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Primary Source: Vermont House Democrats Facing Some Primaries

Published: 6/1/2016 11:58:32 PM
Modified: 6/2/2016 2:45:17 PM

Voters in Vermont’s Aug. 9 primary will have some choosing to do in the two-seat Vermont House Windsor-Orange district representing Norwich, Thetford, Strafford and Sharon.

Nick Clark, a 28-year-old Democrat who helped found Upper Valley Young Liberals, has filed to run against state Reps. Tim Briglin and Jim Masland, both D-Thetford.

Clark, a freelance web developer, said the incumbents aren’t focused enough on issues of concern to his generation.

“I don’t think the culture in Montpelier is connected to young adults, and it’s driving young adults out of the state, and it’s affecting the tax base,” said Clark, who grew up in Norwich, where his family owns property, and who recently moved to a rental apartment in Thetford with his girlfriend.

Masland, 67, noted that he is a trustee of the state college system and thinks frequently about the in-flow and out-flow of young adults. “I think it’s clear he wants to target his age group, and that’s perfectly reasonable. It’s a democracy, of course. Anyone can run,” Masland said.

Briglin, reached via email, said, “I take being a state representative very seriously, whether it’s legislating, constituent service or campaigning.  It’s a privilege to represent these four towns and I work hard 12 months a year, not just during campaign season, on my constituents’ behalf.”

Other contested primaries include the two-seat Windsor 4-2 district, where state Reps. Kevin “Coach” Christie and Gabrielle Lucke, both D-White River Junction, are being challenged by former Hartford School Board member Jeff Arnold and Ashley Andreas, another member of the Young Liberals group. Charlie Davenport and Kevin “Sarge” Stuart are running as Republicans.

In the Windsor 5 district representing Woodstock, Reading and Plymouth, Woodstock businessman Charlie Kimbell and former professor Ron Miller are running as Democrats. Republican Keith Cappellini, of Plymouth, is also vying to replace state Rep. Alison Clarkson, D-Woodstock, who is running for state Senate.

House Majority Leader Sarah Copeland Hanzas, D-Bradford, who is unopposed for re-election, said her party is “really pleased with the slate of candidates we are fielding” for the 150-seat Vermont House, though some Progressives are also running as Democrats. “We have over 110 races where we have authentic Democrats running, and the exciting part about it is we feel they really represent the demographic spectrum of Vermont,” Copeland Hanzas said.

Democrats hold 85 seats in the House, independents and Progressives 6 apiece, and Republicans 53. Copeland Hanzas plans to run for House speaker if Democrats retain their majority, but said electing a Democratic majority is her focus right now.

Senate Candidates From the Valley

The Upper Valley is home to two candidates for the U.S. Senate. Former state Sen. Jim Rubens, R-Etna, on Wednesday filed his papers to challenge U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte,  R-N.H.

“Cynics in my party tell me that the single relevant qualification for this office is groveling for millions in campaign bribe money from Washington lobbyists. These cynics are wrong,” Rubens said in a statement announcing his filing. “... And, like Ronald Reagan did, I am expanding the Republican Party. I am uniting conservatives, libertarians, Trump voters and the tens of thousands of disaffected voters who are disgusted with corrupt Washington politics and who delivered landslide victories to the anti-establishment candidates in February.”

Speaking of Donald Trump, the campaign of U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., seems intent on yoking the other Upper Valley candidate for U.S. Senate, Pomfret Republican Scott Milne, to the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

For his part, Milne said he voted for John Kasich in the Vermont presidential primary and that Leahy is “playing classic ‘inside-the-Beltway’ politics by trying to distract voters rather than coming clean on his role in the EB-5 scandal or explaining why, after 42 years in the Senate, voters should not hold him responsible for the sad state of national affairs.”

Asked if he will vote for Trump, Milne said, “I haven’t decided.” Asked if he supports Trump’s candidacy, Milne said Trump effectively has “won the nomination and should be the nominee.”

Briefly Noted

Former state Rep. Bev Rodeschin, who served for 22 years in the New Hampshire House, two years in the state Senate, and for more than a dozen years on the Newport Selectboard, died Sunday at 79. Ayotte said the state has “lost a wonderful person. ... Bev was a dedicated public servant who cared deeply about Newport and our state. I valued our friendship and greatly admired Bev’s commitment to public service — she made a difference in so many lives, and she will be sorely missed.”

The Briggs Opera House in White River Junction is hosting a “Bernie Man” Festival Friday night, featuring three performers, live DJs and other entertainment. Tickets are a suggested donation of $27, with proceeds to benefit Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. Go to to reserve a place.


John P. Gregg can be reached at


Former Hartford School Board member Jeff Arnold is running for a Vermont House seat as a Democrat in the two-seat Windsor 4-2 district. His first name was incorrect in an earlier verson of this column.

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