On November 25, 2020

Kimbell drops out of House speaker race 

Senate to see women-dominated leadership

By Katy Savage

Shortly after announcing his candidacy for House speaker, Rep. Charlie Kimbell (D-Woodstock) dropped out of the race on Friday, Nov. 20 and endorsed House Majority Leader Jill Krowinski, D-Burlington, to the position.

Kimbell said he spent 2 ½ weeks calling about 80 colleagues. Most of them said they were voting for Krowinski.

“It was pretty clear I didn’t have enough votes to win the speaker’s race inside my own caucus,” Kimbell said.

Kimbell kept track of potential votes with a spreadsheet and called the results “humbling.” He said Krowinski had the clear majority.

“Jill has worked hard over the past years for the party and the state and she’s earned it,” Kimbell said.

Krowinski is now the only Democrat nominee positioned to become speaker after former Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero) lost her seat by 23 votes in a recount Nov. 20.

The vote for Democratic nominee will be held during a caucus meeting on Dec. 5. The speaker will be formally announced when the Legislature reconvenes in January.

“It’s best for the party if the person who has the most votes is then endorsed by the whole caucus at once,” said Kimbell.

Kimbell, who was elected to the House in 2006, said he wants to be considered for a leadership position for the caucus or for a policy committee, pledging to focus on rural areas.
“Wherever they need me to serve is where I’ll serve,” Kimbell said.

On the Senate side, local legislators — mostly women — have also climbed the ranks to leadership positions.

Woodstock resident Sen. Alison Clarkson, D-Windsor, was nominated Senate majority leader following a caucus meeting on Sunday, Nov. 22, while Sen. Cheryl Hooker, D-Rutland, was nominated Senate majority whip.

This marks the first time in Vermont history that all three elected positions are to be held by women.

Sen. Becca Balint (D-Windham) is likely to become the first woman and first openly gay person elected Senate president, replacing Sen. Tim Ashe, who didn’t campaign after he lost a bid for lieutenant governor.

“I am thrilled by this slate of strong, experienced leaders, and proud that for the first time, the Senate Democrats have elected women to serve as pro tem, majority leader, and assistant majority leader,” said Balint in a statement. “We will all need to be fully engaged in our shared work to help Vermonters weather the Covid-19 pandemic. Our top priority this session will be to mitigate the impact of the pandemic while also trying to shift systems and policies to better address the needs of Vermonters going forward,” she continued.

The Vermont Senate Democratic Caucus Leadership Election took place on Sunday, Nov. 22 and was held virtually via Zoom and broadcast live, in another history-making circumstance.

The Vermont Senate Democrats hold a majority, as they have for nearly two decades.

“The Vermont Democratic Party congratulates Senator Balint, Senator Clarkson, and Senator Cheryl Hooker on their victories in this historic election,” said Bruce Olsson, chair of the Vt. Democratic Party. “We look forward to their Senate leadership and we celebrate the Vermont Senate’s progress in choosing and electing women and LGTBQ political leaders to serve in the Senate’s highest-ranked positions.” Meanwhile, Sen. Dick Mazza (D-Grand Isle) was nominated third member of the Committee on Committees.

On the Republican side, Sen. Randy Brock (R-Franklin) was nominated minority leader and Sen. Brian Collamore (R-Rutland) will continue to serve as assistant minority leader.

Both Balint and Mazza will need approval of the full senate in January to assume their positions.

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