Walters: Degree Leaving Senate for Administration Post | Off Message

Walters: Degree Leaving Senate for Administration Post


Dustin Degree - COURTESY
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  • Dustin Degree
Updated 6 p.m.

Vermont Sen. Dustin Degree (R-Franklin) is resigning from the state Senate to accept a position in Gov. Phil Scott's administration.

Degree will serve as special assistant to the governor and executive director of workforce expansion, the governor's office said in a Wednesday morning press release. Scott also appointed Sarah Buxton, a former Democratic House member from Tunbridge, to serve as director of workforce policy and performance within the Vermont Department of Labor.

Buxton lost her seat last November and has been working in the Labor Department since March. She'll start immediately.

Degree, who could not be reached for comment, will start this week, Scott's office said.

The process of replacing Degree will begin with a meeting of Republicans from all the towns in the Senate district. “It’s not the county committee,” explains Rep. Brian Savage (R-Swanton), who chairs that committee. “The Franklin Senate district includes all of Franklin County except Richford and Montgomery, and including Alburgh from Grand Isle County.”

Savage believes the town delegates will meet sometime around mid-December and recommend up to three nominees to the governor, who will appoint Degree’s successor.

Among those rumored to be in the running is Rep. Corey Parent (R-St. Albans).

"It's definitely something I'd be interested in," Parent said. "Dustin brought a unique perspective, especially generationally." Degree is 32 years old; Parent is 27.

Another name on many tongues is 74-year-old Randy Brock, former state auditor, 2012 Republican gubernatorial candidate and 2016 candidate for lieutenant governor. He represented the Franklin district in the state Senate from 2009 to 2013.

“Anything is possible,” said Brock, when asked if he would apply for the vacancy. “I may be interested.”

He then proceeded to rattle off priorities as though he’s already given this a lot of thought. “A lot of things have changed since I left the Senate,” he said. “But some issues are still there — jobs, the economy, the budget, the $45 million shortfall we’re looking at [in next year’s budget].”

Degree's departure will leave a leadership void in the Republicans' seven-member Senate caucus. He displaced Sen. Joe Benning (R-Caledonia) as Senate minority leader in January. Benning reportedly fell into disfavor with fellow Republicans because of his advocacy for the removal of then-senator Norm McAllister, a Franklin County Republican, over allegations of sexual misconduct.

Now, someone else will have to step up. Chances are, it won't be Benning.