Out on Bail, McAllister Pledges to Return to the Statehouse | Off Message

Out on Bail, McAllister Pledges to Return to the Statehouse


Sen. Norm McAllister at his Highgate farm in October - FILE: MARK DAVIS
  • File: Mark Davis
  • Sen. Norm McAllister at his Highgate farm in October
A majority of Sen. Norm McAllister's colleagues say they hope he'll quit the Vermont Senate, but the Franklin County Republican insists he's staying put.

"No, I'm not resigning," he said Monday evening. 

McAllister, who was charged with sexual assault last May, said he plans to show up at the Statehouse when the legislature reconvenes January 5 and take his seat on the Senate floor.

"I'm just going to do the job that I've done for the last 13 years. That's my intention," McAllister said. "I just go and do, you know, try to do the job I have been doing."

Whether McAllister will be permitted to do that job remains to be seen. As Seven Days reported Saturday, the Senate Rules Committee plans to meet Wednesday to take up a resolution penned by Senate Majority Leader Phil Baruth (D-Chittenden) to suspend McAllister with pay pending the resolution of a criminal trial scheduled for February. Such a resolution would require a majority vote of the full Senate.

McAllister said he doesn't plan to attend Wednesday's meeting because he has not been invited and isn't a member of the Rules Committee. He acknowledged that his return to the Senate in January would be "uncomfortable" and that he faces a "tough year." But he argued that he has an obligation to continue representing his constituents in the legislature's upper chamber.

"I don't know how many times I've had people come up to me in the last few months and tell me ... 'Hang in there. This isn't right what they're doin' to ya,'" McAllister said. "You know, they've looked at the charges and the things and they're sittin' there: 'No, no, we've known who you are and your history and this doesn't match up and hang in there. Don't let 'em beatcha down.' The majority of the people that I know have said that."

McAllister called Seven Days Monday after missing two requests for comment Saturday and last Tuesday. He said he was at his brother's deer camp in Berkshire at the time, taking advantage of muzzleloader season.

The Highgate farmer was charged last May with three felony counts of sexual assault and three misdemeanor counts of prohibited acts. He pleaded not guilty. The charges involve three women, including one who worked for McAllister at the Statehouse. Another has accused him of coercing her to have sex in exchange for rent.

The senator again denied the charges Monday and said he had "no intentions ... at this point in time" of taking a plea deal.

"I know I didn't do anything," McAllister said, adding that media coverage has showed the allegations to have "some serious flaws."

He said he has not decided whether he will seek reelection next November.

"I don't know," he said. "We've gotta see how this goes."

As Seven Days reported last week, at least 15 of McAllister's 29 Senate colleagues have said they hope he will resign before the legislature reconvenes next month.

"I mean, I can't blame them for that," he said Monday. "But they don't really know the facts like I know 'em. You know, someone said, 'Well, you know, we don't want to have all that distraction.' I think they're creating distraction ... The only distraction we're going to have is whatever they create — not me. I won't be creating a distraction."

McAllister expressed confidence that his peers would come around, noting that many of his colleagues now oppose expelling him. He said he's received political advice from several fellow senators — and "not just Republicans."

"I think they've had time to think about it and think about, maybe, how they would like to be treated if something similar happened to them," he said. "And they've changed their positions."

McAllister's arrest came roughly a week before the legislature adjourned last spring. After posting bail, he did not return to the Statehouse for the duration of the session. Days after his arrest, the Senate Committee on Committees kicked him off the Senate Agriculture Committee and the Senate Institutions Committee — a move he now says made him "angry." He hopes the panel will reconsider its decision in January.

Rather than dwell on potential suspension or expulsion proceedings, McAllister said he's focused on policy priorities, such as supporting Franklin County farmers, opposing renewable energy mandates and balancing the budget. He said he was disturbed to learn that some Democrats hope to expand the state's Dr. Dynasaur program, which provides health insurance to young Vermonters, to those in their early and mid-twenties. 

"Come on! I was married and had kids before I was 21 or when I was 21. I mean, I got married at 19," McAllister said. "So what time does somebody — when are you an adult? And when do you start taking care of your own things?"

He continued: "There's a lot of important issues that need to be addressed. And so that's what I'm going to concentrate on."