Primary Source: Vermont campaign season starting

  • John P. Gregg. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/27/2020 9:17:54 PM
Modified: 5/27/2020 9:17:49 PM

With Vermont’s state primaries scheduled for Aug. 11, it’s about time to start actually paying attention to candidates running for the Legislature or statewide office.

To that point, the Windsor County Democratic Committee will host a Democratic gubernatorial forum at 7 p.m. Monday livestreamed on its Facebook page. The slate includes former Education secretary Rebecca Holcombe, of Norwich; Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, of Hinesburg; and attorney Patrick Winburn, of Bennington.

“It’s just good to get the discussion out there and (let voters know) what are the important issues by candidate,” said Windsor County Democrats Chairman Al Alessi, a Woodstock resident. “It’s going to come up on us pretty fast.”

With the primary approaching, Alessi’s group this past Monday hosted a similar virtual forum for the party’s four candidates for lieutenant governor — Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe, assistant Attorney General Molly Gray, state Sen. Debbie Ingram, and Newfane activist Brenda Siegel.

More than 300 people watched it live on Facebook, he said, and more than 100 others have since watched it online. The candidates covered such issues as guns, health care, and the role of lieutenant governor.

On the Republican side, Gov. Phil Scott is expected to face a challenge from Brookfield farmer John Klar, though neither had filed by late afternoon Wednesday.

GOP candidates for lieutenant governor include Sharon resident Dana Colson and Manchester resident Meg Hansen.

Filing period ending

Vermont’s filing period ends on Thursday, and other contested races are shaping up. Orange district state Sen. Mark MacDonald, D-Williamstown, is running again, and will face a challenge again from Thetford Republican Bill Huff.

The three Windsor Senate district incumbents — Democrats Dick McCormack, of Bethel; Alison Clarkson, of Woodstock; and Alice Nitka, of Ludlow — are also running again. Springfield Republican Michael Jasinski Sr. has also filed to run, and other GOP candidates are expected as well.

In the Vermont House, state Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas, D-Bradford, appears likely to face a challenge from Bradford Republican Zachary Michael Lang in the Orange-2 district.

State Rep. Annmarie Christensen, D-Weathersfield, isn’t running again after two terms (“I believe in term limits; it’s time,” she said Wednesday). So far, Perkinsville resident Tyler Harwell has filed as a Democrat for the seat, which also represents Cavendish.

In the two-seat Windsor 4-2 district representing much of Hartford, state Reps. Kevin Christie and Rebecca White, both Democrats, are running again, but Nicholas Bramage has also put his name on the ballot as a Progressive.

In the Bethel-area Windsor-Rutland district, state Rep. Sandy Haas, P-Rochester, is stepping down after 16 years and has thrown her support to Bethel Democrat Kirk White. Bethel Republican Wayne Townsend, who ran for state Senate two years ago, has also filed to run for the seat.

In New Hampshire, the filing deadline runs from June 3 to June 12. In the open District 5 New Hampshire Senate seat, which represents towns from Lyme to Charlestown and includes Lebanon, Hanover and Claremont, Lebanon City Councilors Tim McNamara and Karen Liot Hill have opted not to run but are backing fellow City Councilor Sue Prentiss for the seat. At least three Hanover-area candidates are also interested in succeeding state Sen. Martha Hennessey, D-Hanover.

High bailiff candidates

It’s an obscure office, but a prominent Windsor County attorney has put his name on the ballot for high bailiff.

That would be Vermont Law School professor Bobby Sand, a Woodstock resident and former Windsor County state’s attorney, who launched the Center for Justice Reform at VLS.

Sand via email noted that the position, which is enshrined in the Vermont Constitution, predated the State Police, and the only statutory duties of the high bailiff are to arrest the county sheriff if needed or to serve papers that the sheriff is not competent to serve.

“I suppose there are two answers to why I am running: One, it seems like a fun thing to do (no work — no pay); and two, it is a position historically designed to be an independent law enforcement entity. That seemed like a good fit given my past experience,” Sand wrote.

The incumbent high bailiff in Windsor County, Hartford resident Michael Manley, is also running again.

New Rockefeller Center director named

A 1993 Dartmouth College graduate is returning to campus to run the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences. Jason Barabas, a political science professor at Stony Brook University, starts in his new job on July 1, according to an announcement on the Dartmouth website.

Barabas also ran the master’s program in public policy at Stony Brook, which is part of the state university system in New York, and specializes in public policy and the role citizens play in American government decision-making, the announcement said.

Barabas succeeds interim director Russell Muirhead, who filled in for a year after Dartmouth economics professor Andrew Samwick, who ran the Rockefeller Center for 15 years, returned to teaching and research full-time.

Barabas was a government major at Dartmouth and a linebacker on teams that won three consecutive Ivy League championships. He also holds a doctorate in political science from Northwestern.

John P. Gregg can be reached at

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