A former congressional aide from Essex is making a run for Vermont's lone U.S. House seat, vowing to use her progressive values to fight for working families if elected to serve in Washington, D.C.
Sianay Chase Clifford, 27, is the fourth candidate in a crowded field of Democrats, all of whom are women. Lt. Gov. Molly Gray, state Senate Pro Tempore Becca Balint (D-Windham) and Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale (D-Chittenden) have already announced campaigns for the seat now held by Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.). He is running to replace retiring Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).
Burlington resident Ericka Redic is so far the only candidate running for the House seat as a Republican.
Chase Clifford said she saw “something missing” when she considered who to support in the race. While she's a first-time candidate, she promised to work hard as a champion for Vermont's most vulnerable.
“As I was talking to folks, especially folks that I think share my values and share that similar vision of progressive action throughout our state,” Chase Clifford said, “I came to this decision that, yeah, let's just dive in. You know, if not me, who?”
Chase Clifford is the daughter of a Liberian mother and American father. The couple met in the West African nation while Chase Clifford's father served in the Peace Corps. After leaving the war-torn country, the couple settled in Essex, and extended Liberian family members soon followed. It made for a full house that sometimes “put a strain on finances” as the family tried to make ends meet, Chase Clifford said.
As the biracial daughter of an immigrant mother, Chase Clifford said she experienced and witnessed racism. She recognized the different ways her father and mother — with her thick accent and dark skin — were treated. Ditto her experience as a child in a very white state.
If elected, Clifford would be the first woman — and first person of color — to represent Vermont in Congress. Fellow candidate Ram Hinsdale is also a woman of color.
“I feel like we are ignoring the fact that — particularly our young people who are Black and brown — are really in harm's way,” Chase Clifford said. “It's not even microaggressions, it’s outright aggressive behavior, and incredibly traumatizing behavior. Because we're not talking about the racism that happens in this state.”
Chase Clifford attended Boston College for both her undergraduate degree and a master’s in social work. After graduating in 2020, she moved back to Essex and started working — remotely — as an aide for U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.). Chase Clifford said she worked on maternal health care legislation and on financial services bills.
She pointed to the housing and climate crises as two key policy issues she’d like to focus on if elected to Congress.
“When we invest in housing, we invest in health care, we invest in education, we invest in public safety, we invest in economic security for families, we invest in immigration policy,” Chase Clifford said. “And that is why housing is so central and why we have to talk about robust investments in our affordable housing stock … and making sure folks have a safe, dignified place to live.”
In her campaign announcement, Chase Clifford expressed support for both Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, which would radically alter the way the country addresses climate change.
“We don't have time to continue to think about climate policy in piecemeal ways,” Chase Clifford said in an interview. “Or to put the substantial burden of addressing climate change on individual decisions.”
As a first-time candidate running for federal office, Chase Clifford acknowledged she lacks political experience and said she wouldn’t describe herself as a politician.
“We have privileged a certain type of experience, a type of legal or financial experience, a very singular image of who gets to be our representation,” she said. “And I think that's exactly why we are here with so many crises in so many different policy areas, including decades of policy neglect for our communities of color, for working families, for so many communities.”
Instead, she said, if candidates like her, with “lived experience,” were taken more seriously, “we would have less policy that's focused on, you know, Band-aid solutions, and we'd have far more structural change.”