Vermont Democratic Party Leader Heads to Sanders Campaign | Off Message

Vermont Democratic Party Leader Heads to Sanders Campaign

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Julia Barnes - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Julia Barnes
Julia Barnes, who announced last month she’s leaving her position as executive director of the Vermont Democratic Party, has landed a job as New Hampshire state director of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) presidential campaign.

Barnes had planned to go to graduate school until the job with Sanders came through. She will work alongside Sanders’ New Hampshire political director, Kurt Ehrenberg, in Concord, N.H., according to Sanders’ office.

In Vermont, Conor Casey will replace Barnes as executive director of the state party. He spent nearly eight years as legislative coordinator with the Vermont State Employees' Association.

Barnes has presidential-campaign experience in New Hampshire, which will hold the nation’s first presidential primary next February, following  the Iowa caucuses.

Barnes, 32, was regional field coordinator for Democrat Joe Biden's presidential bid in 2007 and 2008. She later worked for then-New Hampshire governor John Lynch before becoming field director for his reelection campaign in 2008. Barnes also worked in New Hampshire on President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign in 2011. She became executive director of the Vermont Democratic Party in May 2012.

Barnes led the party during a fairly low-key period during which Democrats maintained control of most of the state's top political slots. With Gov. Peter Shumlin not seeking reelection in 2016, Democrats could see a primary for governor and lieutenant governor.

Casey, 34, said a primary can be healthy for the party, as it proved to be in 2010 when Shumlin emerged from a five-candidate field to win the general election. The coming contest is "probably the most interesting race since the 2010 election,” Casey said. “I’m excited to be part of it.”

Casey comes with considerable political connections through his work with VSEA from 2005 to 2012, a time that included difficult recession-era negotiations between the union and former Republican governor Jim Douglas. He then moved to Connecticut to work as political action director for the Connecticut Education Association, but returned to Vermont this year to run his family’s business organizing trips to Ireland.

A dual Irish-U.S. citizen, Casey was born in New York but spent part of his childhood in Ireland. Casey said that’s where he got hooked on politics. He recalled British soldiers stationed all around him. In 1998, he said, Bill Clinton, then the president, negotiated the Good Friday agreement and the soldiers went away.

“I saw in every tangible way the effect politics can have on regular people,” he said.


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