat/Progressives’ “get out the vote campaign,” the Vermont House made a shift to the left statewide.

While all the statewide incumbents were easily re-elected to new terms, there were some significant changes in the Vermont House. Republicans lost 10 seats and independents lost two – all going to Democrats and Progressives. The Democrats/Progressives now hold a super majority of 102 seats out of the 150 member House, which is enough to override gubernatorial vetoes if they vote as a block (two-thirds necessary to override a veto).

My own belief is just because you can override a gubernatorial veto, doesn’t necessarily mean you will. It is important to understand that governors have a larger microphone than the legislatures and more often than not, Vermonters tend to support their governor on issues, regardless of party affiliation.

However, legislative leaders may feel compelled to deliver to their supporters on issues like a $15 minimum wage, paid family leave, new environmental regulations and more. Scott may feel the need to seek a more collaborative approach on controversial issues and likewise with legislative leaders, in contrast to last session. Time will tell.

Among the Republican losses were several notable moderates: Kurt Wright of Burlington, Fred Baser of Bristol and Brian Keefe of Manchester. Additionally, Ed Read, an independent and small business owner in Fayston, was also among the election casualties last Tuesday.

Not sure what this all means, although political pundits in Vermont have opinions. Perhaps we will have a better understanding once the new legislative session begins in January.

Of the 2,214 votes cast in the Rutland-Windsor 1 District, 449 were by early or absentee ballot (20 percent). Clearly, there is a growing trend toward early voting, with almost 50 ballots filled out the day before alone.

The statewide margins of victory for the incumbents were largely in line with a VPR/VT PBS October poll.

Next time you see your town clerk, be sure to thank them for all they do at election time. Their name may not be on the ballot, but in my view, they, along with all the volunteer community members, JP’s and Select Board members helping out, are clearly the unsung heroes of the day. In addition to some long hours before and after Election Day, they often are at the town offices until midnight double-counting the tally and sending in the reports to the Secretary of State’s Office (as well as responding to those pesky candidates looking for results as soon as the polls close).

They also serve as the “cop on the beat” at the polling location, making sure candidates and petition requesters stay in the designated areas, answering countless questions on procedures, and more. They also need to be on their game and have the right answers. When Kevin’s owner (Kevin is a friendly yellow lab, who thinks he is just another family member) jokingly asked the town clerk about letting him vote, the quick reply was he was not on the voter checklist. When reminded that we now have same-day voter registration in place, again the town clerk came back with, his paw print was not on file. No voter fraud here!

Thank you Roberta Janoski, Nancy Gondella, Lucretia Wonsor, Nancy Robinson, assistant town clerks and all the volunteers helping out to make sure our elections are fair and open.

I look forward to doing my best for you in the new term as your representative. And schedule permitting, I am open to speaking with local groups in the district with legislative updates and perspective, such as the upcoming Killington-Pico Rotary dinner on November 28. Thank you!

You may reach me at JHarrison@leg.state.vt.us or my cell, 802-236-3001. Messages may also be left at the State House during the legislative session at 802-828-2228.

Jim Harrison, a Republican, was recently re-elected to a House seat, serving Chittenden, Killington, Mendon and Bridgewater.

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