Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas (D-Bradford) on Friday became the first member of the Vermont House to publicly express interest in succeeding House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero) as leader of the chamber. Shortly thereafter, Rep. Jill Krowinski (D-Burlington), followed suit.
In a statement to reporters Friday morning, Copeland Hanzas said she supported Johnson’s decision to seek a recount. "If, after the recount, we need to elect a new Speaker of the House, I will likely step forward to run for Speaker," she added.
Krowinski had previously declined to comment on her intentions, citing ongoing uncertainty around Johnson’s electoral fate. But reached by phone later Friday morning, she confirmed that she, too, would seek the speakership if the recount did not reverse the results.
“First, I want to reiterate that I am fully behind the speaker in helping her through the recount and hope the results change,” Krowinski said. “If the results do stay the same, I will be the contingency candidate to run for speaker, and I look forward to talking with the Democratic caucus members and members of the [House] about what their goals and priorities are.”
First elected to the House in 2004, Copeland Hanzas served a term as majority leader and then ran for speaker after the 2016 election, losing to Johnson. She currently chairs the House Committee on Government Operations and owns the Local Buzz Cafe in Bradford.
File: Jeb Wallace Brodeur
House Majority Leader Jill Krowinski, left, and House Speaker Mitzi Johnson
Krowinski was appointed to the House in 2012 and has served as majority leader for the past two terms. A former executive director of the Vermont Democratic Party, she later worked for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and now leads Emerge Vermont, an organization that trains and recruits Democratic women to run for public office.
Rep. Tim Briglin (D-Thetford), who chairs the House Committee on Energy and Technology, is occasionally mentioned as a potential candidate for speaker, but he said Friday he would not seek the position. He said he expected Copeland Hanzas and Krowinski to be the leading candidates.
"I suspect that if Speaker Johnson is not our speaker, it will be one of those two folks," he said, declining to state a preference. "I think the world of Sarah and Jill. I think they are both extraordinary leaders in their own right."
The House Democratic caucus typically meets on the first Saturday of December to set its priorities for the coming legislative session and, if necessary, nominate candidates for leadership posts. If more than one Democrat were to seek the speakership, the caucus would likely vote that day for its preference. The full House would then hold a formal election for speaker when it reconvened in January, a vote that would also include Republicans, Progressives and independents.
Democrats are expected to hold 92 of 150 seats next biennium.