Baruth Endorses Ashe as Senate President Pro Tem Race Begins | Off Message

Baruth Endorses Ashe as Senate President Pro Tem Race Begins


  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Sen. Phil Baruth
After Senate President Pro Tempore John Campbell (D-Windsor) announced last month that he would not seek reelection, those hoping to succeed him pledged to avoid overtly campaigning until the legislative session concluded.

A week after adjournment, the race appears to have begun. 

Campbell's deputy, Majority Leader Phil Baruth (D-Chittenden), announced Friday that he had decided against running for the Senate's top leadership post. Instead, he said he would support Sen. Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden), his district-mate and one of four candidates for the pro tem job. 

"Tim brings a unique, overarching view of the legislative process to the table, and I think he's precisely the right match in this particular moment," Baruth said. "You always hope your time is now, but I'm fully convinced this time belongs to Tim. Hopefully I can give the job another look another day."

Baruth said he had made up his mind in the closing weeks of the session but thought it "disrespectful to the voters" to shift the conversation to politics before adjournment. He said he had not yet decided whether he would attempt to remain majority leader or perhaps seek a committee chairmanship. 

In addition to Ashe, other pro tem contenders include Sen. Claire Ayer (D-Addison), Sen. Chris Bray (D-Addison) and Sen. Ann Cummings (D-Washington). All four currently serve as committee chairs: Ashe runs the Senate Finance Committee, Ayer the Health and Welfare Committee, Bray the Natural Resources and Energy Committee and Cummings the Education Committee. 

Typically, the Democratic majority nominates a pro tem candidate in December, following the November election, and then the Senate formally fills the position after legislators take office in January.

"I'm gonna run," Ayer said earlier this week, adding that she thinks she has the support of several of her colleagues. "I feel like there's another way of doing business. Enough people have asked me to run that I think I actually will."

Bray, who joined the race immediately after Campbell's announcement, said he plans to reach out to colleagues in the coming days and weeks.

"I'd like to see the Senate run in a way that treats everyone equally and brings out the best in the entire group," he said. 

Cummings said she is "still looking" at the race and trying to determine whether she would attract sufficient support. One argument she plans to make is that unlike other candidates, she has no plans to run for higher office later in her career.

"I think we need someone who's really going to be dedicated to running the Senate and be there for the interest of the Senate," Cummings said. "I think it's traditionally been a stepping stone, and that has pros and cons."

Ashe said he wanted to give his colleagues "a little breathing room" after adjournment before ramping up his campaign but now plans to "reach out to every member of the Senate." He said he was "very thankful for Philip's support," noting that Baruth was a professor of his when he attended the University of Vermont. 

"We have generally worked well together, and I think it bodes well for a good transition, if I'm fortunate enough to get selected," Ashe said. 

Disclosure: Tim Ashe is the domestic partner of Seven Days publisher and coeditor Paula Routly.

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