By Sarah Mearhoff/VTDigger
Rep. Becca White, D-Hartford, is looking for a promotion.
The two-term state representative on Monday, April 4, launched her candidacy for one of Windsor County’s three state Senate seats.
Unless any of the delegation’s incumbent senators — Alison Clarkson, Dick McCormack and Alice Nitka, all Democrats — decide to retire, White’s candidacy sets up an unusual competitive primary come August.
Should she win, the 27-year-old White would become the youngest member of the Senate, and that’s a fact she’s stressing in her campaign messaging. Her slogan — “It’s time for the next generation of leadership to come from Windsor County” — was born from a conversation she had with her mother.
“I was describing how it was hard to hear either comments or concern from people in my age group who were saying, ‘I just don’t have anyone in a regional position who I can go to and talk to about issues that are facing my generation,’” White said. “And my mom said, ‘Yeah, we need that next generation of leadership,’ and I basically was like, ‘There’s my bumper sticker.’”
Most members of the Senate are at least 50 years old, and many are far older than that. The three youngest currently serving are Sens. Corey Parent (R-Franklin), Joshua Terenzini (R-Rutland), and Kesha Ram Hinsdale (D-Chittenden), all of whom are in their 30s.
White said she respects state senators who have years of experience, and the institutional knowledge that comes with it. But, she added, “It’s hard to look over the Senate and not be concerned that there isn’t a bench of next leaders.” And serving in Vermont’s part-time Legislature can be logistically challenging for young people.
“That makes me feel a responsibility to run, because I have so many people in my life who are just as talented, if not more so than I am who, due to circumstances outside of their control, can’t make being in government their life,” she said. “Whether they have kids, or they have a mortgage, or they don’t have a partner like I do who I can get my health insurance through, it really does count a lot of people out.”
Though the Legislature recently approved new House and Senate districts following the 2020 Census, all three of Windsor County’s incumbent senators still live within the new district lines.
Clarkson said Monday that, as of now, all three are currently planning to run for reelection, “but you never know what will happen. You know life. Things happen.”
Clarkson added that White’s candidacy is exciting and “good news.” Adding: “Becca has been a thoughtful colleague … and has let us all know what her intent is.”
Nitka said she hasn’t made a final decision as to whether she will run again.
McCormack said that, as in past years, he plans to announce his reelection plans after the conclusion of the legislative session. “Nothing about this year is different,” he added, saying that he has been weighing retirement for several election cycles.
Asked what she believes are the top issues facing Windsor County and the rest of the state, White pointed to Vermont’s housing crisis, income inequality and demographic challenges. She said she’s been proud of her work in the House Transportation Committee and on Prop 5, which would enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution. She also pointed to her efforts to remain accessible to her constituents.
As for how she will differentiate herself from the three incumbents during the primary race, White said: “I will be running a very robust campaign that seeks to engage every single door in the county, and that is a strategy that isn’t being employed by every Windsor county senator at the moment.”