Winooski City Councilor Hal Colston already ran one successful write-in campaign in 2018, and now he's trying for a second.
This time around, Colston, a Democrat, has his sights set on a vacant seat representing the Onion City in the Vermont House. Incumbent Rep. Clem Bissonnette (D-Winooski) has announced that he won't run for reelection.
But it won't be a shoo-in for Colston.
Bissonnette, who is moving to the Northeast Kingdom with his wife, didn't announce his retirement plans until after he'd won the primary in August. That means voters on Tuesday will see Bissonnette's name on the ballot — but not Colston's.
If Bissonnette wins, he’d be forced to give up the seat because he no longer lives in the district. That would leave it to Vermont's governor to name someone to fill the vacancy. If Republican Gov. Phil Scott wins reelection, the appointment could cost Democrats a seat in the House, though governors traditionally choose a member of the same party that's vacated the seat.
Winooski's other House seat is held by Rep. Diana González (P/D-Winooski), who is running for reelection. The top two vote-getters win the seats.
Will Senning, director of elections for the Secretary of State's Office, said he isn't aware of any other candidates who will appear on Vermont ballots but have already dropped out of the running.
Luckily for Colston, he knows a thing or two about running a write-in campaign. This past March, Colston defeated Black Lives Matter Vermont director Ebony Nyoni for a seat on the Winooski City Council, despite the fact that her name was on the ballot and his wasn’t.
In the final week before Election Day, Colston is working to ensure Winooski voters understand the situation before they're given a ballot that lists only González and Bissonnette as the House candidates.
“There’s a hurdle and that’s Clem Bissonnette on the ballot,” Colston said.
Colston said he has more help — and money — than he did during his earlier write-in campaign.
“This time I have a team. I have a campaign manager, [former Burlington representative] Kesha Ram … I raised about $10,000,” Colston said.
He plans to hand out small stickers with his name on them outside of the polls so voters can stick his name right onto the write-in line of their ballots.
“We’re working to win this, but we’re not assuming,” he said. “So it’s putting in the work is really what it takes.”
Correction, November 1, 2018: A previous version of this story mischaracterized how winners are chosen in the two-seat race.