Hartwell, Collins to Retire from Senate | Off Message

Hartwell, Collins to Retire from Senate

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Sen. Bob Hartwell - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ
  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Sen. Bob Hartwell
Sens. Bob Hartwell (D-Bennington) and Don Collins (D-Franklin) said Wednesday they'll retire from the Vermont Senate at the end of the year.

They are the first in the 30-member Senate to disclose plans to leave the chamber. More than a dozen House members have said they'll retire, and more announcements are likely before next Thursday's filing deadline.

The retirements aren't likely to dramatically change the balance of power in the Senate. Democrats and Progressives currently hold 23 seats in the upper chamber, while Republicans control just seven. Collins, who in 2012 narrowly won back a seat he previously held, was expected to face another tough challenge this fall. Hartwell was not.

“I loved the Statehouse,” Collins said Thursday. “I was pretty much certain I was going to run for reelection, but I have too much on my plate.”

Sen. Don Collins - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ
  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Sen. Don Collins
Upon sitting down with family members to discuss his plans for the coming years, Collins said, he found that serving in Montpelier “didn’t appear to be a priority.”

“I’m not getting any younger,” he said. “I’m not doing it for the money or the ego. So I said, ‘Let’s let someone else do it.’”

Who that will be remains to be seen.

Collins’ seat-mate, Sen. Norm McAllister (R-Franklin), is expected to seek reelection. Former Republican representative Dustin Degree, who narrowly lost to Collins in 2012, plans to run again, as does St. Albans physician Bill Roberts, a Democrat.

Longtime Franklin County senator Sara Kittell may also seek a comeback. The former Senate Committee on Agriculture chairwoman, who retired in 2012, said Thursday she was mulling another run.

“I can’t say anything right yet,” she said. “I certainly loved the job always, you know. It was sudden that Sen. Collins decided not to run. I certainly was supporting him. It’s all kind of new. I guess, stay tuned.”

News of Collins' retirement was first reported by the St. Albans Messenger.

Hartwell disclosed his plans Wednesday during a meeting with the Bennington Banner, at which he was joined by his seat-mate, Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington) and two-term Rep. Brian Campion (D-Bennington). Hartwell and Sears said they hoped Campion would succeed the former in the Senate.

Rep. Brian Campion - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ
  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Rep. Brian Campion
A member of the House Education Committee, Campion serves as associate director of leadership giving at Bennington College.

Republican Warren Roaf, a former principal of Mount Anthony Union Middle School, has already filed with the secretary of state’s office to run for a seat in the two-member Bennington County district. Roaf lost a bid for Campion's House seat in 2012.

Hartwell, who could not be reached Thursday morning, told the Banner his decision to retire was primarily motivated by a desire to move to Cape Cod, where his new wife lives.

A moderate Democrat, Hartwell struggled last year to decide whether to support legislation allowing doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs to terminally ill patients. He initially opposed a comprehensive version of the bill modeled after an Oregon law, but he eventually supported a compromise that legalized the practice.

Hartwell and his allies on the natural resources committee drew the ire of renewable energy lobbyists for their opposition to ridge-line wind and other large-scale renewable power generation facilities. He further angered environmentalists when he expressed skepticism that humans are largely responsible for climate change and characterized the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as having issued "some pretty extreme statements."

"To suggest that mankind is causing the whole climate to shift, that's a big reach," he told Seven Days. "I don't think anybody's ever proved that."


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