Rep. Chip Conquest to Run for Vermont House Speaker | Off Message

Rep. Chip Conquest to Run for Vermont House Speaker

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Rep. Chip Conquest (D-Newbury), center, plans to run for House speaker. - TERRI HALLENBECK/FILE
  • TERRI HALLENBECK/file
  • Rep. Chip Conquest (D-Newbury), center, plans to run for House speaker.
Rep. Chip Conquest (D-Newbury) announced this week he will run for House speaker if he wins reelection to his House seat in November.

Conquest, a 54-year-old farmer and carpenter who has never served in House leadership, said lawmakers could do a better job of listening to and including disparate points of view.

"We haven't done enough to build public support for big policy changes," he said, citing Act 46, the state's new school district consolidation law as one example. "Some of the resistance to Act 46 is a result of that."

Conquest, who has served eight years in the House, is likely to be one of several candidates competing for the powerful position overseeing the 150-member chamber. Current House Speaker Shap Smith (D-Morristown), who has held the job for eight years, is running for lieutenant governor.

House Majority Leader Sarah Copeland Hanzas (D-Bradford), House Education Committee chair David Sharpe (D-Bristol) and House Appropriations Committee chair Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero) have also expressed interest in the job.

Conquest, arguably the least well-known of the possible candidates, said he won't actively campaign for the position until after the November election, but wanted to let his constituents know his plans now. Conquest said colleagues started encouraging him to run for speaker near the end of this year's legislative session.

"Many of my colleagues would tell you I do have the ability to consider all perspectives on an issue, that I've shown that in my time in the legislature," Conquest said. 

This year, Conquest, as a member of the House Judiciary Committee, was involved in ushering through a law that clears the backlog in driver's license suspensions. Late in the session, he led an unsuccessful effort to seek a compromise on marijuana legalization by removing criminal penalties for growing up to two plants.

In November, Conquest faces a Republican challenger, Joseph Parsons, and said he doesn't take his own reelection for granted. Johnson and Sharpe also face competition in their reelection bids.

Newly elected Democratic House members, who are expected to retain a strong majority in the chamber, will convene in December to choose a candidate for speaker. The full House votes on the position in January.


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