By Elizabeth Hewitt, VTDigger.org
With virtually every major statewide office in play this year, the elections also feature high turnover in both legislative bodies as some longtime lawmakers sought new offices or decided to retire.
After Tuesday’s primary, Aug. 9, both parties say they are optimistic about their legislative lineups for the general election.
“We have great candidates, and we will pick up seats — some in areas you might not expect,” Jeff Bartley, executive director of the Vermont Republican Party, said Thursday, Aug. 11.
“We’re really excited about our candidates that we’re fielding,” said Christina Amestoy, communications director for the Vermont Democratic Party. “We’ve just got really energetic candidates that are ready to get out there.”
Contested Senate races
In the Windsor County Democratic primary, where Senate President pro tem John Campbell did not seek re-election, sens. Dick McCormack and Alice Nitka held onto their spots on the ticket.
Rep. Alison Clarkson claimed the third spot with the second-highest tally of votes, leaving out Campbell’s former aide Conor Kennedy.
Four candidates competed for three Senate spots in the Democratic primary in Washington County. Sens. Anthony Pollina and Ann Cummings comfortably held their places on the ticket. Former Sergeant at Arms Francis Brooks won the third spot with just six more votes than Deputy State’s Attorney Ashley Hill.
Essex-Orleans incumbent Democrats Bobby Starr and John Rodgers also claimed spots in the general election with 29.5 percent and 29.3 percent of the vote, respectively. Challenger Ron Horton missed out, with 12.8 percent.
Lamoille County Republican Sen. Richard Westman will face a challenge in November from Democrat George Gay, who defeated Jerry Colby in the single-seat primary by some 600 votes.
In Chittenden County, Rep. Chris Pearson, P-Burlington, and faith leader Debbie Ingram won two of the six slots on the Democratic ballot. They join incumbents Michael Sirotkin, Tim Ashe, Virginia Lyons and Phil Baruth.
Two Chittenden County senators hadn’t sought re-election: Republican Helen Riehle, who had been appointed to fill a vacancy, and Progressive David Zuckerman, who claimed the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor Tuesday.
Franklin County Republican Sen. Norm McAllister failed to claim one of two spots on the ballot in November. Sen. Dustin Degree and Rep. Carolyn Branagan were the top finishers in that race.
In the Windsor County district where Clarkson gave up the lone seat to make her Senate run, Charlie Kimbell beat out Ron Miller in a Democratic contest for the chance to replace her.
In outgoing Republican Rep. Patti Komline’s Bennington-Rutland district, Jack Stannard was the sole candidate on the GOP ticket.
In a contest for two slots on the Democratic ticket in the Grand Isle-Chittenden district, Rep. Mitzi Johnson, who chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee, emerged at the top of a field of four. According to the unofficial tally from the secretary of state, Andrew Julow won the second spot on the ticket by 10 votes, edging out Ben Joseph, a retired judge. The other incumbent, Robert Krebs, wasn’t on the ballot.
Democrat Dave Sharpe, the chair of the House Education Committee and one of the prime architects of Act 46, emerged the leader of a three-way race for two slots in his Addison County district. Mari Cordes secured the second spot, while Stephen Pilcher came in third.
House Natural Resources and Energy Committee Chair Tony Klein, D-East Montpelier, did not seek re-election in his one-seat Washington County district. Five candidates ran to replace him. Kimberly Jessup, of Middlesex, won with 39.5 percent of the vote. Carl Etnier came in second with 19 percent.
Burlington Rep. Kesha Ram’s unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor and Pearson’s run for Senate left both seats in the Chittenden 6-4 district open. Three Democrats vied for the two slots. Selene Colburn and Brian Cina won the most votes; Judy Rosenstreich came in third.
Voters in one Franklin County district kept incumbent Reps. Brian Savage and Marianna Gamache on the Republican ticket. Jamie Carter, who ran for one of the slots, was unsuccessful, netting 12 percent of the vote.
Six Democrats vied for two nominations to represent the Lamoille-Washington district in the House. House Speaker Shap Smith, who made an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic lieutenant governor nomination, is not seeking re-election to his seat. Rep. Avram Patt held his slot on the Democratic ballot in that district, receiving 21 percent of the vote.
A former commissioner of the Department for Children and Families, David Yacovone, won the other nomination with 28.6 percent.
Many lawmakers survive primaries, joined by some new faces
By Elizabeth Hewitt, VTDigger.org