He Couldn't Lose: Bissonnette to Represent Winooski in Vermont House | Off Message

He Couldn't Lose: Bissonnette to Represent Winooski in Vermont House


Clem Bissonnette - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Clem Bissonnette
Most politicians try to win elections. Clem Bissonnette tried not to. But on Tuesday, he won an eighth term in the Vermont House anyway.

By Wednesday afternoon, he decided to embrace the victory after all. Bissonnette announced that he will keep the seat, changing his plan to move out of Winooski this year and retire.

"I told people not to vote for me," 73-year-old Bissonnette explained to Seven Days. "Seeing I still got elected, it seems to me that the people want me to go back to Montpelier."

The Democratic lawmaker won a primary in August. But the next month, he announced his intention to retire to the Northeast Kingdom, where he and his wife, Sharon, had purchased a home. He resigned from the House. He told voters he didn't really want to be on the ballot — but it was too late to remove his name.

If he were not willing to serve, Republican Gov. Phil Scott would appoint someone to the seat. Now, that won't happen.

That's a double blow for Hal Colston.

He's the Winooski Democrat who decided to wage a write-in campaign for Bissonnette's seat. Colston, who ran a successful write-in campaign to get on the Winooski City Council in March, didn't manage a repeat this week.

The write-in votes totaled 939, while Bissonnette collected 1,184 votes and incumbent Rep. Diana González (P/D-Winooski) received 1,824 votes.

That tally gave González and Bissonnette return tickets to Montpelier — even though political observers assumed Bissonnette would decline the trip.

Colston said Wednesday that he had hoped, if he failed at the polls, to be considered for an appointment to the seat. Now that's not an option. But Colston still wants to go to Montpelier. "I'm interested in serving and I'll be running in the next election, on the ballot," Colston said.

Colston said he was pleased with the support he got as a write-in candidate. "I'm not feeling too shabby," he said.

"I wish him well," he said of Bissonnette.
Hal Colston - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Hal Colston
The change of heart for Bissonnette came as the results filtered in Tuesday night.

"I did not campaign," he said. "I did not spend a cent on the election. The people still elected me."

He entered local politics in 1970 and has served as city councilor, mayor and legislator for the Onion City.

He and his wife aren't planning to sell their Winooski home until the spring of 2019, Bissonnette said. He might then rent a room in Winooski to finish out his term in the legislature. It's also possible he would resign before the full two years is up, he said.

Bissonnette said he is sure he's heading to the Statehouse in January.

He said, "We're going to Montpelier and we're going to take it day by day.’’