Vermont Senate Republicans have chosen Sen. Randy Brock (R/D-Franklin) to lead the caucus during the upcoming biennium.
The unanimous vote last Thursday means that Sen. Joe Benning (R-Caledonia), who’s served as minority leader for seven of the last eight years, will hand over control on January 6, after new legislators are sworn in. Republicans gained one seat in November’s elections, growing the caucus to seven in the 30-member Senate.
Brock said his goal in the position is “to continue having our voices be part of the debate.
“One of the beauties of the Senate in Vermont is that we talk, and we listen to each other,” Brock said. “We don’t always agree, but we’re never disagreeable. And I think that is really a testament to how the body works. We do in fact deliberate, and ideas from all sides are typically welcomed.”
A former state auditor and 2012 Republican candidate for governor, Brock won his fourth election to the Senate in November. He also served the second year of the 2017-18 biennium when Gov. Phil Scott appointed him to fill a vacancy.
Brock said his background will help him lead the caucus as the legislature grapples with the financial fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re running a $7 billion a year enterprise,” Brock said. “And we have large amounts of money going out and we have very important things to do in terms of coping with this pandemic. The issue of ensuring that we have good internal controls, that we’re properly shepherding these huge amounts of money and getting every value we can out of these dollars to help Vermonters — both individuals and businesses — is just critically important.”
Benning, who nominated Brock for the minority leader role, called his colleague “one of the sharpest minds in the Statehouse.” Currently the chair of the Senate Institutions Committee, Benning said he relinquished his role in deference to caucus “tradition” that prohibits a member from holding a chairmanship and a position in leadership. Benning said the six-member caucus disregarded that rule last biennium, when he held both positions, “because no other Republican wanted chair of Institutions” and he agreed to take it if he could also remain minority leader.
“It is a very time-consuming process to have to try to handle both, as well as a full-time law practice, so I actually welcomed the forced decision when the caucus decided to go back to that tradition,” Benning said. “I had to make a decision of which was more important to my constituents, and I came out on the side of the chair of Institutions.”